During my hiatus from blogging, I seemed to have missed the Audiogame Jam, A game jam held last year with a focus, obviously, on audio games with an aim to raise money for RNIB. It took place between August 26th and September 5th 2016, inspiring 16 developers to submit their creations.
The event was organised by James Kyle @JameKyle (who’s website can be found here). Himself being visually impaired, due to macular degeneration from his early teens, has a passion for gaming and wanted to use this passion to draw attention to an issue close to his heart, game accessibility. He wanted to do this while also benefiting RNIB, a charity that helps people like us, the visually impaired, here in the UK,. To that end, a Game Jam seamed just the ticket.
Now, a year later, following on the success of the inaugural Audiogame Jam , James has announced Audiogame Jam 2. Again with the same aims as the original, hoping to entice the talent of the game development community to think outside of the box and see what they can come up with.
I was curious to find out more about the person behind Audiogame Jam, his thoughts on the current state of game accessibility and what he hopes to achieve with Audiogame Jam. Below, you can read some questions I posed to James . Thankfully, James was kind enough to agree to answer them.
How long have you been involved in the gaming industry?
I’ve been doing small game projects and freelance animation since I completed the Masters in Professional Practice in Games Development at the University of Abertay in 2012.
What inspired you to create Audiogame Jam?
I started Audiogame Jam as I wanted to raise money for RNIB and raise awareness of the work they do and the barriers to videogames faced by people with sight loss. RNIB are a charity that have helped me a great deal in the past with various issues regarding my sight and I wanted to organise something to help the organisation that took advantage of my love of videogames and game development.
There were other factors too. My own sight loss to macular degeneration and my experience of playing videogames played a part. The lack of information from UK sight loss charities on gaming options for blind people or blind gaming communities was another.
Did you learn anything from the Audiogame Jam submissions, as to the current state of developers understanding toward game accessibility?
The main thing I took away from the first Audiogame Jam was the enthusiasm so many people had for the project. It was a great motivator to push me to make it as successful as possible. I hadn’t realised that so many people with interested in videogame accessibility and that it was an issue being taken far more seriously by many developers and publishers. Of the game submissions most were playable to those with sight loss. Some had accessibility issues that would prevent a blind person from being able to play, such as requiring mouse use to click on an icon to start a game. This is leading me this year to better communicate that the games should be playable without sight and provide better guidance on how to achieve this.
What do you hope to see in Audiogame Jam 2 submissions?
I’d like to see more game submissions than last year. I’d also like to see games that are designed for the mobile devices popular with blind people, such as Android and iOS smartphones. Games for voice devices like Amazon’s Echo would also be good to see as I think these have a big place in how blind people access information in the future.
What do you think the biggest barriers are, that prevent game developers, from producing games that have a broader spectrum of accessibility?
I think there are several reasons game developers don’t consider accessibility when making games. The idea that accessibility options are expensive is a problem. Yes, adding accessibility options and features can be expensive and time-consuming if done near the end of the project. This is rarely the case if it is something planned for at the start of the project however, and encouraging developers to do this makes a big difference. There may also be a view that the number of users who would benefit from accessibility features may not be worth the time and cost. While it may be true that the number of users who would identify themselves as disabled and would argue the case for these features they are far from the only people who would benefit from their inclusion. The industry needs more people with accessibility or inclusion needs working to make games, especially in major studios and publishers producing mainstream games. People with accessibility needs making games are in a great position to make the case that they should be able to play the games they are working so hard to create.
Will you be submitting any creations to Audiogame Jam 2?
No, I won’t be submitting any games.
Do you have anything more to add?
Audiogame Jam couldn’t have come together as it has without the help and support of so many people within RNIB, in the games industry, those with an interest in videogame accessibility and all those who worked to submit games. I can’t thank them enough.
On that note, I’d like to thank James for answering my questions,, I could have asked so many more, maybe we’ll do a follow up post after Audiogame Jam 2 were I can once again satisfy my curiosity.
I for one look forward to Audiogame Jam 2 and the gems that it will spawn. If you’re interested in finding out more, or better yet submitting your creations once the Audiogame Jam 2 starts on October 6th 2017, feel free to click on any of the previous links in this post or just click here to go to it’s Game Jolt page.
As always, if you have any question or anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment below. Please feel free to follow on Twitter and Facebook. I’d also appreciate you sharing this post to help get the word out about Audiogame Jam 2.