Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Melanie Eilert, Inclusion activist. She shares her journey from gamer to advocate, emphasizing transformative moments like encountering customizable controls and accessibility controllers, and stresses the importance of listening to disabled players in game development. Read more about Melanie in this interview:
Hi Melanie! Reflecting on your journey from childhood gaming to becoming an advocate for inclusion in gaming, what moments or milestones stand out as particularly transformative for you?

There have been many moments that felt like little victories along the way. But if I had to pick, one milestone that stands out is when I first encountered a game that offered customizable controls – Uncharted 4 with it’s one-handed-mode. It was like a whole new world opened up for me. Suddenly, I could adjust the controls to fit my needs, instead of struggling with preset configurations that just didn’t work for me. That was a game-changer, quite literally! Another transformative moment was when the Xbox Adaptive Controller (and now even some others, like the PlayStation Access Controller) started to become available. It was like the industry was finally starting to recognize that gamers come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities. These moments made me realize that change was possible, and it fueled my passion for advocating for more inclusivity in gaming.

Could you share any notable collaborations or initiatives you’ve been involved in within the gaming industry to promote accessibility and inclusion? And how do you envision the impact of your efforts on future generations of gamers with disabilities?

I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with some amazing folks in the gaming industry who share my passion for accessibility and inclusion. One initiative that I’m particularly proud of is working with Gaming ohne Grenzen to raise awareness about the importance of accessibility in games. We’ve organized workshops and panels at gaming conventions, where we discuss best practices and share insights on how to make games more inclusive. Additionally, I’ve been involved in consulting projects where I provide feedback and suggestions to developers on how to improve accessibility in their games. As for the impact of our efforts, I’m hopeful that future generations of gamers with disabilities won’t face the same barriers that I did. By raising awareness and advocating for change now, we’re laying the groundwork for a more inclusive gaming landscape in the future.

As someone who has experienced both the challenges and advancements in gaming accessibility firsthand, what advice would you offer to game developers striving to make their games more inclusive?

To game developers out there, my advice is simple: listen to us disabled players. Take the time to understand the diverse needs of your audience, and don’t underestimate the impact that small changes can make. Something as simple as adding customizable controls or subtitles can make a world of difference for players with disabilities. And don’t be afraid to think outside of the box! Oh, and one more thing – involve gamers with disabilities in the development process whenever possible. Who better to provide feedback on accessibility than those who are directly affected by it? Together, we can create games that everyone can enjoy, regardless of ability.

Thanks for this interview, Melanie!

Melanie’s links: LinkedIn, Blog

Portrait of Melanie (© Anna Spindelndreier)

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Madeleine Egger