Electronic entertainment and blindness

September 29, 2008

Anyone used the new iPod Nano yet? They’ve added some accessibility features to the 4th gen Nano and iTunes 8. They’ve also added captioning support for movies. (Although I question the usefulness of captions on the Nano. Notice they don’t include a screenshot.)

http://www.apple.com/accessibility/itunes/vision.html

http://www.apple.com/accessibility/itunes/physical.html

http://www.apple.com/accessibility/itunes/hearing.html

http://www.bostonherald.com/jobfind/news/technology/view/2008_09_26_Apple_makes_iTunes_more_accessible_for_the_blind/

http://www.bostonherald.com/jobfind/news/technology/view.bg?articleid=1121806

Read on for some more ideas for other electronic entertainment ideas.

How would I create an adaptation to video games for a blind player?

Here’s a game that might be a launching-off point. Rez, for the PS2 and XBox 360.

rez screenshot

rez screenshot

Rez appears to be a shooter (a “shmup”). You fly along a path and lock onto and then shoot targets as you go along. However, the gameplay is more like a rhythm game. The targeting is based heavily on the rhythm of the techno soundtrack and the vibrations in the controller. Rumble isn’t a minor, flavorful optional add-on in this game, it is instumental to the gameplay. What’s more impressive is that you can use multiple controllers, each one providing additional feedback from the game via rumble. A common way to use this has been placing a second controller at the small of the back (or in a, um, more personal area–if you play someone else’s XBox360 you might want to ask whether and how they play Rez before you touch their controllers).

The designers’ objective in creating Rez is to give the player synaethesia. They’ve already screwed with mixing the senses together, why not take the next step and add a “blind mode” as a challenge for sighted expert players or for non-sighted players.

Features for a game playable by a blind player.

  • Rhythm-based gameplay.
  • 5.1 surround audio. Or at least stereo. Localizing game elements by sound is core gameplay feature.*
  • Multi-controller rumble. Tactile feedback from rumble is core gameplay feature.
  • Trippy visuals for sighted players. High contrast for partially sighted players.
  • Challenge mode, turn off or manipulate the video to even the odds between sighted and blind players.

Rez sold incredibly well for the PS2 and its update is popular on XBox 360. A well-designed game like this could be commercially successful for general audiences.

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