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.
Matthew Tylee Atkinson
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