March 2021, 1 week
UI/UX Designer, Illustrator
Adobe Xd, Procreate
In Winter 2021, I took a course called “Video Games and Learning”, which focused on reforming education through a gamified system. For the individual project, I had the opportunity to focus on a topic of my choosing. So, I centered it around accessibility and universal design for learning in serious educational games.
Game Design, Illustration, Branding, High-Fidelity Prototyping, Designing for Accessibility, Designing for Education
1. Receive project prompt.
2. Envision solution to prompt.
3. Conduct academic research on accessibility in video games.
4. Develop mockup of an accessibility-first educational game.
“Propose a project on any topic in gaming you’d like to explore. This project may take the form of a paper, or you can feel free to be creative (but scholarly) in other media, such as a short film, podcast, or a really impressive diorama.”
The assignment prompt was so flexible that it was essentially saying, “Do whatever you want, so long as it somehow relates back to games and education.” So, my response was to come up with a concept exploring how gamified education for elementary-aged children could be approached with accessibility and inclusivity in mind. I primarily explored designing for low vision, low hearing, color blindness, dyslexia, and universal design for learning principles.
To look into how accessibility has historically been incorporated into game design and education, I read through seven academic papers.
In addition to academic papers, I looked into the , and took inspiration from the Game Maker's Toolkit's Designing for Disability Youtube series.
This project was centered around Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which aspires to make education more widely accessible for those of various backgrounds and abilities. The three core principles of UDL are representation, expression, and engagement. These all support diverse recognition, strategic, or affective networks to get students interested, interacting with, and engaged in an education system that adapts to their needs.
Lunch Rush is a serious game that acts as a supplement to students’ in-class learning of fractions. Using the food pyramid model of nutrition, players mix and match sets of food within each food group to create a full serving size of vegetables, proteins, grains, dairy, and fruit for each lunch plate. By taking into account each characters’ preferential likes and dislikes with food, players must mix and match new fractional combinations of food to complete a serving size.
Through its gameplay, Lunch Rush aims to teach players fractions, empathy, and a basic understanding of nutrition.
Each screen has a question-mark button on the bottom-right, though only some are clickable. The opaque ones will prompt a pop-up accessibility modal, which explains my design decisions within the game.
I mainly explored accessibility options through a sample settings menu and character design.
In the settings, text size and screenreading options were geared towards audiences with low vision. Audio options were added for players with low vision or who were hard of hearing, since audio cues often relay the same information as visual cues to provide a better user experience for those of varying abilities. I also gave players the option to switch to the Open Dyslexic font, which is specifically designed to support readability on digital interfaces.
As for character design, I envisioned the game having multiple characters with varying types of food preferences, to encourage experimentation with adding different types of fractions. While I could have easily used the same stock character with different color schemes to distinguish them from one another, that wouldn’t have been good (or interesting) design, as this wouldn’t account for color blindness. So, I drew out 6 different characters to imbue them each with their own personality.
Designing for accessibility can often mean designing redundancies into a system. Visual cues should be accompanied by audio cues, so that both deaf and blind players can be relayed the same information. Writing out all my design reasoning within the accessibility modals made me understand how user experience transcends beyond a digital screen, and actually incorporates our senses of touch, sight, and hearing.
As this is only a game concept, if I were to continue with this project, I would first build it within a game engine. Then, I would create a demo to test for game balance and fun.