Thoughts from a (girl) Gamer

Tara Voelker's thoughts. A lot about video games, a little about life

No More Excuses, Your Guide to Accessible Design – SLIDES

Hi All!

I had a couple people ask me about my slides from my session SO HERE THEY ARE. Update: My talk is now on the vault for free so I’ve added a link to that!

Slides linked as a PDF here – Voelker_Tara_NoMoreExcuses

GDC Vault –

If you’re interested in the notes, you can also open the presentation via this link to view them via Google slides:

I do want to make it clear that I hadn’t ever intended for my notes to be public, so have fun looking at all of the typos.

The panel I was on was also added to the vault for free!

Thanks everyone!


Me, Accessibility and GDC 2015

Game Accessibility will have 3 presentations this year at GDC, and I’m proud that to say that I am going to be talking at 2 of them, and involved in the 3rd, which is the IGDA SIG Roundtable. Info on the talks I’m in below. Both of my talks are listed under advocacy, so all passes can attend. Hope to see you there!

No More Excuses, Your Guide to Accessible Design

  • Tara Voelker  |  QA Lead, Ready at Dawn
  • Location:  Room 304, South Hall
  • Date:  Friday, March 6
  • Time:  3:00pm – 4:00pm
  • Format: Session
  • Track: Advocacy, Design

Game accessibility isn’t just something for a small portion of your target audience, but a tool that can be used to improve your title and directly impact more than 20% of the people playing your game while improving your title over all. In this session, we’ll start with a crash course on how to think about disabilities, learn more about this 20%, provide a list features to improve your title from leading game accessibility groups, get in depth design tutorials to get the most bang for your buck, and point you to the resources you’ll need to keep going once you leave this talk.


Attendees will learn how to think about gamers with disabilities, how accessibility affects the overall title, the most requested game accessibility features, and how to build a system that works to address gamer’s with disabilities needs without alienating their core audience or risking their certification.

Intended Audience

Gameplay, UI, and system designers, design instructors, as well as anyone with interest in the field of game accessibility whether wanting to learn more about the topic or become an advocate on the subject.

Building a Manifesto for Game Accessibility

  • Thomas Westin  |  Ph.D. Student, Stockholm University
    Ian Hamilton  |  Accessibility Specialist, Ian Hamilton DC
    Tara Voelker  |  QA Lead, Ready at Dawn
    Michelle Hinn  |  Accessibility and Usability Games Consultant, Michelle Hinn, LLC
    Richard Van Tol  |  Ph.D. Student, HKU University of the Arts Utrecht
  • Location:  Room 130, North Hall
  • Date:  Thursday, March 5
  • Time:  10:00am – 11:00am
  • Format: Session
  • Track: Advocacy

In the ten years that the IGDA’s accessibility group has been running we have seen many advances in the field, with awareness growing, and more and more developers considering accessibility for gamers with disabilities. But there’s a long way to go, with work still needed to remove barriers in areas such as hardware, software, third party tools, online communities, education and policy. We will be taking a retrospective of some of the key achievements and developments over the past ten years, and with your input, also look at the next important areas to focus on, providing a roadmap of how all of us can help the industry move towards greater inclusion, allowing the entertainment and quality of life benefits of gaming to reach even wider audiences.


An understanding of some of the history of accessibility and the key events that have taken us to where we currently are, and also a clear picture of some of the actions and advocacy activities that anyone can take to support the industry towards greater levels of inclusion.

Intended Audience

Anyone with an interest in the field of accessibility for gamers with disabilities, who wants to either learn more, help to advance the field, or take part in shaping the discussion. Attendees either with or without previous experience will find something valuable in the content.

I don’t know why I even act like I’m going to update this.

Jesus Christ, I’m terrible about posting on my blog.

I really, actually plan on putting some stuff on here soon. Expect the following eventually-

  • Images of my fully completed Spirited Away sleeve (goes all the way around)
  • Images of by Bioshock Infinite Bird/Cage Keys
  • Awesome Pictures I took
  • Info about some Paranormal stuff I did that was cool (that may make me seem like a crazy pants)

I swear… I am actually for real going to post shit.

In response to recent Twitter Events – The Fore River Story

Wow. So, basically I tweeted about a horrible experience at a restaurant with a anti-Islamic owner, and now I’ve gotten retweeted a bajillion times. I’m already seeing me being misquoted, so I wanted to go ahead and write down exactly what happen and share .

Background:  Just up the street there is a restaurant that my husband and I frequent. We’re on first name basis with most of the staff, and the owner. We’ve even got their loyalty card. The place is in walking distance and has beer, so we’re there pretty frequently.

