Last week at Gamescom, thousands of passionate gamers streamed through the event halls in Cologne to get their hands on the latest and greatest gaming delights.
As part of Xbox’s journey to ensure that fans can enjoy all aspects gaming, it took to heart the feedback received from Xbox gamers at previous events and tried to incorporate as much of it as possible in the Xbox booth. The end result was the most accessible and inclusive gaming booth experience to date.
Accessible by design
The Xbox event space was designed to meet a wide variety of needs to make sure that all booth attendees could try out the latest Xbox titles as comfortably and conveniently as possible. Here are some of the key design features:
- The entire event space has a low-grade ramp transition that makes it very easy for gamers in wheelchairs to enter the booth from anywhere around the perimeter
- The booth uses a hard surface subfloor with low pile carpet and thin padding, as thicker pile carpets or soft undercushion hinder the movements of wheelchair wheels
- There are wider aisles for easier navigation in the game station lines, and all lines have designated areas where gamers with disabilities can go to receive additional support at the gaming stations, should they require it
- There are multiple dedicated accessibility ambassadors present to offer assistance with navigating the booth, answering questions about accessibility, and assisting gamers with gameplay setup, as needed
- The majority of the games features at the booth have at least one Xbox Adaptive Controller setup configured to optimise game play for the specific title
- Though the game stations are standing height, the monitors can pitch down to an angle that makes the monitor easier to see for someone sitting in front of the station. In addition, bean-bag lapboards are also provided, allowing gamers to place the controller or a mouse and keyboard on their lap for a more comfortable experience
- All of the video and trailers shown on the booth screens contain translated closed captions
- The main stage has a dedicated accessibility area so that gamers with disabilities can get up close to the stage easily and comfortably
- There is an elevator to the side of the stage for our gamers who might not be able to navigate the stairs if they choose to come on stage.
- All stage events have dedicated language interpreters who are translating English to British Sign Language and German to Deutsche Gebärdensprache.
We were fortunate enough to have a chat with Evelyn Thomas, Senior Accessibility Program Manager for the Gaming division at Microsoft, to see exactly what went into making sure that the Xbox experience at gamescom was the most inclusive ever:
How is this different to any other accessibility features at previous Xbox booths/other companies?
With every event we learn from our passionate fans and do our best to give them what they want and need, to get the most out of our Xbox events. This event represents over a year of listening and planning to create what we hope is a great experience for the gaming and disability community.
What was the motivation behind the accessibility features at the booth?
Gaming fans are a diverse community and we want to be sure that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy our Xbox events. No one should feel like they are left out or unable to participate because the event was inaccessible to them.
Who did you work with to help design the accessibility features?
We have actively sought suggestions and ideas about our event accessibility from many, many gamers with disabilities who have previously attended our events, to better understand how we can improve the experience. Our event team and agency then took this feedback to design accessibility features into the core booth plans.
How important is accessibility to Xbox?
Accessibility is core to our principals of diversity and inclusion. How we show up for our fans is important because we want the Xbox to be a place where EVERYONE has fun.
Can we expect these accessibility standards going forward, at future Xbox events such as E3?
With each event we learn more about how to better serve our gamers, so you can expect our future events to continue to evolve to meet their needs.
How many booth attendees are expected at Xbox events?
We typically have over 100,000 visitors actively engaged with our booth each year.
Do we know roughly what percentage of attendees at gaming events have accessibility requirements?
Based on the Eurostat research, one in six persons (15.7%) of the working-age population (aged 16 to 64) has either a long-standing health condition or a disability. When segmenting the population into the 16-24 age range, that number is roughly 7%, but statistics have shown that the percentage of gamers with disabilities are higher than the general population statistics. [Eurostat research results (2003), cited in OSSATE Accessibility Market and Stakeholder Analysis 2005]
For all behind the scenes moments from the Xbox booth, please visit Microsoft Europe stories.