Last August, Player Research announced a new initiative called Advancing Accessibility. The project is directed towards developers, consultants and content creators, to offer a wide range of services to help incorporate accessibility in their products and more. This is the presentation video.
To learn more about this initiative, I interviewed Améliane F. Chiasson, Games Accessibility Lead at Player Research.
Antonio: Hello Améliane. Thanks for offering us this chance. Let’s begin with an introduction for our readers. Could you please tell us a bit about you and your history with Accessibility?
Améliane: My name is Améliane F. Chiasson, I am the Games Accessibility Lead here at Player Research, a games-focused research company that’s part of Keywords Studios. Previously I was the Accessibility Lead at Square Enix West, based out of Eidos-Montréal. There, I helped create and lead the very first accessibility department at the company and have contributed to various titles, including Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and the Life is Strange franchise.
My background in the games industry includes experience in Quality Assurance and User Research, and in those roles I focused on accessibility, more and more over the years, until making accessibility my main role in 2020. My personal connection to games accessibility was inspired by many different ‘seeds’ that were planted all throughout my life – mixing my own needs and experiences with those of people around me, and all the many players I interacted with during my career. I truly believe that making accessible gaming experiences is a noble cause, and an essential responsibility that everyone who works in games should share.
Antonio: Player Research is well-known in the game development community, but perhaps it’s not as familiar for other communities. How would you describe to them what the company has been doing so far?
Améliane: Player Research has been for the last 12 years helping game developers and publishers conduct research at every stage of the production cycle. From concept testing to usability playtesting, expert analysis and more – we help game studios make creative and business decisions based on a truer understanding of players. Our team has contributed to over 800 games across all genres, platforms, and audiences. Some of our previous contributions include Control, Elden Ring and Life is Strange 2. Our team is composed of Games User Research experts with varied backgrounds in academia, the games industry and beyond. We also have dedicated Participant Recruitment Coordinators, ensuring we can find and speak to a wide variety of real players for each of our studies.
Apart from this broad influence and history, another thing that made me want to join Player Research specifically, is how they are part of Keywords Studios – one of the biggest and most trusted organizations in game development, providing a wide array of influential services to the games industry.
And now, we’re adding accessibility into Player Research’s suite of services, which is very exciting because I get to lead a studio-agnostic and global initiative where we can support all sorts of studios and teams no matter where they are in their accessibility journey.
Antonio: The announcement of the new Advancing Accessibility service covers many areas. Accessible content creation, social media, development assessment, consultancy, support for content creators and more. It’s an ambitious project. Let’s start with the services for developers, can you elaborate on them a bit?
Améliane: The ambitious nature of our new initiative is very much intended. The games accessibility mission deserves more attention and more support. Accessibility is also the perfect ground for innovation and creative endeavours, for the sake of millions of players all over the world. Many accessibility champions within game studios are clamouring for additional resources, expert support, players feedback and solutions—so we hope through these new services we can empower development teams (and beyond) in their mission to bring their experiences to more players.
Over the last two years, Player Research, the Keywords Studios ‘Labs’ team and collaborators have been hard at work putting together this suite of services that can meet the growing needs of the games industry, and the needs of its forever growing audience. The scale of the services also reflects the volume of content that’s needed to ensure accessible experiences, pulling from the expertise, bandwidth and resources of all 75 of Keywords studios and 12,000 employees worldwide.
A great example of this is the partnership with SPOV and Climax, both part of Keywords Studios. Their game engineering teams have already built world-class accessibility into games like Returnal — we’re making that development capability available to any game developer that wants to up the accessibility of their game. Additionally, teams can benefit from our active collaboration with Descriptive Video Works and TrailerFarm – who together provide world-class game trailers, cinematics, marketing assets and more, each with the highest-quality audio description.
