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Mark Barlet

The AbleGamers Foundation Releases Annual Shopping Guide For Disabled Gamers 2011

The AbleGamers Foundation lists the best technology available to gamers with disabilities for the holiday season.

Harpers Ferry, WV – Dec 2, 2011 – The AbleGamers Foundation today announced the completion of the 2011 AbleGamers Holiday Shopping Guide. This annual list is the compilation of the best technology and devices available to date for gamers with disabilities. The 2011 edition of the guide includes some annual favorites, the most advanced controller technology, and one award-winning device.
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Kes: note that these talks are recorded and archived so you can access them after the live event; instructions are below the cut. If anyone is considering developing an accessible game, I recommend that they check this out as it will include background info about game development.

Join Accessible World’s Tek Talk for Game Night with Michael Feir, Monday, October 31, 2011

As fall and cooling temperatures make their presence felt, our thoughts turn to inside activities. The computer plays a huge role as we make entertainment choices. Michael Feir will present a fun-filled hour of promising entries for the months to come.
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The American Printing House for the Blind is selling this kind of cool board game called
which I admit I thought was much more cool when I thought it was a handheld gadget and before I found out the price was $109.

Since this could be a really great way for visually-impaired kids--or even adults-- to learn about navigating their neighborhood or the neighborhood where their school is (I would actually like to have one of these for MIT), I wanted to figure out what it would take for someone to make a less expensive DIY version.

You can buy blank game boards here
$3.95 for just the board, $7.95 for the kit.

Tactile dice are pretty easy to find: get the folks at Pandemonium to order some for you or you can order these
Giant Tactile Dice Black with White Dots for $4.95 at

You could probably make an overlay from one of those clear plastic covers kids use for class reports, just add your own braille labels or raised dots, let's call that $5 spent at your local CVS or Staples.

You can purchase these
Bump Dots Medium Clear Round 20 per pack by Maxi-Aids
for $2.62 on Amazon
or you could use puff paint--let's splurge and say we want to use all the colors--
Tulip 3D Fashion Paint 1-1/4 Ounces 6/Pkg-Puffy by Duncan $23.75 on Amazon.

Rounding up to whole dollar amounts that still comes in under $50, less than half the price of the original game.
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Here's a source for purchasing blank board books
in case anyone wants to create a tactile book for the International Tactile Book competition which I mentioned a while back
and I note that that vendor also sells blank game boards

These are two projects which I am reallyhoping to accomplish this year.
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Kes: I don't have an iPhone myself so I can't say how his game is, but I like the idea of angry acorns.
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Looking at the MIT IAP schedule for Comparative Media Studies, there is actually a game development course being offered on creating an audio game and hey, no programming experience required! Somehow I doubt that the engine for creating the games is accessible, however. But I'm all in favor of more people creating audio-only games, and I'm still a bit boggled that the folks at BoingBoing seemed to like the audio game Papa Sangre.
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Two lists, the first by Brenda Brathwait
--note that if you know anyone who is looking for books on how to design games this is a great place to start--
the annual AbleGamers shopping guide for gamers with disabilities
although this last focuses strongly on games and devices for gamers with mobility impairments and is completely lacking anything which could be played by blind gamers--one more reason to love Echo Bazaar.
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by Kestrell

It's one of the ironies of my life that I have a degree in media studies and am married to a game designer, yet have only recently found a game which Alexx and I can share with equal enjoyment.

One of the major issues I've had with accessible games is that, while they may be fully accessible to people with disabilities, they aren't really as exciting for non-disabled players to play, not compared to all the other games they could be playing. Isn't it possible, I often ranted, to develop a game environment which from the very beginning is just as fascinating to the disabled player as the nondisabled player?

Echo Bazaar
answers that question.

Echo Bazaar is a highly-decorative text-bassed game set in a pseudo-Victorian city called Fallen London. Most of the gameplay occurs through story fragments referred to as "storylets." To get a sense of what a storylet is, you can read an intro page at
and you can read more about Fallen London at

The description of Fallen London actually implements one of the ideas I often used in my own thought experiment for an accessible game: due to a catastrophic event, natural light and electricity have become extinct, so everyone exists in a strange subterranean world of perpetual twilight full of uncertain shadows and surreal beings. This not only contributes to the gothic atmosphere of the game, it means that vision is not an entirely reliable sense for distinguishing friends from enemies or safe pursuits from dangerous ones.

How to get started
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Now that Alexx has gotten me kind of addicted to Echo Bazaar, I'm looking for more friends to play with. I never come close to using up my daily allotment of actions, so having people to spend them on would actually be useful.

For my blind friends: Echo Bazaar is mostly accessible if you are the sort of person who is willing to do a bit of screen exploration and not stress when the occasional action card does something you can't see. I read the filename and it often gives me enough of an idea that I can learn to identify action cards, but most of the game is made of short text snippets, so it's pretty screen reader-friendly.

The start page for Echo Bazaar has a long non-intuitive URL, so I usually just go to google and type in echo bazaar and the top link takes me to the game. I sign in using my Twitter account--after you are signed up you can also sync your Facebook account, and if you allow Echo Bazaar access to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, it will find your friends who are also on Echo Bazaar.

To get started, I recommend checking out the help page, especially the "First Steps" wiki. The top of the Echo Bazaar page is navigational links, and the last of these links is "Help," so I usually do a control+f for help and then begin to arrow down. Going tot he "Story" page takes you to the game play, and the "Me" page gives you your stats. Clicking on the "Map" lets you access a list of links to various locations around Fallen London, the name of the city which is the setting of the game.