It’d been a little bit crazy today (you know, the whole city on lock down thing) so we weren’t really in the mood to cook. We went to Fore River Grille in North Weymouth for dinner. We walked in, sat down, and placed a drink order.

The owner, Teresa, walked over smiling. No big deal, like we said, we were regulars. Then she just said to us. “I wanted to let you guys know this is a Muslim free zone! ” And just kept smiling.

Dumb founded, I just said, “Wow. Not all terrorists are Muslim. Timothy Mcveigh wasn’t, he was Christian. Want to hate others to?”

She replied, “Yeah, but that was 20 years ago. All the current terrorists are Muslims. It’s true. Name a terrorist attack more recent that wasn’t done Muslims.” She was completely serious.

I was completely floored. At this point I said, “I’m going to eat somewhere else,” grabbed my sweatshirt and left.

As I began to walk out, she started to say she was sorry. I kept walking.

My husband, who was with me at the restaurant, says that after I left Teresa said “I was just joking.”

Max said to her “I get you are joking, but it’s not funny. A Muslim woman has already been assaulted in Mass. today because of this, so it’s just not cool.”

Teresa kept saying she was sorry and didn’t mean to offend me. Max then also left.

The apology doesn’t mean much though, because I have a zero tolerance policy on people getting discriminated against for the race, sex, sexual orientation,  religion… pretty much whatever. And making jokes about that stuff, it’s not cool either.

I have strong moral convictions. I can’t give my money to a business that is owned by a woman who thinks it’s funny to say that she won’t let people of a particular religion at her establishment, or who legitimately meant that all terrorists are Muslims.

I’m now getting more mentions on twitter than I would ever have time to respond to, so I’m just posting this.

I want to thank everyone who is supporting me in my choice, and I’m glad I’m not alone in this fight. Your support means soooo much,


Thank you.


Where was I? Things I neglected to post from June through November

So, as always, a long time has passed and I haven’t posted anything. To be exact, I haven’t posted anything since June. Why haven’t I posted? Well first the standard reason – I’m horrible about posting, and then the second reason – crunch. (For those of you who don’t know what crunch is, it’s a game industry term for working stupid amounts of overtime. In my case, 12 hour days with occasional weekend work).

But what’s sad is that I’ve actually had some cool (and one not at all cool) things happen during those few months. So I decided to make 1 giant mass dump of everything I didn’t post. So here we go!!


  • I attend the Zelda – Symphony of the Goddess concert while taking a 3 day trip to Orlando. It was amazing, and I was so glad I got to see it. Even more awesome, I ran into the Jeron, producer and creative director, Eímear, conductor, and Chad Seiter, the composer at the hotel bar because they were staying at the same place Max and I were. To make things even cooler, Jeron asked for a photo with me because of my sweet Zelda tat, and we drank to the wee hours of the morning. I decided I had to see it again when it came to Boston, and then woke up with the worst hang over I had had in a long time. WORTH IT.
  • Sometime during July, I finished out the work on the outer portion of my Spirited Away half sleeve, leaving only my inner arm to be completed in the spring. As it turns out, I didn’t really take any good pictures of it. It came out awesome. But like I said, no good pictures. So here are a few mediocre ones. I’d say I’d post better ones later, but we all know I won’t. I also got my Zelda tattoo touched up.

Sprited Away TattooSpirited Away SleeveSpirited Away Tattoo

    Went from pink hair to blue hair.


  • I hit my one year at Irrational, and get my awesome logo hoodie.
  • My cousin is in a life threatening car wreck, in which her van collided with a semi truck. She is airlifted to a hospital where she receives 8 hours of emergency surgery. At the time it was really scary, but we know she is expected to make a full recovery, although she won’t be about to return to work for a full year.
  • Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark comes out in IMAZ and I got to see it. It was beautiful. Snagged a poster that’s now hanging at work.
  • A bunch of my coworkers surprise me with a pre-order of the Deluxe vault hunter’s edition of Borderlands 2. Once the game is released, I’m obsessed with the game, and fall in love with Tiny Tina.


  • A benefit auction is schedule for my cousin. Harmonix and Irrational both donate items. Harmonix sent games for both the auction and directly to my cousin, and Irrational donated a signed poster for Bioshock Infinite (see below). I had several of my coworkers reach out and ask if they could donate money. Everyone was so supportive, it was amazing.

