Blind game developer flips the script on accessibility integration
In the mountains outside Barcelona resides a modern Renaissance man. This Spanish native is fluent in half a dozen languages, trained in music theory, works in web design and develops accessible mobile games.
Long before gaming accessibility became part of popular gaming culture, Oriol Gomez incorporated gaming accessibility into his early Windows-based offerings. At 15, Oriol taught himself how to code games and started making them. From the start, it was important to Oriol that accessibility be part of its coding projects. What made this teenager aware of accessibility? Oriol was born blind.
Throughout his childhood, Oriol attended the public school system in his hometown of Salou, Catalonia, Spain. While Oriol was supported by a group of blind friends, he had to operate daily in a world made for sighted people. This life experience has ingrained in Oriol the need for an inclusive approach to support people of all abilities. Years later, Oriol would ensure that its mobile games would also be accessible to the blind and sighted community.
Although COVID-19 is a global tragedy that has forever reshaped the global community, it has given individuals an opportunity to reevaluate their priorities. Oriol revisited his love of making games and decided to explore the mobile gaming landscape. As he contemplated the start of his game’s development, Oriol wanted to break the stereotype of the blind game developer. He was determined to create games for all players, regardless of their visual acuity. Often, blind developers create non-visual accessible games that are specifically marketed to the blind community. Oriol’s experience of complete integration in a visually dominated world has guided him towards creating mobile games for all gamers.
While hunkered down in his apartment during the COVID-19 quarantine, Oriol performed a blistering pace of game outings. After spending months with the “Hacking with Swift” reference material, Oriol has released an accessible version of a familiar IP. His “Accessible 2048” was an instant hit, garnering hundreds of downloads on its first day.
With a published game on his resume, Oriol began a series of intense activities. His next 3 puns would reach the top 10 of Apple’s Spanish pun rankings. These games would also enter the top 100 of the US word game rankings. You can browse all of Oriol’s mobile and Windows games on its website.
Growing accessibility awareness has led major game studios to create internal teams and external beta testers dedicated to accessibility implementations. Oriol approaches accessibility integration from a different angle. Having spent the past three decades blindfolded, Oriol vigorously conducts Voiceover accessibility testing itself. It employs a team of blind beta testers to evaluate the game as a whole, provide feedback on game mechanics, and suggest ideas for gameplay.
It has a second team of sighted beta testers who review the visual accessibility of its games for the sighted community. This team provides feedback on font size, button placement, object and font contrast, and all other visual cues. Unlike the typical game developer, Oriol is focused on ensuring its games are visually accessible to the sighted community. Additionally, this approach reverses the script where blind beta testers are not only regulated for accessibility testing.
Much like his life in general, Oriol has eclectic playing interests. He has created puzzles (Accessible 2048), quizzes (Choose Your Face) and word games (Accessible Hangman, Palabra Cadabra and Letterfull). He expects to leave the genre word behind for a while and work on developing a narrative story game. Oriol is an inspiration to burgeoning blind game developers who can look to him as an example of how to develop games for gamers across the visually acuity spectrum.
About the Author
Aaron is the founder of “Mobile Accessible Games”, which offers in-depth weekly reviews of accessible iPhone games for blind and visually impaired gamers. His game reviews are posted on the Facebook group of the same name. Additionally, Aaron interviews game developers and accessibility influencers about the state of gaming accessibility on his YouTube channel.