Hello Mani. I've been an intermittant listener of In Touch for years. A very well-done show indeed. Your arrival on this list is most timely. Tom Ward has just galvanised things with the release of his first public beta level of Mysteries of the Ancients. That's woken the list up for certain. Che Martin is another developer you'll definitely want to chat with. Quite a few of the people currently developing accessible games either had sight or have it. All of our developers have their own interesting stories. As the creator and former editor of Audyssey Magazine, I got to know several of them over the years. People get into this for the passion and interest in what they do. We've certainly come a long way together since I published the first issue in 96. Ron Schamerhorn's the current editor and has a somewhat better grasp on the state of things these days. Life has pulled me in some different directions but I still keep an ear on things and try to help where I can. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about past developments.

You'll find quite a range of oppinion here concerning what constitutes an accessible game. I'm happy to see that you've already gotten a few responses. There are plenty more to be had as the debate is one of long standing in this community. There is a stronger sense among sighted game developers these days regarding the use of sound as more than window dressing. That's going to eventually pay off for us but I don't believe we're anywhere near that point yet.


Personally, I'm from the old school which says that a game can only be counted as accessible if blind people can truly play it as it was intended to be played and have access to all information. They shouldn't be handycapped in any way in terms of how far they can get with a game due to being blind. Sight brings an incredible amount of information very rapidly to a person. To be accessible, a great deal of thought must go into the sound of a game as well as the interface. That means I don't view arcade games designed for sighted people as technically accessible. We're just not privy to all the information. Playing something via shere memorisation and luck just doesn't count for me. Other people have fun doing that sort of thing. There was a fellow who is now world famous due to his skill in playing Mortal Combat.As a child, I used to be more in the "if I can have fun with it, then it's accessible" camp. My father would take me to arcades and we'd try to play the videogames together. He'd desperately try to describe things as fast as possible and I'd be in charge of the controls. It was certainly fun at the time and there was a good degree of cameradery. However, when you take all the bells and whistles away, I was just following my father's instructions as quickly as possible. I eventually tried a game on my own and found out just how much of the experience I was missing as I got obliterated due to having no idea of the game situation. When you reduce a game to purely responding to sound cues and memorization, it stops being at all the same kind of fun that sighted people enjoy.

There are a number of tragic cases of games which are almost accessible and could easily have been made so to the benefit of all players whether sighted or blind. The most disappointing one during my editorship of Audyssey was the North American version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The questions were printed onto the screen rather than read out loud as they are in the show and apparently in the UK version of the computer game. A very disappointingly inaccessible Christmas present for our family. Other games like the You Don't Know Jack series are again very close to being accessible. In fact, for the earlier games in that series, nearly all of the game was. There were some visual questions making reference to pictures though. Also, there were the jack attacks which flashed up printed clues and information which had to be matched. With some elements like that, it simply can become impossible to accomodate. You could have a trivia game with questions all read aloud and no visual questions but it wouldn't be You Don't Know Jack. The same goes for such elements in many video games. We're simply too small a market to be worth a company's while. That's the major problem.
Michael Feir
Author of Personal Power:
How Accessible Computers Can Enhance Personal Life For Blind People
2006-2008
www.blind-planet.com/content/personal-power

A Life of Word and Sound
2003-2007
http://www.blind-planet.com/content/life-word-and-sound

Creator and former editor of Audyssey Magazine
1996-2004
Check out my blog at:
www.michaelfeir.blogspot.com


----- Original Message ----- From: "Mani Djazmi" <i_am_a_s...@hotmail.com>
To: <gamers@audyssey.org>
Sent: Friday, February 27, 2009 11:11 AM
Subject: [Audyssey] Accessible Mainstream Games



Hi,



my name's Mani Djazmi and I'm a reporter on the In Touch programme at BBC Radio 4 in England. I'm currently researching a feature on the accessability of computer games for blind and partially sighted people. The impression I'm getting is that mainstream games generally aren't very accessible so bespoke ones are being produced. Is this fair? Do any of you guys play mainstream games and how do you find them?



I look forward to hearing your thoughts and knowledge.



Cheers

Mani



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