I subscribe to the IGDA's Game Accessibility Special Interest Group (SIG) mailing list, and found this e-mail from SIG chair (and one of Edge Magazine's 100 most influential women in the gaming industry) D. Michelle Hinn, who advocates for diversity in the gaming industry:

I am writing you today because one of the (if not the biggest) Game Developers Conferences is reducing diversity programming at an alarming level. So Diversity topics have REALLY been cheated out of GDC this year I feel. I got one tiny and VERY basic talk accepted but we nearly got knocked out completely — this after getting our best talk scores and feedback ever last year. I've heard similar stories from others in other area of game diversity programming.

I've decided that I'm "running" for a GDC ambassador award [Ed: the ambassador award is at the bottom of the page] because GDC is really squashing out most disability (and diversity programming in general — Chris Bateman, Noah Falstein, Ernest Adams and I have been frothing at the mouth about this…as I am sure you are as well!). For years I've been trying to get a "game accessibility" award in the Annual Game Developers Choice Awards…and we almost had it. Then things shifted with CMP (now ThinkServices, Jamil left CMP and went to EA, etc. And this year we only had one small proposal on the most basic accessibility information accepted, which I can already read the session feedback now…"Why don't you do the Accessibility Arcade or the more advanced/applied sessions anymore?" There is still need for the basics but if GDC wants to really present "the best of/state of the art" talks then some content control has to be given back to those of us who know what people are currently asking from us. But I digress…

This is definitely not an ego trip thing — I feel quite humble asking you for your support on this! Because this is not a Gamasutra Reader "voter" award and is instead chosen by an advisory board I am campaigning so every bit of support will help. I just am getting mad at how little attention (and it's dwindling) we (those of us in all areas of gaming diversity) get and I want accessibility to be recognized! And this is the only way I can think of to have an opportunity, if I happen to win, to say on record "next stop? Game accessibility award for GDC awards!" and give props to those who have always been supportive of the accessibility and diversity message.

I, along with members of the IGDA Game Accessibility SIG that I chair, give our blood sweat and tears to keep game accessibility (making sure games are playable by the disabled, the elderly, etc) in the minds of both academia and industry…and we don't get paid for it — we do it because we believe so strongly in the topic. I've been involved in it for nearly ten years now (before I help start the SIG 7 years ago I did my own independent work on the topic). I've given talks the past 5 GDCs, SXSW, Develop, Montreal, Games for Health and many more industry conferences. Now that I'm finished with my Chapter for Chris Bateman's book I can get back to the SIG book on game accessibility! 🙂

[cut]

Michelle Hinn, Chair
Game Accessibility Special Interest Group
International Game Developers Association
Entertainment Consumers Association

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk grew up in a small Nebraska town called Papillion. Although she has a nonverbal learning disability that affects her visual-spatial skills (among other things), she's always loved video games. Her first game system was a Commodore Vic-20, which her mom bought at a garage sale for $20. With this little computer Tera learned to write Mad Libs in BASIC, to play chess and to steal gold from Fort Knox.

But then a friend introduced her to the seedy underworld of the Mario brothers and she spent her saved-up birthday and Christmas money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Her mom didn't like the Nintendo at first, but The Legend of Zelda changed her mind. (When Tera got Zelda II: The Adventure of Link one Christmas, she suspected it was as much for her mother as for her).

Though she graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2002 and recently learned how to find the movie theater restroom by herself, Tera still loves video games. Far from being a brain-rotting waste of time, they've helped her practice spatial skills and discover new passions. Her love of games like Kid Icarus and The Battle of Olympus led to a degree in Classical Languages and Literatures. She thinks games have a place in discussions on disability and other cultural issues, and is excited to work with the like-minded staff at GameCritics.com.
Tera Kirk

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2 Comments on "Game accessibility advocate running for GDC ambassador award"

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Barrie Ellis
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Yep – I’m 100% behind Michelle too – who pushes so hard for the accessible gaming movment.

Mark Barlet
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I know Michelle and I can tell you she works her rear off everyday for this cause. As the Editor-in-Chief of AbleGamers.com I can tell you that she should get this award every day!

Thanks Tera!

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