ACCESSIBILITY FOR STUDIOS - Inclusive Communities
TIPS FOR GROWING AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY
Accessibility can mean the world to a person. It enables them to experience life on the same level as any one else, no matter the ability. In this three-part series, inspired from our talk with We Love Games, we look at the different areas common in studios that should be looked at through the lens of accessibility.
Disabilities are usually classed as conditions that last longer than a year, maybe even a lifetime. These can range from mental conditions which create cognitive issues to physical disabilities which require specialist equipment. One in five adults are disabled; unfortunately this also means that they are twice as likely to be unemployed or in unsuitable employment. In the games industry it is shown time and again that disabled people are under-represented in the industry and therefore, this has a knock-on effect in the games that are designed.
When talking to disabled players, we can see that they still face quite a lot of barriers in games - even though the industry is slowly improving. 80% of disabled people will spend money on a game where they face the least amount of barriers. This can also account for barriers in adaptable tech such as specially designed controllers, generally down to affordability.
When looking at a community around a game or a studio, how does a studio encourage the use of accessibility within everything that they do? Social media as a studio, it is vitally important that it is accessible and creates a talking point towards diversity in both gamers and those that work at a video games studio. Creating an accessible and diverse community takes both effort and time, leading to a community that encourages all gamers of all abilities to feel at home within a designated game or platform and outside on the platforms chosen by the studio, such as social media.
Community management is also seen as the face that often represents the company, so thinking about the person chose to represent the studio is often key. This does not always have to be a disabled or neurodiverse person, but often putting someone forward that has these disabilities can sometimes be seen as a win for the studios. The issue with community management roles (especially on social media) is that these people are often seen as male, due to the gaming industry having a particular male-orientated history. As the industry has seen a change within the industry in the last few years, women like disabled people are making their voices well-known and this should also be considered. This of course also applies for people of other races and genders.
The use of social media within the communication tools of a studio is often key to both getting out information about the studio and also promoting and marketing a finished product. Therefore, how does a studio create a social media feed or channel that is accessible and diverse to the wider community? Generally, the main channels a studio should pick for effective use of social media to a wider community are Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube - but this of course depends on the studio and the expertise of the community managers that have been employed to undertake the job in hand. Many of these channels play to different kinds of community and generally - it is understood that gamers prefer both Twitter and YouTube to find out about games or the studios that create them.
This of course does not mean that a studio cannot use Facebook or Instagram, more that these are not really the platform for gaming content. TikTok is a new addition to the market and this - like Instagram - mainly focuses on video content. This can be used to market clips of games and development work, also keeping in mind that the average user age of platforms such as TikTok and Instagram are 15-30. This is of course a positive if a studio is aiming to push their content out to younger gamers, but these platforms often come with pitfalls to accessibility.
Social media does not always have to be focused around games as building a community can often come from just people talking. Platforms such as Facebook and Discord are really good for this as they give the ability to create a fully-fledged community platform without much previous knowledge. These community platforms also create the opportunities for older gamers as it gives them the ability to be anonymous and the chance to play a game or be the fan of a studio without much backlash from the younger members of the community.
Platforms such as YouTube give a studio the option to create video content for their work, whether that be clips of a game or a game in progress - one of the perks of YouTube is the ability to create a personalised captioning file called a SLT file which can be used to give exact captioning to video content. Captioning in video content automatically make social media content more accessible as it is able to be viewed by those with hearing impairments. This can also be applied to TikTok, as personalised captions can be made for their short-form video content - creating more accessible content around a studio or a game.
Twitter is part of accessible social media that generally stands alone from everything else, due to the platform being based around short-form messaging. Some of the perks around the platform are that alt text can be added to pictures for visually impaired users and that as an app itself, Twitter can be adjusted from light to dark mode and the text can often be increased by the user.
Another positive is that many of the game development community can be found on Twitter, leading to interesting conversations with other studios and the ability to see work from other developers. Video content on Twitter cannot be captioned by many, but a general tip would be to link to a YouTube video where captioning can be instilled.
At the end of the day, whatever option of social media a studio chooses to use to promote their work - it can be used effectively and accessibly. Just keep in mind that there are Three Golden Rules when it comes to social media:
Use alt text on any images.
Always use closed captioning on video content.
Use clear communication techniques across all social media - don’t use jargon!
Check back next week for the next part discussing creating inclusive spaces in companies for your workers!
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