Signed Bioshock Infinite Poster

  • I continue working tons of crunch on Bioshock Infinite. Mid October, we ramp up our marketing again and release this awesome trailer.
  • I go see Zelda – Symphony of the Goddess again, here in Boston. This time my friend Aaron tags along. We all dressed fancy. Afterwards I ran into the Jeron, Eímear,  and Chat (again!) although no drinking with them this time. The bar was crowded and we weren’t staying out long this time.
  • Saw the new movie in Silent Hill movie in 3D. It was terrible.
  • Irrational holds our annual Halloween party. I dress up as Tiny Tina, complete with mismatch shoes.

Tiny Tina costume


  • Dyed my hair red
  • In one of the more surreal moments of my life, I was introduced to Randy Pitchford by Ken Levine. Said I was a huge Borderlands fan, and tweeted my Tiny Tina costume at him.
  • Max and I decided that we are taking a trip to Japan next year.
  • Accidentally dyed my hair pink again.

And now here we are. I could have made larger post about most of these things, but I don’t have the time and I still wanted to share. Eventually I will ship this game, and have more time for things like… oh you know, life and blog posts again.

Spirited Away Tattoo Continued

As you know, I’ve started getting work done on a Spirited Away half sleeve. (Original Post with up close pictures of the outline here)

I got a little bit more work done the other day, and I wanted to share. I got a lot of shading done. The tattoo is really shaping up well, can’t wait to get it finished!



Games for Health 2012 aka Me and White House Officials

So this past week I got to do something pretty awesome.

On Tuesday, I lead a session at Games for Health (with some help from others, I don’t want to take the sole credit here) called Enabled Play – 4th Annual Game Accessibility day. We worked to start a document that was sort of a briefing book about game accessibility, and then I worked over night with a couple other people to get the document cleaned up.

Then on Wednesday during the keynote speech, I was got to present the document to Constance Steinkuehler Squire, the Senior Policy Analyst from the White House Office of Science and Technology.

It was super awesome. At first I was a little nervous, but then I saw she had a Totoro sticker on her computer, so they made me feel more comfortable.  Here’s a picture of me presenting. 😀


Spirited Away and Ink on my Arm

Spirited Away by Miyazaki Half Sleeve TattooHello All!

So, it was finally time with new ink, and I decided to get a Spirited Away half sleeve. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a kick ass anime by Miyazaki, and I highly recommend it.

Last night I got the outline for my outer arm, and I wanted to share the tattoos progress so far. I’ve got Haku, Chihiro, the bathhouse and the lantern. The rest of it is going to be mostly shading with the expect one the thing that is going to go on the inside of my arm, which I’m saving as a surprise. You can check out the different sections of the tattoo close up in the pics below.

The tattoo was done by George at Stingray Tattoo in Allston, MA, and I would recommend him to anyone!










Irrational Behavior

So a few months back, I actually got highlighted on Irrational Behavior podcast, which is put out by Irrational Games every so often. In my little piece, I talk about fighting Diago at Season’s Beatings a few years back. I was really excited to be part of the podcast. What was really exciting for me was I manages to do the entire thing in one take with out saying “Um” once. Yay! Go public speaking skills!

If you click the link below, you’ll be linked to a little media player with the podcast. If you skip to about 29 minutes in (like 29:05 or something) you will see the clip of mine.

Irrational Behavior Ep 9 – Click Me !

And to be honest, I said I hit him a few times, when I almost took a round off him. I didn’t, but I got close! You can see the whole video here:

And this was actually when I worked back at AbleGamers, so I interviewed him and everything. If you hop over to the AbleGamers tab, you can check all of that out.

RTS Paranormal History – Trailer

So, I’ve got a lot of footage to make another video with, but it doesn’t quite cover everything I wanted it to. I didn’t feel like it would  feel complete. I’m waiting on a few more things to make a full episode, but I didn’t want to wait for it to put something new out. So, I made this instead.


RTS Paranormal History

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m now an investigator for RTS Paranormal. Check out this video I edited for us –

I haven’t done much video editing, so it was a fun experiment.


The Silent HD Collection VO

If you’re a fan of Silent Hill at all, you’ve probably heard about what’s going down with Silent Hill and the VO on the title. If you haven’t, here is the quick version:

Konami announced they were re-recording all of the VO for both Silent Hill 2 and 3 for the HD collection. Some hardcore fans got pissed. There was drama. Konami looked at some legal and technical stuff and announced they could put the original in for 2. So now, Silent Hill 3 only comes with re-recorded VO and new voice actors, and Silent Hill 2 has the options for the new VO or the original. Some fans are still pissed and rejecting the new VO.

If you know me (or really, read my blog at all), you’re going to know that I am a super hard core fan of Silent Hill. So, I found myself pondering… should I play the game with the new VO, or the old VO?

