Before the game reveals at Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest last month, the host announced several on Twitter accessibility initiatives for his event. Not only would viewers with disabilities have access to the ASL costream run by Chris. ”DeafGamersTV“Robinson, they also had a chance to tune in to the fully sound-described version on Brandon”Superblindman”Cole’s Twitch Channel. And the Summer Game Fest wasn’t the only E3 press conference that discussed audience members with disabilities. In the midst of an exciting game that reveals, people with disabilities found an industry event that not only acknowledged but also welcomed their presence in a significant way.
The rise of digital events is by no means a new concept in the gaming industry. Since the end of 2011, Nintendo has been presenting hardware and software information in compact presentations called Nintendo Directs. Developers such as Sony, Microsoft and Ubisoft followed their example, creating their own digital production. However, with any new form of event — especially virtual — popularized in the Covid-19 era — developers, producers, and presenters must tackle ensuring that shows are available to anyone who wants to get involved.
Summer Game Fest was not Keighley’s first foray into creating an affordable digital event. With the addition of the latest Innovation in Accessibility award Prizes for games, Keighley wanted to ensure that players with disabilities enjoy his show.
“When we added the Innovation Award for Accessibility to TGAs last year, we thought it was important to make the actual event as accessible as possible,” he says. “It’s important because games are the biggest and most powerful form of entertainment in the world, so we, as an industry, have the opportunity to take the lead – and be as inviting as possible to the audience.”
In addition to promoting the collaboration between Summer Game Fest and content creators with disabilities, Keighley’s social media posts reflected his feelings about inclusion. With his 1.3 million followers on Twitter, Keighley not only unveiled the upcoming discovery of the games, but also used his platform to be an ally of a marginalized group of players. “Part of that accessibility makes the audience aware of all the different ways to experience these live broadcasts and partnering with experts in the field who want to share these events with their audiences as a way to generate costs,” he says.
While Keighley continues to design affordable digital events for viewers, he admits he is still learning and working to improve his shortcomings. With each successful event, his understanding of accessibility and the different needs of viewers with disabilities grows, leading to new ideas and solutions.
“Personally, the next thing I would like to address is how to make accessibility even more global – for example different sign languages, audio descriptive mode in different languages, etc.,” he says. “We are always open to finding new ways to share our events with as many people as possible, and all the different gaming events learn from each other. But I feel a strong commitment to the entire industry — which includes real games, publisher events, and other third-party events. “
Two days after the Keighley event, Ubisoft held its own digital E3 conference in the form of Ubisoft Forward. In addition to promoting the franchise’s new and comeback discoveries, the development studio has prioritized accessibility to reach the maximum number of viewers. From the stream itself, which featured 12 different subtitle languages, ASL and audio descriptive content for selected posts, to its official YouTube channel, which featured every audio trailer, people with disabilities were able to actively participate and respond to the news along with the able-bodied – physical peers.
“For Ubisoft Forward, it’s all about making sure our messages are published, and by including headlines in the live stream, we increase the ease of access to our content,” says Leon Winkler, Ubisoft’s director of international events. “Some of our attendees have multiple screens that they could watch at the same time, and not all of our speakers or audiences are native English speakers. Of course, accurate inscriptions are also very important for the deaf and hard of hearing community. ”