An open letter to game developers

Accessibility Advocacy

Dear game developers,
it has been said, and rightly so, that the quality of a society can be measured by its dreams, and that its dreams are dreamed by artists.
As a game developer, you are a very special kind of artist. While others are creating static works of art such as paintings, books, or recorded pieces of music, you have chosen to create experiences, dynamic, living worlds to be explored, adored and, with some skill and luck, mastered. Your messages are wrapped within layers and layers of interactive content, and you have given a great deal of thought to the process by which the players of your games will gradually discover them.
One of the aspects you are probably most passionate about is immersion. The greatest compliment for you is when players tell you how they managed to completely forget about their daily concerns for some time, losing themselves in the details and intricacies of the experience you created.
I once wrote a short story for a friend of mine so he could read it during a vacation. Internet access for virtually everyone had not been invented yet, so I gave him a floppy disk with my short story on it. When, after his vacation, I eagerly inquired what he thought about my story, he handed the disk to me, explaining his computer had refused to read it. Frustrated, I broke the disk in two and threw it against a wall.
For me, as for many other gamers with disabilities, unfortunately, most of the artifacts you are creating turn out to be just like that broken floppy disk from thirty years ago. We would love to appreciate the work you put into your creations, to immerse ourselves in the universes you are crafting, to experience for ourselves the dreams you turn into realities, but we find ourselves locked out of them for lack of vision, hearing, motor skills or cognitive flexibility.
Lack of accessibility in games is a solid stone wall standing between you as the artists and large portions of your audience. Ironically, it may even be those who would benefit the most from your creations who are affected the most by this wall.
I am hoping that my words may inspire you to look upon your creations from a new, more expansive perspective. You are selling experiences, so why not start there? Let's take an experience often found in games, such as that of trying to escape from a wild animal predator in an enchanted forest. In near total darkness, you are relying almost exclusively on sound and touch. You stop and listen closely. Was that someone, or something, breathing? You try to tune out the irregular voodoo drum of your own heartbeat. Where did it come from? The left! You turn right and make a run for it. Ouch! You hit your foot on something---probably a root. The pain is excruciating. Your predator is gaining on you. Without a healing potion and an elixir of acceleration, in a few seconds you will meet a messy end. Curse the darkness! You cannot even read the labels on those potions. Can you remember which of these vials contained the healing potion? The square one? The octagonal one? You try the square one and ...
As you awake, the council has assembled around you, the remains of a powerful teleportation spell still scattered all about the temple proper. You just had an accessible game experience, and I didn't even use any audio or haptic feedback, just some carefully crafted writing. Now imagine adding some atmospheric music, the ambient sounds of the forest, and your favorite storyteller narrating the action.
This is my appeal to you: Start with the experience, and ask yourself how this experience can be encoded such that players with different abilities can immerse themselves in it. Think of your games as dreams. A person with hearing loss, a blind person, a person with autism, they all dream differently. How can you make sure that your dreams gracefully transform into their dreams?
We are not entitled to accessibility. It is your choice whether or not to ask yourselves these difficult questions. But if you don't, many of us will miss out on the fruits of your passion. Being an artist myself, I know how much this hurts. I vividly recall the sound of that floppy disk hitting the wall. So please do us---and yourselves---the favor and make sure it doesn't happen too often.
Here's to games for everyone,
with best regards,
Perry Simm



Submitted by Gar on Tuesday, September 24, 2019

May we see more than card/dice games and two dimensionally flat games in our future.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Games that people will pay have to be great. Can not understand why a football (US) can not be created. Even games such as GMA for windows. Boxing game and even baseball. War games such as you running a sub and avoiding others before you let your nuclear missiles destroy the world. Even hunting other subs where you are playing against another person instead a computer.