I have decided that yes, I am going to use the new VO. And here is the break down of that choice.

The main reason: If a Broadway play is being performed, no one refuses to go because it doesn’t have the original cast. Theater patrons look forward to seeing the new take on characters. I feel like the new voice acting is something very similar. I want to see the new actors take on the characters. Will it be better? I don’t know, but won’t ever know if I don’t try it out. I can’t have a preference if I have only experienced one.

The second reason: The people they brought in to play Mary/Maria and James are heavy hitters in the voice acting world.

So, who’s playing new Maria?

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. Why does that name sound familiar? Well, it’s because for one, she is pretty much the *voice* of Silent Hill. She does the female vocals on the soundtracks for *every* Silent Hill to date. In addition, she has been involved in tons of other awesome things such as CowBoy BeBop, Princess Mononoke, Tekken, Ghost in a Shell, .hack, and Shadows of the Damned. And that’s just for starters.

How do I feel about this? I’m really excited. Mary has proven time and time again that she is good at being a voice actor, and has always been a very important part of the Silent Hill franchise. She seems like she would hands down have been my first pick for Maria.

So, who’s playing the new James?

Troy Baker. Again, this guy is in everything. I’ve already worked on 2 games in which he plays the main character- Red Faction: Guerrilla and Bioshock Infinite. Additionally, he’s all up in other cool things- like Full Metal Alchemist and Shin Chan. Not to mention he is in practically every video game ever.  From WOW to Saints Row 3, he’s got it covered. Not to mention, I actually got to meet him in person one day at work, so that was cool.

How do I feel about this? I’m looking forward to it. I’m not all “OMG, TROY!” but I’m looking forward to his take on it. I haven’t seen him take on a character who really experiences pain on the same level James does in Silent Hill 2, so I’m interested in seeing how Troy tackles it.

The Final Reason: It’s looking pretty good. If you watch this clip below, you can see some side by side comparisons. Now, warning, the guy who made this video clearly hates the new VO… so skip to 15 seconds in and don’t watch the end.

Now, watching this, I’m not sure I prefer McGlynn’s Mary.  I’m not saying it’s bad, but her voice just seems too…  strong. The original voice acting seems more innocent as well.  But that same thing that makes me unsure of her Mary, makes me LOVE her Maria. Her revision of Maria just oozes seduction. I think it’s great, and I’m looking forward to it.

This video doesn’t show as much of James as I would like. I really don’t have an opinion on Troy’s part yet. I didn’t see enough. I can’t tell from that clip if he can really show the pain and fear James is going through. But, I’m looking forward to finding out.

And anyway, what kind of Silent Hill Fan would I be if I couldn’t boast about playing it will all VO versions, or having some crazy deep opinions on how did it better and why?

The World in Low Res Night Vision, Part 2

So I did some more adventuring with my low res night vision googles. This time most of the pictures were taken in the radio room, and getting their involved a lot of climbing up ladders through tiny holes.

The other pictures were taken in the “butter room.” It was originally a walk in cooler for fruits and veggies, but was later repurposed to hold dead bodies when they ran out of room else where on the ship. It’s creepers.

If you can see my original set of night vision pics here.

Pictures are also shown individually below if you hate slide shows.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


What’s with the new domain name?

When I originally set out to make my own blog, wasn’t my first pick. To be honest, I came about the domain after about 50 attempts to pick one. I realized that throwing “girl” in with “gamer” opened up a lot of new options. And I was a girl and a gamer…. So, I picked

And it worked. The website was about my thoughts, and really focused on how I felt about it as a gamer, who was also a girl.  But, now, I don’t want to say I’ve grown or something… but I want to say that I’m not OMGIMAGIRL. And there are several key topics in which I don’t agree with other girl gamers, and especially some girl game devs…And I have never been one to seek others out in the girl gaming community or anything like that. So I feel like girl was a superfluous word there.

So, with that in mind, when WordPress told me was open, I went for it. Not only because I felt like I didn’t need to include the word girl anymore, but because it just felt right. was one of the original domains I went for and couldn’t get.

I don’t know. It’s a good change, and I’m glad about it. Anyway, hopefully the new url will get me more traffic. Maybe I should actually write more…

In the depths of a gmail inbox, Palm Tree Head

Hello all,

I recently found this while cleaning out my gmail inbox. It’s a piece I did in Maya while I was going to college. I simply call it PalmTreeHead. I really liked it, so I thought I would share.



The side view of what at first glance is a tropical island, at second glace, a person's face