Inclusive design: Xploro’s avatars

At Corporation Pop we’ve always taken inclusive design seriously. Meeting the needs of diverse communities is central to the way we approach every project and a case in point is Xploro where our avatars begin life with indeterminate gender and racial origin; they’re Simpsons yellow, have no hair and are wearing pants and a vest.

It’s then up to the child to choose what they want to see. They can pick from a range of skin tones to reflect themselves, their family, friends, or pretty much whoever they want, or they can carry on happily with their yellow avatar. 

As a matter of fact they’re more than welcome to pick blue skin, or red, or a wild shade of space alien green if that’s what their heart desires – we don’t discriminate on home planet. 

There are also tonnes of hairstyles available, from pigtails to punk, but sometimes kids who’ve had chemotherapy like to see their avatar without hair too, and that’s cool, so they can.

We included a bunch of different eye shapes, as well as a variety of mouth and nose styles, and we’re pretty confident that, whilst you can never make the avatar look exactly like someone you know – after all nobody’s head is that big – by mixing up all these elements, you can get a pretty good representation.

In much the same way that adults do, kids want to see people like themselves in games and apps just as they might on TV or in film. It helps them build rapport, engender feelings of empathy, and makes them feel included.

Inclusive design: the Xploro avatar starts with no gender or racial bias

Typically avatar customisers in games and apps only allow the user to create idealised representations and don’t reflect the everyday experience of normal kids. What if you happen to be a wheelchair user? Wouldn’t you like your avatar to be in a wheelchair too? In Xploro that’s as easy as adding a pair of sunglasses or a baseball cap.

In a new Xploro module, designed to feedback experiences and outcomes from patients directly to their doctors, and which is due to be released this year, children earn dance moves for completing a task. From the beginning we’ve made sure that if the user’s avatar is in a wheelchair, it can still join in and jive or floss as any other avatar might do.

Inclusive design: wheelchair users can dance too!

We’ve had a lot of fun coming up with avatar outfits and not just their tops and bottoms; from hijabs to top hats to panda heads the child can choose whatever headgear they want.

Finally, when it came to Avatar names, we made sure to include choices from every continent and from lots of different cultural backgrounds. Of course that wasn’t to the exclusion of some very silly, homegrown examples – meet Wellington Jellyfingers. 

This is an ongoing process and we’ll keep adding new names, new features and new items of clothing as we go along. By offering these options we’re ensuring that children using Xploro experience things they might see every day in the real world and at the same time feel represented in the app.

Inclusive design: avatars are culturally diverse

…it’s also about taking a holistic approach and acknowledging the needs of the wider family, not just the child going through treatment. Our next move is to develop the Xploro Brothers & Sisters companion app which will help the siblings of children with a serious illness feel more included, help them understand what’s happening to their relative, and hopefully put an end to feelings of guilt, resentment, anxiety and grief which so many of them experience.

We’re crowdfunding right now as a way to kick start the development of this new functionality and to release match funding.

If you want to be part of that, or if your business would like to be an Xploro Patron, you can read all about what we’re doing, and make a donation towards the fund here:

Richard Douglas - Studio Manager / Writer

Richard Douglas
Studio Manager / Writer