The inspiration for this website came as a result of my college honors project. In the second half of the 2011 school year, I took a class with the end goal of writing and presenting a paper on any topic related to the theme “Connecting Our World.” Each week, the class met to discuss possible paper topics. One day, the professor got sidetracked on a rant against electronic avatars, and how they were damaging to people’s self-image. As an avid gamer, I took it as a personal challenge. That day, after class, he accepted my proposal to write a paper on the medical benefits of gaming for the disabled. I was able to draw on my own personal experiences in using games to cope with the reality of a physical disability, and also found articles in medical journals that supported the idea that video games could be used to help not only the disabled but also people who are sick with diseases such as cancer. Surprisingly, however, there were hardly any resources available that reviewed games for accessibility. At the time, there was no available remedy for this problem.
I continued working on the paper all during the winter and spring of 2011. And then it hit me—when a game is truly accessible, it places the disabled player on an even level with their able-bodied peers, and allows the disabled player to interact with others without the disability coloring the interaction. This gave me the idea of using an avatar to present the paper. When I pitched the idea, the professor skeptically said he would consider anything, and if it didn’t work out, I could present the paper normally.
With the help of my best friend, Tyler Thompson, I built a presentation that covered the high points of the paper using an electronically generated face and scripted voice. Because of its subject matter, I worried that the paper would come across as too pop-cultureish for a college conference. But, when I presented the paper (“Wheelchair Warriors: The Medical Benefits of Gaming for the Disabled”), the response was overwhelmingly positive. Many people shared stories of family members or friends who had used video games to cope with pain during times they were ill or dealing with other medical problems.
Over the next few weeks, as I played through various games, I was surprised at some of the barriers I ran into that made certain games inaccessible. Even more frustrating was the fact that I had bought the games unaware of whether they were accessible or not, and so in essence wasted my money because I could not get through them without help. So I concocted a grand scheme: I would design an objective rating system by which all games could be evaluated for accessibility. After a few years, this system would become adopted industry-wide and would be inked on every game box alongside the ESRB rating. That’s where the name DAGERS comes from: Disabled Accessibility for Gaming Entertainment Rating System. And it’s the only aspect that remains of that early plan to make a concrete rating system.
Through my internship at GameInformer and conversations with the people there, I realized that game accessibility was not an issue well-known enough to merit such a project. So instead of focusing on creating a concrete rating system, I decided to build a website that would objectively evaluate new games based on their accessibility, so that eventually no gamer would have to go through the frustration of buying a game and not being able to play it.