Supporting Accessibility During Your Live Event? Remember to Promote It

Ben Bayliss6 minute read

I’m going to leave my general thoughts about this year’s The Game Awards that took place on December 9, 2021, at the door for this piece, meaning I’m not going to get excited about that amazing Alan Wake announcement or talk about understanding why there were adverts at the show. Instead, I’m going to focus on The Game Awards accessibility during the event and surrounding the event. This isn’t to call out the event, but rather to look at what could have been done better, and what was nice to see, and how other events can ensure they hit the mark.

For those who weren’t watching the show, it had a runtime of over 3-hours with awards being presented in-between numerous ad breaks and many game trailer reveals, celebrity cameos, and musical performances. As we’re an accessibility-focused outlet, winning the Innovation in Accessibility award was Playground Games’ Forza Horizon 5 which was presented by The Odd Gentlemen accessibility lead, Morgan Baker who was joined by content creator Jacksepticeye.

The Streams

Geoff Keighley on stage hosting looking off right

There was a fair deal of concern surrounding The Game Awards’ lack of advertisement of its own different streams that would have provided easily available, accessible streams for those that needed them. The reality was that there were 3 official The Game Awards streams for accessibility.

  1. The official main show had live captions typed by captioners, no craptions!
  2. There was an audio described version of the show done by Descriptive Video Works
  3. There was an ASL stream on Twitch through a co-stream

However, if you feel like you missed out on any announcements of these streams, don’t worry, you didn’t. There were zero advertisements from official channels of these stream types.

The audio descriptive version of the show was on the show’s official channel, but unlisted and was not searchable, nor was it put into any official playlists to be discoverable. The only way Can I Play That? learned of the whereabouts of this confirmed stream was following a private message from someone from the show.

The ASL stream was done differently as it wasn’t on official channels, instead, it was done through a co-stream by DeafGamersTV of which I only found out after speaking to Geoff Keighley moments before the pre-show began. The ASL stream was also mentioned during the main show itself, but only at the start of the Innovation in Accessibility award which was around nearly 3-hours into the show. Certainly far too late to bring up to the viewers.

Realistically, the streams should have been

  1. Made publicy available, not unlisted
  2. Linked through the main show’s description panels
  3. Linked through the official social media accounts before
  4. Brought up during the pre-show maybe a couple of times

So if you’re planning to organize a live event, make sure that you have all stream versions readily available so that potential viewers aren’t scrambling around online struggling to find them. Especially when your show celebrates accessibility and has an award for accessibility present.

Awarding

Subtitles shown during driving in Forza Horizon 5

The thing The Game Awards did nicely that others can take a cue from is how the award for accessibility was presented. The show had a disabled game developer present the award alongside a well-known celebrity which further expands the reach of accessibility in video games by opening their audience to something they probably didn’t know about.

And when it comes to the different types of awards, there were some smaller awards that were quickly rushed through where the host flashes the nominees on screen and then announces a winner before moving on. The accessibility category, like last year’s show, was alongside the bigger awards which gave it more prestige and more of a platform which was fantastic to see.

The judging panel also included a large number of disabled players and organizations, us included, that know that accessibility is more than the number of options. The games nominated during the awards had all made great strides in their accessibility and were all deserving of the award.

Social Media Presence

combat showing characters fighting creature on a planet

The Game Awards can be used as a perfect example of ensuring all your content surrounding the event should be accessible. As we reported, last week, The Game Awards was meant to have been including alternative text going forward to social media posts but never actually implemented it. The result was that all images from the socials lacked any alt text for those that use screen readers.

If you’re planning an event, you’ll likely want to have alt text written up for each asset that’s created and then have a document that includes any metadata needed such as file names, file sizes, descriptive alt text, and more.

Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that all video clips, be that on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and others have subtitle files available or have subtitles baked into the video. In leading up to the show, The Game Awards did include subtitles on the accessibility announcement video, but other videos did not include subtitles.

If you’re wanting to promote accessibility and celebrate it, efforts need to be made across all of your content for your event. It requires planning and potentially hiring a team to lead the charge depending on your budget and size.

High contrast background off with hero shader on.

The Game Awards, while it lacked in accessibility building up to, and around the show, the actual event was nice to follow. The captions not only included those speaking and the dialogue from trailers but all of the songs in trailers and live musical performances were subtitled. The audio descriptions followed the show and detailed what was shown nicely, and the ASL stream featured 2 sign-language interpreters through a co-stream.

We’ve seen other companies, perhaps most notably, Xbox being an example of how to keep accessibility going through its socials and carry it over to any live events. This includes all stream variations being publicly available from different languages, sign language interpretation, and audio descriptive streams. It also includes alt text and subtitles throughout.

What I’m saying is, if you’re looking at running a live event, these are all key things to include, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some things! There are also in-person accommodations to take into account, and it’s probably worth studios looking into creating fewer trailers that feature flashing lights and heavy camera shake. If you want to support and celebrate accessibility, make the whole experience inclusive.

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Ben
BaylissEditor-in-ChiefHe/Him

Ben is the one in charge of keeping the content cogs at Can I Play That? turning. Deafness means that he has a focus on discussing captions, but with experience in consultancy and advocacy, he covers what bases he can. Having written about accessibility in video games at DualShockers, GamesRadar+, GamesIndustry.biz, Wireframe, and more he continues his advocacy at CIPT. He was actually awarded a Good Games Writing award for an article he wrote here! He enjoys a range of games, but anything that’s open-world and with a photo mode will probably be his cup of tea. You can get in touch with him at: ben@caniplaythat.com

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