Submitted by Kai on Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Thank you Soum much for putting together that awesome and inspiring letter to game developers. I’m almost completely blind and I hate the bias and outcast thing that’s been done to those without site and with/without other disabilities. It sucks when you find a game you think is awesome and then you realize you can’t enjoy it because you can’t see or something else is going on. I’ve tried sending emails to those who have some voiceover in it and have gotten nowhere. I pray your letter does the trick, because what they’re doing is soul crushing and heart wrenching. Thank you again so much for your incredible words to game developers.

Submitted by DrummerGuy on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Congratulations, my friend, for a very well written letter. I am sure it will be read and felt by many game developers. I am sure that your words will manage to reach many developers and will make them realize that we should be taken into consideration at the time of creating they’re awesome games. Let’s all hope to see new and better games in the near future.

Submitted by Joseppie on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

I applaud you gracefully Perry. Your words and support for Game developers has become truly unique and overwhelming. I am in fact raising my fist to the sky saying, (you got it man)! I am proud to have finally met someone with intelligence, who has inspiration in themselves as I do. Without passion and motivation to help one another, we will become extinct. Yes, there is room for error. We all must survive and become friends to when together. Mental vision could use a friend like Perry Sim. Thank you for voicing the truth. I am glad you understand what most of our community is trying to accomplish. I know together our community can break the wall and barriers. Not just for gaming but, everywhere. Sometimes it feels as though we have to fight for our own civil rights. We are proving it two simple minded developers who don’t believe there is a market for accessibility. CMR is going to prove it because our community supports it. My vision was to bring something back that was missing. What I have found on my journey is, when people are hungry and you make dinner they are going to eat. Mental vision is trying to feed our community. Positive people who don’t back down in our community are going to be the ones to save it. I don’t mean this to be funny so, don’t laugh. We have to fight the power that is trying to control who we want to be. Keep going Perry. You are an amazing person and I believe in what you are trying to accomplish. Mental vision has your back my friend.

Submitted by ming on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

can I share this on facebook

Submitted by Devin Prater on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

This is definitely amazing, and I'll share as much as possible, especially on Reddit, where there are a lot of developers.

Submitted by Perry Simm on Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Sure, share as much as you like. There is nothing secret about an open letter.
And thank you for all your encouraging responses!
Cheers Perry

Submitted by Ekaj on Thursday, September 26, 2019

Perry, I'd like to add my sincere and heartfelt thanks for this well-crafted letter. I'm not much of a gamer these years, but I'll definitely share this among my circle. This doesn't just apply to gaming either. I think companies like Apple are truly starting to realize that, and are making the world a better place bit by bit.

Submitted by Joseppie on Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I hope you read this Perry.
In our community, we all have a need in common. We feel lacking in quality entertainment. We feel we deserve this kind of entertainment. We fight to be treated as equals on this subject. Developers that are scared of our community are not afraid of cost or difficulty. They are terrified of failure. They do not believe there is a market for this type of entertainment. At least, that is what they are comfortable telling themselves. They would rather not even try, then fail. It only takes one inspired leader to prove them wrong. It takes an inspired community to make it possible.
If we step outside ourselves for a moment and visualize our community as a company. Then and only then can we succeed in changing beliefs and opinions outside of our community. I have been honored to meet a few dozen individuals in our community, who are capable and are pursuing amazing and wonderful things. This is inspiration. This is what matters most in making changes to ourselves and how our community is perceived bye others.
If you get a moment, please listen to this speech. I hope then, you will understand what I’m talking about.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Subject sums it up.

Submitted by Use Small Words on Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I totally agree with everything said in this letter. there are games that for example have adverts on the TV or on the Internet which the developers need money to pay for. Surely they have the money to implement accessibility technology that already exists. i’m not going to name names just look at some of the games on this website that are marked as totally in accessible or have accessibility issues.

