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Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

So to be clear, I don't begrudge anyone their successes, and I'm glad that games like Blind Drive and The Vale have brought audio-only games into gaming zeitgeist, as it were.

But I wish more games for blind people were made by blind people. I won't knock anyone for liking bop it-style combat or story-heavy games. I like those too, sometimes.

I write fast-paced, strategic, tactical, arcade-style games because I like those elements, and because I don't think many audio games handle those well. That isn't all I'll ever do, but some of those are sorely missing from these masses of Blind Legends or Blind Quests with comparatively amazing reach and production values.

So why can't I, a blind person, get the funding to design the kind of game I want to play that The Vale and others got for their game? Can we please stop treating blind people as if we all want this same left/right/center action + narrative experience?

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@nolan Could have something to do with organisation. Games get funded if the funders are confident they'll actually succeed. The Vale was made by a small studio, sure, but a studio still, one that (I believe?) already had game-creating experience, and at least the right education.
Funding one single person, meanwhile, may seem like more of a risk. And (apart from No Video Jam) blind people are terrible at teamwork. Sure, generally the ones asking for a team are newbies with nothing much to add, but the constant negative response scares even the veterans from bothering, IMO.
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Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@nolan But also ... I think as much as the vocal communities on them AG.nets and BSGs and such aren't into this, I think there are far more people who like Bop It-style games than the faster ones you wish for. Games like The vale manage to reach all those blind people who are otherwise not a part of the gamer market, and there's got to be quite a few. And also, they managed to make it interesting even to sighted people.
That's not to say that games like yours shouldn't be made, at all! Just that, unfortunately, something is more likely to be funded if it is sure to sell, and sell well at that. Games that are a niche within a niche are awesome for us, but perhaps less so from the perspective of those (always sighted)with more money to invest/waste.
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Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@Mayana @nolan

> niche within a niche

Still very important from an #accessibility and #inclusion standpoint. I wonder if the #EU with their Horizons Europe funds things like that. It fits the bill for a Human Internet. Maybe approaching some people familiar with https://ngi.eu programs like @NGIZero could be a good start.

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@humanetech @Mayana @NGIZero I'm not European, but it does seem like lots of these studios aren't US-based. I've been wondering if that's part of it? This country sucks in a whole bunch of ways right now--makes sense that there'd be no funding for blind people wanting to start businesses other than running vending machines in government buildings. :P

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@Mayana @nolan this is something I’ve been thinking about, as I’m working on a text based game (an adaptation of the monster battle genre) I’d eventually like to adapt to an audio game in part because I’d like a family member who’s blind to be able to enjoy it.

But I worry about securing funding once it’s time to hire people for voice work. And I don’t even have the same barriers to access blind devs do!

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@Mayana @nolan it feels like it’s really hard for all of the blind people I know to get the same attention and funding for their work, but I don’t really understand how to make it better.

It feels like there’s a lot of demand for stories *about* blindness, but people mostly want them from the sighted. Which is bullshit.

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@mdmarron @Mayana Right. FWIW, I have an idea for a Papa Sangre/Night Jar-style game that will likely be both more approachable than what I do now and interesting to the folks that didn't like the simplicity of those. If I wanted to get it voice acted, I have no idea how to fund that other than something like Kickstarter. I'm happy to form a studio--I actually pitch Lights Out Games as an audio game studio, not just me myself and I. :) Even tried getting Onslaught on the Xbox. I actually had it running on my console in dev mode, but had some lockups I didn't know how to debug. Tried multiple ways of reaching Xbox developers, including approaching whom I think is now the Xbox accessibility lead, and having a Microsoft employee ping an Xbox accessibility developer. But it was radio silence, everywhere, multiple times. I don't know how to get taken seriously doing this.

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@mdmarron Well, I suppose they might want them from the sighted because blind people have grown sick of telling them, so that's not really something we do in audio games. For example, none of @nolan's games have a blind protagonist. They're normal games that just happen to be more audio-focused.
I am not one of those people that thinks blind protagonists shouldn't be done. The Vale did that very well, I think. But from my time beta-testing for sighted developers I have seen that there is clearly this divide where sighted people feel like they have to "justify" a game being audio-based with some story reason. For blind devs, "because I couldn't play it otherwise" is reason enough.

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@Mayana @nolan that makes a lot of sense. I hope that the genre opens up more towards blind developers, and a wider variety of stories, and I hope that becoming more mainstream doesn’t mean it loses its roots.

(The first audio game I ever played was Skyrim for Alexa… which is a joke game, and in retrospect it’s kind of a shitty joke that “haha this RPG doesn’t have pictures isn’t that wack!”)

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@mdmarron @Mayana Another challenge is that I'm not necessarily wedded to audio games--they're just all I can make. There's no reason that a roguelike like Hades couldn't just have been made accessible from the start, other than that the developers didn't know it could, or didn't care. I'm tired of game accessibility either being something someone gifts us with, or something we add after the fact and with lots and lots of extra effort. But I can't even crack the problem of making an accessible-first game/studio, so I'm stuck there too.

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@mdmarron It is perfectly possible to make a text-based game accessible. See Warsim as one awesome example; everything is read out so well!
But yeah, if you want to get enough funding, you will pretty much have to make something that will still get enough interest among sighted players. Code 7, an older text adventure with voice acting, managed to reach its Kickstarter goal and even pass it by a bit, but blind accessibility didn't earn it any of that, or at most very little. And the developers ran into issues with alck of sales later on, because unfortunately, text adventures are a niche genre, as well.
It helps to have connections to some voice actors who'd enjoy working with you. Or perhaps some people who aren't VAs by profession, but are good at acting by nature (one of my favorite VAs in Code 7 turned out to be this). If you ever need help, I can ask the few people I know, but I can't promise to get you any epic deals.
@nolan

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@Mayana Right. It just makes me a bit sad to see all these games celebrated like they're new and innovative, when some folks have been doing this for decades with little to no acknowledgment. And I know all this, but that's kind of my point. These are all barriers, and I hope at some point in my lifetime to see *us* on those stages, getting the respect we deserve and the money we need to at least rise above poverty if not break out completely. I don't know how much revenue something like The Vale or Blind Drive earned, but even after expenses it'd probably be transformative for me, at least for long enough to make something else.

Game accessibility, barriers, and representation 

@nolan I asked some folks I know in the Finnish games industry if they had any suggestions (showing them this thread,) and they pointed me to this young lady who has done some work in some way with some of them - https://www.liciaprehn.com

She may have some ideas or suggestions.

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