Oh, the silhouettes which are the avatars are kind of descriptive, but some require guessing. I chose "writer," which is a silhouette of a lady writer with a quill pen. I requested that more text description be added to the Echo Bazaar page, but perhaps some of my sighted friends could describe the silhouettes here?
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A week or so ago Alexx posted about
a Web game called Echo Bazaar
and how he thought it could be made accessibile with relative ease.

I encourage blind readers interested in accessible games to follow the link to the game's forum and either add your comment or vote up Alexx' suggestion (I found this latter task to be kind of confusing myself but I did add my own comment to the thread's vote).

Also, don't bazaar and bizarre sound almost identical with a screen reader?
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A week or so ago I posted a link to someone else's review of the iPhone app Color Identifier
and today A. loaded it on his iPhone, turned on VoiceOver, and let me play with it.

Note that this is the first time I have held an iPhone or used VoiceOver, so it was a pretty new experience even learning the
VoiceOver gestures
and I'm still not certain how to perform a pinch.

Something else I learned: the aerye is not big on bright lighting--I have one overhead light and two small windows, and today is very overcast--which turns out to be kind of relevant for Color Identifier, which knows a *lot* of names for different shades of black.

Also, pretty much all of the objects in my room are either natural wood, black, or tie-dye.

What happens when you aim Color Identifier at tie-dye is pretty interesting, as it just keeps scrolling through all these different colors including their various hues and shades according to the color gradation of your tie-dye. I'm female and a former art student and even I am pretty much in awe of all the color words in this program (I mean, jambalaya and gumbo are actual colors, who knew?).

Anyway, after making the iPhone chant color names for an hour or so and then spending another hour or so trying to perfect the double tap versus the triple finger flick, I decided to check on one of the reasons I am attempting to familiarize myself with the iPhone, namely,
Papa Sangre
an audio game in which the player finds him/herself in complete darkness, otherwise known as the land of the dead. It's probably just as lucky for the developers that they are on the other side of the Atlantic (and darn, Google failed me, but I know there is a word for that, "transpond"-something), because otherwise I would probably be hanging outside their studio asking "Is it done yet?".

Instead I'm reduced to checking out the game site every day, but today I found this really cool media-narrative-games blog by one of the developers
which just makes my little media studies heart go all aflutter.

Okay, off to have some dinner and find a good book to read in bed, where it isn't quite so nippy.
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Kes: And speaking of games with amazing audio design, when do I get to try Papa Sangre? Yes, I know, game design is hard, so while I'm waiting around here are some links that are kind of keeping me amused. As with the previous post, this was sent to the IGDA list, and I've reordered them according to my interest, because I think men who talk about audio design are hot. I know Foley artists used to call it "sweetening" the sound, but using the adjective "deeper" sounds so much more ...immersive.

1. Electronic Soup Podcast on deeper Audio games:

2. Eye-controlled Guitar Hero clone at Accessible GameBase:

3. Reid Kimball's mock up of PS3 game Heavy Rain with full subtitles/closed-captions -

4. Steve Spohn's take on the to-be-released Kinect: and his tie-up with Evil Controllers modified Xbox 360 controller:

5. Tilt Sensor for PS3 (via LEPMIS PS3-SAP interface):

6. Fishie Fishie Fifty for Xbox 360: A one-switch game for one to fifty(!!) players: and (PC 1 player version)
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Kes: Statistics indicate that over the next decade, the number of individuals with vision impairments alone will double, and other age-related impairments will also make accessibility an increasingly important issue for aging baby boomers. A couple of reports discuss the impact of these statistics on the future of games.

Posted by John Bannick to the International Game Design Accessibility mailing list

Our own Eleanor Robinson and Stephanie Walker from AbleGamers Foundation have recently published a paper that's gaining some national attention.

It's Gaming on a Collision Course - Averting Significant Revenue Loss by Making Games Accessible to Older Americans, which you can find at our site .

Eleanor presented this at the Games for Health conference last month here in Boston. Mark's been on NPR about it. A bunch of folks at the recent Boston Accessibility Unconference wanted to read it. Gamasutra's discussed it.

Now the Entertainment Software Association ESSENTIAL FACTS 2010.pdf has published their own report that strongly supports Eleanor's and Stephanie's findings.
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Kes: I'm not finding much on this story beyond the short description such as that made to The Lost Gamer
in which the author scratches his ehad and mentions that hey, no one really thought about that before, but I am a bit boggled that seemingly no one thought it at all ironic that Stevie Wonder was asked to bestow an award for a game to which he has no access.
Sometimes righteous indignation fails you and you have to go straight to helpless giggling.
Also, I love Stevie Wonder.
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I am looking for volunteer testers to help out with my MFA thesis. I am looking for gamers with physical disabilities to test Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a custom map for Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne, for accessibility barriers. I am going to take your feedback to Blizzard in order to create a custom map prototype that attempts to eliminate these barriers, at which point I would reach out to you again to test the
prototype. Ultimately, the goal is to evaluate this process at a
feasible method to create more accessible mainstream games.

Please go to my blog ) to learn more about my project and
the overall process. If you are interested in participating, please
email me at
chris at chrisquinn . com
I can send you more details.

Thanks for your time!

Chris Quinn
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Via the igd_access LJ
this article by Meagan VanBurkleo on what gamers with disabilities want in their games
(for screen reader users, search the page for the word "feature").
A big negative, though: I'm more than a little askance at the way the author frames playing games as escapism--what about the use of imagination? sociolization? problem solving? er, fun?
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Ooo, I may have to make my favorite fanboy let me try Left for Dead...
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seems to have gone up just in the past couple of weeks, so there is still development going on, but it already has
lots of FAQs
to help anser your questions concerning what kind of disabilities affect game access and design elements which can provide access.


kestrell: (Default)

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