Microsoft’s new testing program helps devs make their games more accessible
What just happened? Microsoft has updated its Xbox Accessibility Guidelines to make it easier for developers to comprehend and adhere to. While at it, Redmond also decided to launch a validation program to help devs test and identify obstacles in games that could make it more difficult for those with disabilities to play.
Microsoft in January 2020 launched the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAGs), a set of best practices used to validate the accessibility of a game. The idea was to assist designers in coming up with ideas to help drive accessibility efforts forward.
Over the past year, Microsoft fielded a wide array of feedback from developers. Some asked for additional context and clarification on how to ensure the guidelines were properly met in their games while others requested help with regards to where to start and the impact that XAGs would have on the gaming experience for players with disabilities.
Armed with the feedback, the Microsoft gaming accessibility team got to work on updating the XAGs. They improved the language used in the guidelines to make it less technical and easier to understand, defined clear goals for each XAG, added scoping questions to help devs identify which XAGs to focus on and baked in multiple real-world examples of guidelines in action.
Realizing they could take things a step further, the team partnered with the game reliability engineering division to create an accessibility testing program to help validate games that meet the guidelines. Now, devs can send Microsoft their Xbox or PC game and have it tested against the XAGs. All test passes are conducted with help from members of the gaming and disability community who provide feedback and insights that able gamers might have overlooked.