What is computer feedback?
In our digital age, most of us will be well acquainted with the main forms of feedback out computers provide us with. Visual feedback from high definition screens. Audio from multiple sides. Even touch and movement can be used these days to both control various digital devices and to for those computers to supply their output.
In most computers the ‘visual’ element is the main form of feedback that users depend on. The monitor shows the user the things they are currently working with, and any kind of changes they make appear immediately at the screen. The first thing someone usually does when they want to work with a specific program/file is make sure that it is displayed on the visual representation of the computer, which usually gives a sign that it is active. There are many ways in which the ‘visual element’ will give information about what’s going on in a computer though that information is rarely complete. Then again, people rarely WANT to know everything that’s going on behind the screen. The processing of all the programming language and 0’s and 1’s that rush through a computer are generally not something most people are interested and would probably be awfully confusing for most. For a part of a computer to be accessible to someone, they don’t necessarily need access to everything that’s happening in a computer. Just to the things the computer is designed to show the user.
If that is so then how does it work for the internet?
A large majority of the internet pages gives their users similar feedback. Meaning; the internet mostly uses written words and pictures with a few exceptions. People looking at internet pages mostly all use the same programs, ‘browsers’, to access these pages. Meaning; if someone makes a ‘reader’ program for those browsers which is designed to turn all written words (and picture alternatives) into sounds then everyone who has no problems with hearing as well as seeing has a form of computer feedback they can use. The other way around works too (though this is less common). This does not necessarily mean that the pages individually won’t have problems with the way they display things (thus influencing the computer feedback the users get) and animated sites using programs like java are also a problem. On average though a large percentage of the information on the internet can be changed around from one form of feedback (sound) to another (visual) and back. This is at least partially because everyone uses the same programs. If everyone uses the same program for years on end those programs will discover their solutions for accessibility which then again can be used by everyone.
And with Games?
One of the main problems with the accessibility of games is that they are not as limited as the internet. Almost every game will often be its own little program, with its own sort of feedback to the player. This means that programs made for general use to add variety of feedback (like audio reading software) will seldom work. Often a game will in fact come with purposeful limits to the feedback for the player as part of the gameplay (like becoming temporarily ‘blind’ during a car race as a status effect). Alternatives in feedback for the player for the purpose of accessibility would have to be custom made taking into account the gameplay. Then there is the fact that, unlike the internet, rare are the games in which the main percentage of the information the player gains is written text (even if it will still be visual). Creating another form of feedback equal to the visual feedback of an animation or the view of the player moving through a three-dimensional space. This is very hard and oftentimes simply not yet doable. There are many ways to make a game more accessible but when it comes to interchanging one form of computer feedback for another in a non-text based game the limits will show themselves fast. Of course, if the designer is dedicated there is really no reason there could not be some ways around that. But the fact stays that most ready-made general accessibility programs that add one kind of feedback according to another won’t work because the nature of games makes them ‘their own little programs’ and incompatible unless tailored to those programs.