Dear Mani,

I am responding to an email you send to the Audyssey list about accessible mainstream gaming. I am a researcher in this area at Loughborough University and would like to tell you about some of our work, which resulted in the first successful adaptation for blind gamers of a mainstream first-person-shooter game for the sighted.


We -- myself and co-developer Sabahattin Gucukoglu -- started work on what is now known as "AudioQuake" in 2003 and by 2004 blind people could actually play the game Quake, by id Software. However, we were keen to prove that not only could blind people play the games, but that they could also be integrated into the gaming community. To this end, we began working on supporting Internet play (co-operative or competitive) and making the tools used to modify the game accessible as well. This started with "modding" tools that change the programming of the game to introduce new weapons, enemies, items and so on -- and a mod already exists for AudioQuake, called JediQuake.

In 2008 we finally completed work on a prototype "level description system" that allows blind people to develop levels (new environments) for the game. This is a very popular passtime amongst sighted gamers, but the tools used are inherently visual so we have taken a different approach. All of the game and tools we have developed are available for free under an open-source licence (see http://www.agrip.org.uk/ ).

AudioQuake has already received some media attention (Wired, InSight Radio) and been exhibited at Sight Village (2004, 2005). We also used it as the basis for a series of workshops at the 2005 International Camp on Communications and Computers, which is held every year to help prepare blind and vision-impaired college-leavers for university.

Unfortunately we have had very little time to work on developing AudioQuake, or applying the principles to later games, due to my being involved in a serious road accident in 2006. I am currently working as a research associate on a project on improving accessibility to computers for older people to fund the remainder of my Ph.D. studies. We are always trying to recruit more people to our project and hope that because of its open-ness, people will be able to learn how to apply these techniques to newer games.

There are now quite a few organisations campaigning for improved accessibility in mainstream games, such as the International Game Developers' Association (IGDA) Game Accessibility Special Interest Group and, though they have made some serious headway, there is a long way to go.

I hope that this has been interesting and of use for your work. I would be happy to provide you with more information about any of the above if it will help with your research.

best regards,


Matthew
--
Matthew Tylee Atkinson
http://mta.agrip.org.uk/

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