Womenize – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition in cooperation with the Film und Medien Stiftung NRW, we talked to Saskia Moes, Project Lead of “Gaming ohne Grenzen”, an inclusive website for gamers with disabilities. Read more about Saskia in this interview:
Hi Saskia, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Your work focuses on games from a media educational perspective. Could you tell us a bit more about your career path?

My path has not always been straightforward. Even though games have fascinated and accompanied me since my earliest childhood, they initially played no role in my professional career. My wish was always to become a veterinarian. But studying veterinary medicine was not my fulfillment. I quickly realized that I wanted to go into a completely different field. I wanted to learn about the effect of media on people and decided to study Intermedia, which is how I got to know and love media education. Through my internship at the Spieleratgeber-NRW of the German “Fachstelle für Jugendmedienkultur NRW” (fjmk), I got insights into the pedagogical and editorial work with games and was excited to have found a way to turn my hobby into a profession.

I have now been working at the fjmk since 2017 and have already been involved in various projects there. I am currently studying for a master’s degree in Intermedia and General Education. Especially inclusive projects are important to me, where young people with and without disabilities can learn new things jointly and have fun together. Since April 2020 I am the Project Lead of the inclusive project “Gaming ohne Grenzen“, which can be translated as “gaming without barriers”. I am also involved in the fjmk’s inclusive eSports project ESJL-NRW and I’m on the editorial board of the brochure Digitale Spiele – pädagogisch beurteilt, which is published in cooperation with the city of Cologne.

Let’s talk about your job as Project Lead of Gaming ohne Grenzen. What is Gaming ohne Grenzen and what is its mission?

Gaming ohne Grenzen is a new inclusive project based in Cologne. We test digital games, consoles and assistive technologies together with teenagers. Our goal is to track down barriers and find ways to overcome them. Teenagers with and without disabilities between the ages of 12 and 27 participate in our 5 weekly groups.

Teens use digital games to keep in touch with their friends and build new social relationships. Often digital games have a lot of barriers that make it hard or even impossible for people with disabilities to participate in and experience the games. Those barriers make them inaccessible for people with disabilities. In this project, we want to find out which games are particularly accessible and which technologies can help to overcome barriers, so more games can be played and enjoyed by everyone.

But we do not only focus on accessibility indicators – it is just as important to find out how much fun the games are. Our results and experiences can be found on the accessible website  www.gaming-ohne-grenzen.de. This is our way to share our results in terms of accessibility in games, the popularity of certain games among the teens and which barriers are an absolute game breaker. We want gaming without barriers for everyone!

What makes a game accessible? Which factors do you take into consideration when testing games regarding their accessibility?

Games are audio-visual media that can have many barriers for people with disabilities. The most important are settings that allow players to individualize their gameplay.

A complicated language or a very difficult game without the opportunity to choose between difficulty levels can cause insurmountable barriers. So can missing or poor subtitles that make it impossible for players with hearing disabilities to follow the game’s story. An accessible game allows full customization of the controls so that people with physical disabilities can adjust the control elements. People with visual impairments or color vision deficiencies need auditory feedback and contrasts. Of course, there can be many more barriers, because each person is individual and games must always be viewed from different perspectives.

We always test the games in collaboration with young gamers in four areas:

  1. Vision: Is the game playable if you can’t see well or have color vision deficiency?
  2. Hearing: Is the game playable if you can’t hear well?
  3. Motor: Is the game playable if you have mobility disabilities?
  4. Cognitive: Is the game playable and accessible for gamers with different learning styles?

We look at which options the game offers and which settings can be adjusted. Many games already offer extensive opportunities in some areas, but complete accessibility is still very rare. However, the accessibility of games has increasingly gained attention in recent years. Nevertheless, there is still room for further improvements.

Thanks for your time, Saskia!

Gaming ohne Grenzen Links: Official WebsiteTwitterInstagramYouTube

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Jessica Hackenbroch