The target audience game publishers and developers envision is usually that of the mainstream gaming community. A lot of game developers focus on making exciting features in their game with regard to graphics and music to attract this gaming community. Not much attention has been paid to another audience group who are also eager to play these games: the gaming community of people with impairments.
Gamers with impairments
Numbers from earlier research have shown that people with impairments also love to play computer games. The survey conducted by PopCap in 2008 has shown that one in five players of casual video games have an impairment related to physical, mental or developmental disability. In other words, twenty percent of the casual video games audience is comprised by disabled gamers.
Despite this relatively high percentage of gamers with impairments, many of the video games are not accessible for gamers with impairments. An additional survey conducted by Bei Yuan, Eelke Folmer, and Frederick C. Harris. have revealed that nine percent of the population in the United States suffer from a loss of gaming experience because of their impairments. Two percent of the population in the States is even entirely unable to play a game because of their impairments.
92% plays games despite difficulties
New research conducted by a member of the Game Accessibility project run by the Accessibility Foundation in Utrecht, The Netherlands, shows the willpower of gamers with disabilities. All test subjects who participated in the game test sessions as part of the research are people with at least one impairment related to their vision, their hearing, their motor or cognitive skills. No less than ninety-two percent of these test subjects claim that they play video games in their leisure time.
Furthermore, the result of the research does not only point out that people with impairments do play games, but also that they play games at a regular and frequent rate. The number of hours the test subjects play games per week is according to themselves as many as 10,3 hours on average, with the highest number 25 hours per week and the lowest 1 hour per week.
Types of games and platform
The type of games they play vary greatly, including console games played with the Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox, PC games, as well as online browser games, games incorporated in social media like Facebook and game apps for mobile devices. It is notable that of the majority of the surveyed blind gamers tend to play games which are blind-friendly, primarily audio games.
Games as leisure; not for everyone
Only 2 of the 29 test subjects say they don’t play games as a leisure activity. One of them, a 41-year old woman with a lazy eye and missing a forearm, has until the game test session never played a video game in her life before. The other test subject, a 46-year old man with reduced functioning in his arm and legs, does have experience with playing a few games, but does not play games anymore.
Interestingly, the reason behind the fact that they do not play games is for both test subjects completely unrelated to their impairments. Both do not refuse or quit playing games due to the suffering of the limitations their disabilities bring along, but because they did not have much interest in the activity of playing video games in general.
After playing three games in the test sessions, both express they did like playing at least one of the game. The two have given the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Sewer Run, a browser platform game, a seven as a rating for how much they enjoyed the game. For the game Brain Waves, a browser mind game, the two subjects have given respectively a six and a ten. These ratings show that people with impairments do enjoy playing games despite their disability.
Accessible games equal bigger target audience
In conclusion, the result of the research sends off the powerful statement that out of those with interest in playing games all have the willpower to do so and engage in the activity of playing games in spite of the difficulties they encounter as a result of their impairment. This willpower of gamers with disabilities reinforces the high need for the improvement of the accessibility of games.
If more games are made more accessible, more gamers with impairments will be able to play more games and with less difficulties. By creating more accessible games, game publishers and developers also reach a bigger audience as the community of people with disabilities comprise a relatively high percentage of gamers.