Creating an Accessible Breakout Game Using Web Audio and SVG
As the co-author of Babylon.js, a WebGL gaming engine, I was always felt a little uneasy listening to folks discuss accessibility best practices at web conferences. The content created with Babylon.js is indeed completely inaccessible to blind people. Making the web accessible to everyone is very important. I’m more convinced than ever about that as I’m personally touched via my own son. And so I wanted to contribute to the accessibility of the web in some way.
That’s why I decided to work on creating a game that uses WebGL and is fully accessible, to prove that visual games aren’t inherently inaccessible. I chose to keep it simple, so I created a breakout clone, which you can see in action in the following YouTube video:
You can test it in a Web Audio compatible browser (see caniuse.com for a list) or download or peruse the source code on Github.
Now, let me share with you the background story of this game and all the experiments involved…
Once Upon a Time
It all started during the Kiwi Party 2014 conference, while listening to Laura Kalbag’s talk about guidelines for top accessible design considerations. I was discussing with Stéphane Deschamps, a lovely, funny and talented guy about my lack of knowledge on how to make WebGL accessible and how I could avoid people creating lots of inaccessible content. To motivate me, he challenged me. Probably without estimating the consequences: “it would be very cool if you’d manage to create an accessible breakout game!“. Boom. The seed of what you see here got put in my brain right there and then. I started thinking about that in earnest and researched on how I could create such an experience.
First, I discovered that there were already accessible audio games available at audiogames.net and game-accessibility.com. I also researched best practices for creating games for blind people. While interesting to read, I wasn’t finding what I was looking for. I didn’t want to create a dedicated experience for blind people, I wanted to create a universal game, playable by anybody, regardless of ability. I’m convinced that the web was created for this reason and my dream was to embrace this philosophy in my game. I wanted to create a unique experience that could be played by all kind of users so they could share in the joy together. I wanted great visuals & sounds, not a “look it’s accessible, that’s why it can’t be as good” solution.
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