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 Human - Computer Interaction Laboratory

Universally Accessible Games

Universally Accessible Games (UA–Games) constitute a research activity of the Human–Computer Interaction Laboratory of ICS–FORTH. In this context, we research, design and develop Universally Accessible Games and we create and test new related concepts, interaction techniques, methods and software tools.

What are UA-Games?

The concept of UA-Games has been proposed as a means to overcome the limitations of previous approaches to game accessibility, and as an effective technical approach to achieve game accessibility coupled with high interaction quality, also putting forward the objective of creating games that are concurrently accessible to people with diverse abilities.

UA-Games are interactive computer games that:

  • Follow the principles of Design for All, being proactively designed to optimally fit and dynamically adapt to different individual gamer characteristics without the need of further adjustments via additional developments.
  • Can be concurrently played among people with different abilities, ideally also while sharing the same computer.
  • May be played on various hardware and software platforms, and within alternative environments of use, utilizing the currently available devices, while appropriately interoperating with assistive technology add-ons.

In other words, a universally accessible game is a game that can adapt its interface and content to best serve the requirements of a specific gamer under specific gaming conditions. Imagine having a palette comprising all of the game elements and their attributes that you can use in order to render a fully customized, personalized, version of the game for each distinct player (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Illustration of the concept of a universally accessible game.

The underlying vision is that through such games people will be able to have fun, cooperate and compete on an equal basis, while interacting easily and effectively, irrespective of:

  1. their individual requirements, skills and preferences;
  2. the technology they use;
  3. their location.

Furthermore, this approach has the potential to render accessible several "physical" games that in their original form are not accessible to several groups of people with disabilities, e.g., the original chess game is not accessible to the blind or the motor-impaired.

UA-Games strongly cater for the needs and actively support the right of all people for social interaction and play irrespective of their individual differences, thus providing a steppingstone towards a more inclusive (and fun!) Information Society.

Creating UA-Games may not be a trivial task, but it certainly is a manageable task. It requires handling and understanding a very large design space, comprising diverse users, operating in several different contexts of use, which may not all be known at design time, and also mapping and transforming all related requirements and (dis)abilities to coherent, usable and accessible interaction designs.

Key results

  • A design method: Unified Design for UA-Games
    The systematic design approach that we have followed in order to create our UA-Games. This method reflects a process-oriented discipline emphasizing abstract task definition with incremental polymorphic physical specialization.
  • A novel concept: Parallel Game Universes
    This theory aims to provide a way for creating multiplayer games where people with diverse abilities can play cooperatively, or against each other, while at the same time experiencing the game in an optimally adapted way.
  • Four games that have a two-fold role, acting both as proofs of concept and as case studies
    • UA–Chess: a universally accessible web–based chess.
    • Access Invaders: a universally accessible multiplayer and multiplatform version of Space Invaders.
    • Game Over!: the world's first universally inaccessible game, meant to be used as a game accessibility educational tool.
    • Terrestrial Invaders: a UA-Game packed with numerous accessibility features that was developed in order to be able to create Game Over!