Interaction Design

Accessible Gaming
Building Community

Image: Two people playing video games.


Before arcades or home video games, visitors waited in line at Brookhaven National Laboratory opens in new window to play Tennis for Two opens in new window, an electronic tennis game that is a forerunner of the modern video game. Two people played the game with separate controllers connected to an analog computer and used an oscilloscope for a screen which measured just 5 inches. The game featured a side view of a tennis court and a blurry little dot being lobbed over a net using knobs (YouTube, 2008).

In 1958, a nuclear physicist named William Higinbotham opens in new window wanted to update the science fair experience for the modern era and engage with curious viewers and using his knowledge of oscilloscopes created what we might recognize today as Pong, or Brick Breaker – then, called Tennis for Two opens in new window. At the time, video games (or video game, at the time – there was only one!) were simply an experiment in engaging with audiences, and a test of technology, rather than the financial and cultural juggernaut they have become (Mental Floss, 2017).

Developing an Understanding

Recent statistics suggest that video games are played by over 2.6 billion people worldwide across all demographics. More than just a way to have fun, they offer a virtual space where it’s possible to connect with others to build community, relax and unwind from day-to-day stress, developing skills and learning about the world. Video games offer creative expression for both players and developers, competition, income and career, escape and entertainment (Cairns et al, 2021).

Gaming is a social experience in a number of ways. Even if a game is designed to be played in single-player or solo mode, it becomes a method of socializing by sharing expectations, progress, and passion for each game. Multiplayer games can be enjoyable or terrible -- depending on who you play with -- and while there can be incidents where someone harasses you or makes you feel uncomfortable, there are also many stories of people creating long-lasting friendships and relationships thanks to the gaming community.

Community is built in many ways, amid adversity, challenges, and success alike. Through engaging and building the gaming community, people from all places, ages, and backgrounds can feel a sense of community that favours inclusion. Gaming is a form of communication and accessibility is a key to communication (Game Accessibility Nexus, 2020).