Submitted by Perry Simm on Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Thank you for all your encouragement regarding my letter and my overall message.
While we are talking about large companies, I would like to point out that the problem is neither a lack of resources nor evil purposes. Rather, it is a mismatch of visions. Allow me to illustrate.
Let's say we asked a hundred game designers and developers whether or not they would want their games to be universally accessible, that is, practically playable by everyone. I'm sure the positive answers would be well within the 90th percentile. These people are usually artists, and to them, games are not the means to an end, but an end in itself. There may be those who are strictly in it for the money, I grant you that. This is why I was talking about the 90th percentile rather than making sweeping generalizations.
So, I hear you ask, why, then, do we find the gaming landscape so horribly inaccessible?
The answer is found in the observation that the relevant decisions are often not made by designers and developers but by investors and managers. The movies running in their heads are only marginally about games. Instead, they are exceptional at maximizing return on investment. For them, games are not an end in itself, but a means to a lot of things, most of them quite honorable, such as preventing their companies from going broke, or creating additional job opportunities.
This is where the heart to heart interface comes into play. If you are a game designer or developer, and you feel that your management is not providing you the freedom and resources to make your games accessible, here are some ideas you might want to bring up in the next meeting:
1. You care about accessibility, and excluding certain groups of people based on abilities and disabilities makes you feel bad about what you do. It's just a matter of empathy, which is why you chose games, not, say, missiles.
2. At first glance, minorities might not matter economically. But minorities consist of individuals whose opinions may have quite an impact. If it were not so then you would not be reading this right now. Besides, people care for their loved ones not because they are a majority but because they matter to them specifically, and you just happen to love your players regardless of whether they are deaf, blind, or otherwise challenged.
3. The time spent on implementing accessibility is also time spent tidying up the code, cleaning up the design, and learning about how different media can be utilized to shape the overall player experience. In the long run, cleaner code results in a more efficient workflow and, last but not least, fewer bugs. In addition, a richer player experience benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities.
4. With power comes responsibility, and you are passionate about leaving the world better than you found it. No matter what you do, you shape the world in some way, and you want it to be a good way. In particular, you feel much better when your projects help to narrow gaps rather than create additional stumbling blocks.
5. Finally, you are passionate about making your games accessible because otherwise you simply couldn't be as proud of them. You are ambitious, and it's a challenge at which you'd hate to fail.
Do you have what it takes?
Let the games begin!
Cheers Perry

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I think you're doing this in exactly the right way. Unfortunately some other posters believe that it is a right that we should have some games to play, possibly a consequence of living in the western world. We should be asking and not demanding. Switching it around, I'm far more likely to do something if someone asks reasonably rather than jutting out their chin and demanding it. Such mentality is childish and unproductive.

Good luck, for all our sakes. At the end of the day, they're only games and one type of entertainment to enjoy. :)

Submitted by Unregistered User (not verified) on Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Yes, this is exactly what we need. I like the part about giving developers a choice. We aren't entitled to anything, but some people make it seem that way and maybe that is what turns some developers off. either way, this is a really good message. For the games that can be made accessible, I urge more Game developers to step up to the challenge

Submitted by Use Small Words on Wednesday, October 2, 2019

I think that’s a really good idea although the developers sometimes do this it would be good for Apple to apply some sort of filter in the App Store like another certain company does or used to do.:-)

Submitted by Use Small Words on Wednesday, October 2, 2019

if the last post on this forum doesn’t make sense it’s my fault I must’ve clicked on the wrong link and not noticed. Unfortunately I’m unable to delete this post now as I’ve only just found that I put it in the wrong forum. Sorry.

Submitted by Perry Simm on Monday, November 25, 2019

Dear readers,
it has been two months since I started this thread, and I have been overwhelmed by the initial enthusiasm. Many of you were excited to share this open letter on different networks and in different contexts.
Now, in the dark season, how about we gather by the fireside and you folks let me know how it went? Where have you posted? What were the reactions you got? And, most importantly, where can yours truly read up on some or all of it?
Thank you for being a community of more than empty words.
Cheers Perry