ACCESSIBILITY FOR STUDIOS - Streaming and beyond
ACCESSIBILTY IS FOR CONTENT CREATORS AND OTHERS AS WELL
Our last part is here on becoming more accessible as a company. Gaming has such a strong presence on streaming platforms like Twitch, that is important to treat it like any other medium you would use. That means be accessible in what you are producing.
Live streaming content has been around for a while now and is often seen as a preferable alternative to methods such as short clips on TikTok or Instagram. With so many platforms now being available for streaming, it is entirely the choice of the studio whether to choose Twitch, YouTube or smaller platforms such as DLive or Trovo. Twitch is the biggest live-streaming platform to date and has helped to launch the careers of such famous people as Ninja and YogsCast. With Twitch being the most popular of choices, it must be stated that there is a real danger of being a ‘small fish in a big pond’ due to the sheer amount of creators on the platform. So how, as a studio do you enable yourselves to stand out and still remain accessible as a studio to those that may be watching your stream?
The key is always to put yourself in the shoes of whoever may be watching. Live streaming follows the same Golden Rules as when using social media - captioning, alt text on any image stills and always give clear communication. There are several methods of captioning available for Twitch, which create an overlay on the stream and communicate with the microphone that the streamer is using to create a live-caption option for streams. Sadly, this is not always accurate and is the main downfall with live-captioning over hand-typed captioned. Generally, the overlay fixes an accessibility issue with displaying captions and enabling hearing impaired viewers to effectively follow along with a stream. Streams can be used to show game footage, clips, game development or even just a coding stream - much of the time, viewers will show up and watch a stream even if it is not the most engaging to watch.
Accessibility in streams can be shown in many different ways, other than just live-captioning. Some of the ways to show accessibility in streams is often not thought of and can turn viewers away from being potential customers. These can be small to include into a stream such as consideration of flashing images for those viewers that may be epileptic or a stream being too loud or quiet for those that may be hearing impaired, autistic or sound sensitive. Of course, these are many ways to include a diverse array of people in a live-stream and this can often translate into an influx of new customers for a game or a studio.
Another consideration to keep in mind is how the game is being played on a live-stream - what platform is being used to play the game? What method of control is being utilised to play the game? These are all options to consider as the use of a specialist controller could influence disabled people to buy the same controller. The use of a PC would exclude console gamers and therefore, be market research into how many viewers watching the stream would prefer a console version alongside. These are all ways that live-streaming can be used to the advantage of a studio, whilst also keeping accessibility in mind.
Events - how can you make an in-person event accessible?
As any disabled person will mention, events can generally be a very inaccessible minefield. At a typical gaming event, there will be a lot of noise and lights and people - and for a neurodiverse gamer, this can be very overwhelming and discouraging for them to attend. As a studio, there are several options that can be used to make a studio booth a much more welcoming place and as a studio, putting this pre-thought into a booth will allow a company to stand apart from others.
Headphones are a general item that is used on many studio booths to hear sound from games when testing or looking at demos, an accessible method of headphone usage on a booth is to generally look at the idea of multiple varieties of headphones such as over ear and in-ear. In-ear headphones are generally not accessible to gamers that may wear hearing aids, which is why it is a sensible idea to have something that they can use. A pitfall not to fall into is to believe different varieties would not be needed, therefore not being prepared. At an event, anything can happen and studios would be wise to be prepared for all kinds of events - not just a standard gaming convention.
Visually impaired gamers are often forgotten when looking at events and especially at games conventions. As with any physical impairment, there is often a spectrum when concerning disability - and not everyone who is visually impaired is totally blind. Depending on a person’s visual impairment would depend on what they would require from a game and from a booth setup. This can be anything from a game on an iPad, complete with audio description to tell the player what the game is about and how they are controlling it. Another option would be the inclusive use of braille to help visually impaired people understand a game or a studio. Even the understanding of a guide dog would be beneficial - keeping some dog treats would be very appreciated and would help the gamer feel at ease when visiting a studio booth.
When looking at disabled gamers and physical disabilities, it should also be mentioned that it is not always the disabilities that affect gameplay that should be considered when looking at event and booth design. Many booths generally supply seating for the testing of games, but it is often a simple stool. These are sometimes supplied by the venue and sometimes by the studio, but it is usually a generic, basic option. Sometimes, there is not an option of seating at all and it should be considered to supply some - as even if the gamer is not visually or audibly disabled - they could be seen to have other physical disabilities that require a seat, like MS or fibromyalgia. Another option would be looking at the design of a booth from a wheelchair user, is the booth designed for accessible wheelchair usage? Can the user wheel their chair straight up to the booth and be able to use the products of that studio? Too many studios do not consider accessible design in the layout of their booths and more research needs to be undertook to understand how this can be more accessible to disabled gamers at events and conventions.
This concludes our 3-part series on accessibility in gaming studios and beyond. Hope you enjoyed it and you can support us for future content by sending us a cuppa on https://ko-fi.com/manycats .