Random Thoughts from Barcelona

Posted on Dec 12, 2010
Random Thoughts from Barcelona

Last week I had the honor and pleasure of taking part in the first ever International Conference on Translation and Accessibility in Video Games and Virtual Worlds at the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain.

To detail all the various insights would take several posts comprising many hours, yet doing so would offer inadequate justice to the fidelity of ideation that took place during those two exciting days. Rather, I’ve compiled an array of concepts, thoughts and statements in the form of live tweets and personal notes. To really get a sense of the dialog, you can review the entire #locUAB thread on Twitter.

The Case for Video Game Accessibility

  • To understand diversified needs of users, one must comprehend the difference between temporary vs. permanent disability
  • Input is the main challenge for accessible game design; cognitive feedback is the second
  • Patience, dedication and passion will drive behavioral trends
  • Lack of accessibility results in a risk of social exclusion
  • The games industry has long taken a “burger & fries” approach to design decisions; the basic structure of the meal remains unchanged, while more extras and utensils are added in the name of “innovation”
  • The myth of the average player includes a mostly male demographic, expanded array of hardware, huge video displays and enhanced dexterity
  • Serious games seek to education or inform; use of games in the employment realm bring to mind issues relating to workplace software

Inclusive Design Concepts

  • Polymorphic design seeks to provide solutions that can be accessed by people of differing abilities
  • A “parallel universe” results when a person projects their understanding of a situation on others, in the expectation that their experience is transferable and thus most common
  • The most inclusive games allow people with disabilities to play alongside able-bodied participants
  • The next big challenge for games is “ambient intelligence” — where technologies are woven into the fabric of everyday life
  • Devices such as the Kinect take a “Frankenstein” approach to developing accessible interfaces
  • Someone who repeatedly fails at a task, due to no fault of their own, falls victim to “learn helplessness” — a bad attitude or tendency toward an activity or endeavor that stains future enthusiasm
  • “Patternicity” is the tendency of the brain to assign a sense of order from random noise

Accessibility and Localization Project Management

  • Project management is the discipline of addressing and navigating change, risk and opportunity
  • Projects tend to come in batches and are best managed using an Agile (rather than Waterfall) approach in quick sprints
  • Effort scales according to size and volume of content
  • Security is a challenge; files can no longer be shared, and teams are increasingly working through virtualization networks
  • Transparency is a priority among teams; there are no secrets anymore
  • A solid content strategy is absolutely critical in developing any digital offering; this applies to games as well as non-game projects
  • User experience for games is really about “emotional translation” — the term applies to translation but can be carried over to most UX-related project requirements

The Wisdom of Crowds

  • Localization of games is more than simply translating text into another language; context is important
  • The disambiguation of such terms as “board of education” is critical, especially if the intent is an actual wooden “board” rather than a committee
  • Game context defines how terms are disambiguated — a “duck” is an animal when applied to a character and an action when applied to movement functionality
  • Crowdsourcing during QA is difficult because a democracy often has trouble making firm decisions
  • Crowdsourcing is more of a marketing endeavor than a technical project consideration

Quality Assurance and Testing

  • For QA, it’s not enough to be a gamer; you also have to know the target market and be able to communicate improvements to project teams
  • True quality assurance and testing depends on one’s ability and tolerance for repetitive tasks
  • Increasing the number of release platforms raises demands on project teams and makes challenges more acute
  • A lack of context and failure to “know the game” introduces critical inconsistencies in user experience

Technology and Inclusive Design

  • There are different levels of accessibility, from hardware devices and peripherals to software attributes (graphic design, interface programming, human-computer interaction, content development)
  • There is evidence that speech synthesis technology will sound more natural and less robotic within the next five years
  • Sound is an underutilized attribute — it involves time, exists over space, is amazingly high resolution and is great at conveying meaning

People to Follow on Twitter

Anikto’s presentation on Designing Virtual Experiences for Digital Outcasts is now available in multiple formats.