To help grow our clients’ accessibility knowledge and accessibility maturity, we offer interactive workshops that build accessibility strategies for game projects at any scale, to map out the delivery of inclusive and accessible player experiences. With the same intent, we also offer training, to get accessibility newcomers started in this important mission and trainings for more advanced advocates as well. Additionally, we’re adding accessibility-focused studies into our already existing user research suite of services.
And finally, coming soon later this year we’ll start to roll out a new service for auditing and accessibility quality assurance testing, to help publishers, platform holders and studios ensure their whole portfolios of games meets expectations and best practice for accessibility and inclusive game design.
Antonio: Now, part of the announcement talks about consultancy and there is a survey form here for experts who want to get in the project’s database. What can they expect?
Améliane: An important mission of ours is to include the accessibility consultancy community and disabled players in all our initiatives, to provide paid experience opportunities and develop connections between developers and the professional disability in gaming community. It goes without saying that bringing consultants on board when needed helps us increase our bandwidth and expertise as well. Selected consultants will be provided with resources, training opportunities and paid consultancy gigs with clients, to advocate and audit unreleased games to improve accessibility. We’re growing a network of independent professionals, whilst contributing to their skillset as well. Anyone that is interested in working with us should check out our website.
Antonio: Excellent. You also allow people to sign up for playtesting through this other form. Sometimes in the past, this has been a difficult topic regarding people from distant places. A lot of people are probably wondering if this new project will allow remote participation. What can you tell them about this?
Améliane: Player Research has two locations: one based in Brighton, UK and the other one in Montréal, Canada. Both studios provide a mix of in-person and remote playtesting studies – for accessibility and beyond. We have tools and procedures in place to ensure secure and performant remote playtesting, which allows participants to be involved from the comfort of their home, wherever they are. For people based around Brighton and Montreal – we are ready to welcome them at our labs, simply share your accessibility needs with us in advance when signing up.
Antonio: That’s great to know. At the end of the announcement, it mentions content creators, with a great quote from content creator Radders; “Knowing that there is a service out there that is going to be there for us is reassuring because it always feels like you have to fight just to be acknowledged.” How is this going to work for them?
Améliane: Our team has always strived to represent the player community, to empower developers to bring their games to wider audiences. Beyond this objective, our mission is also to nurture to a world where accessibility and disability in gaming consultants are paid fairly and on time for their valuable work. Player Research really wants to be a bridge between game development and the accessibility community.
Antonio: Consultancy, playtesting and content creation are three different branches, so to speak. Can people sign up to all of them if they feel like to, or is there any incompatibility?
Améliane: Indeed, our sign up forms are aimed at different audiences. Our consultants and specialists sign up form is specifically aimed at people with professional experience in the games accessibility field to be part of our professionals network. Playtesting welcomes players of all backgrounds, experience and profiles to sign up for future playtests, including accessibility-focused playtests. Playtests usually require participants to play a game in development and provide their genuine feedback to help developers make their game better.
Soon, we’re also going to be reaching out to disabled content creators to nourish connections with Public Relations specialists to ensure those creators are not excluded from game keys rollouts, sponsorship opportunities and more. Stay tuned on our social media. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Antonio: Thank you for answering all our questions, it has been very informative. Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
Améliane: ‘Advancing Accessibility’ is a journey we’re embarking on with transparency, inclusion, and innovation at its core. We are here to collaborate with, empower and enable three key communities: developers, independent consultants and players. As we are starting to provide our services, I’d encourage game developers and players alike to reach out to us with questions, requests, needs and comments at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Antonio I. Martinez has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 3 and has been a gamer for most of his life. His background formation in computer programming and English compose his basic skill set. Previously mobility editor for Can I Play That, founded this new project to inform other fellow gamers and offer actionable feedback. As consultant, his work includes publishers like Xbox, Ubisoft and Rebellion. Beyond self-advocacy, he’s done webinars, talks and participated in many interviews on different media channels to educate about the importance of accessibility in games. Judge for The Game Awards and the AGDAs. You can contact him on Twitter/X at @Black1976