Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD): Advice from Activision Blizzard

Adrian Ledda, Head of Inclusive Game Design, Activision Blizzard, offers some thoughts on inclusive gaming and how to ensure it can be enjoyed by all…

At Activision Blizzard we share a unifying belief: That gaming represents some of the best expressions of the human experience. Whether it’s the thrill of finding that perfect epic loot, the resilience cultivated in competitive matches, the serenity found in relaxing gameplay, or the immersive narratives that captivate us, our games become cultural forces for entertainment and fun. And the people who are drawn to these gaming experiences are just as varied and distinct. Gamers represent all walks of life – all ages, all backgrounds, and all abilities. 

Our commitment to fostering inclusivity within gaming extends beyond mere rhetoric; it’s a journey we’ve undertaken earnestly, with a focus on understanding and accommodating the needs of all gamers. From time to time it’s paramount to reflect on the strides we make and extract useful learnings, both for us to continue improving, as well as to inspire so many more people to know that it is both important and possible for all of us to be more inclusive.  

Here are some key pivotal aspects that have shaped our approach and can serve as guiding principles for anyone navigating through the accessibility journey:

  1. Prioritise accessibility from the start of the process of making a game:

Accessibility isn’t something that is shoehorned at the end of the development process; it’s part and parcel of the design process from the get-go. By prioritising accessibility from the conceptual stage, developers can proactively integrate features that cater to a broader spectrum of players, ensuring a more inclusive gaming experience.

The release of Blizzard’s Diablo IV last year is an excellent illustration of how accessibility was integral to the game from the start. Over 50 accessibility features were implemented, addressing challenges like dexterity, reading text, and vision impairments.

A hallmark of Diablo IV’s accessibility is its customisation options. Controls can be remapped to suit individual preferences, ensuring all players can play comfortably.
Innovative communication channels, such as speech-to-text for in-game chats and customizable audio cues, further enhance accessibility.

All in all, Diablo IV’s approach demonstrates the transformative impact of prioritising accessibility from the outset, setting a new standard for inclusive gaming experiences.

  1. Cultivate a diverse team of experts

It is tremendously important to recognise the value of accessing a diverse array of experts to inform on the topic of accessibility. By fostering a collaborative and informed environment that champions diversity and inclusion, we ensure that our games resonate with players from all walks of life, reflecting their diverse experiences and needs. Our commitment to inclusivity has been recently fortified by the formation of an inclusive game design council comprising a diverse array of experts. Collaborating with organisations such as AbleGamers, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and the Center for Scholars and Storytellers empowers our teams with invaluable insights and resources to craft inclusive features, characters, and storylines.

  1. Forge strategic partnerships

Formal collaborations, such as our partnership with AbleGamers, have been instrumental in advancing gaming accessibility. Through initiatives like the AbleGamers Accessible Player eXperience (APX) certification training, we’ve equipped hundreds of developers on our teams with the knowledge and tools to create more inclusive gaming experiences.

  1. Select meaningful metrics to track progress

What you choose to measure regarding accessibility will depend on your company culture, where you are in your journey, and what data is available to you. You want to select data that will help your organisation feel motivated, not discouraged, and ultimately standardise how you measure experiences for people with disabilities. Be thoughtful about the metrics that you choose and don’t forget to include qualitative data about the experiences of people with disabilities. Typically, it’s a combination of data and experiences from real users that help organisations effectively build empathy and drive teams to take action. Measuring accessibility does not require a budget, organisations can start off by developing an internal employee group to share knowledge and create a space for innovation and discussion of ideas.

By sharing our experiences and insights, we aim to inspire industry peers to embark on their own journey towards greater accessibility and inclusivity in gaming. Together, we have the opportunity to harness the transformative power of gaming to create truly inclusive experiences that resonate with players of all abilities.

Activision Blizzard’s commitment to accessibility is evident in the multitude of features tailored for players with hearing loss, visual impairments, and other accessibility needs.

Furthermore, we are witnessing a promising increase in the representation of disabilities and accessible features across the games industry. With continued collaboration and innovation, we can pave the way for a future where gaming truly belongs to everyone.

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