I’ve been using Atlas Games’s Once Upon a Time in my speech-language therapy for years.

Once Upon a Time, the card game

Every player is dealt cards with story elements (see also, Burke’s Dramatistic Pentad for an arrangement of these cards by story function), as well as an ending card. Players narrate a story that is constrained by the cards that were randomly dealt to their hand, and win the game by playing their ending (which has to make sense in the context of what has come before).

It would be easy, except that players take turns constructing the story and everyone has different endings they are trying to achieve.

I love this game for a number of reasons. It’s great for teaching story grammar (obviously), but there is also a strong executive function element to it in that you have to plan your moves ahead if your ending is going to make sense. Lately, one of my students has been using it to elicit connected speech from a young client who is working on generalizing speech artic. therapy into conversation. You have to talk a lot to play this game.

Here are some other game-based therapy activities:

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Hans Smith

January 30, 2011

Kotaku reports on Hans Smith, the virtual athlete who is responsible for the Disabled Virtual Athlete Mode in MLB 11 The Show.

Hans Smith

Hans Smith, virtual athlete

Accessible Video Games

January 29, 2011

I’m so happy that some game developers are thinking about making their controls and gameplay modes customizable, because this is what is needed in order to adapt controllers for gamers with disabilities.

Hardcore gamers also frequently ask for customizable controls (hardcore gamers are a notoriously difficult demographic to please). You can accommodate disabled gamers by doing the very thing that the most abled gamers want anyway! It’s a win across the board.

What makes the games in this post exceptional is that they are both console games, not PC games. Video game consoles are traditionally very limited in their flexibility, and unlike a PC, cannot run the user’s custom software to assist with accessibility.

MLB 11 custom Dualshock controller

Two examples listed below.

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June 3, 2009

Disclaimer: Please excuse the half-formed randomness in this post

Imaginary play shares a lot of features with improvisational theater. It is an emerging narrative that no one participant controls, turns are dynamic and responsive from moment-to-moment, and, most frustrating to programming AAC, the meaning of any action may change as the result of future actions!


Children are playing in dressup area:

Child 1: takes coat from coat rack and puts it on.

Child 2: Are you going to work? Have a nice day.

Same scene, different narrative:

Children are playing in dressup area:

Child 1: takes coat from coat rack and puts it on.

Child 2: That’s on sale today. Eleventeen percent off.

One child initiates an action and the second child defines the meaning of that action. This is why “scripts” in an AAC system can’t work. A child needs to be able to keep up with an uncertain, unfolding narrative. If the first child had an AAC system, if that system was set for “playing house,” it would be useless in crafting a response to Child 2 in the second example.

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March 24, 2009

Let’s repost this with the video.

Does an AAC device have to be a single device? What about an array of devices?

I look at this and think of blocks that are also an AAC device. Embedding communication into the play context is the key to authentic interaction. Dividing attention between the play context and a separate communication device is a barrier.

Brian Crecente, a video game blogger, gentleman and scholar, wrote a column about how The Master herself, Maria Montessori influenced the design of Wil Wright‘s video games. (You may not know his name, but you probably are familiar with his masterpiece, Sim City).

The Great Sensei herself

The Great Sensei herself

Constructivist education practices are all over Sim City, the other Sim games, the digital dollhouse (and best-selling video game ever) The Sims, and the recent release Spore. Sim City is practically an object lesson in How It Is Done.

Just like a big box of wooden blocks, there is great pleasure to be gained from carefully balancing and building a city or anthill or human being up and then knocking it over (although Wright gives us tools such as meteors, earthquakes, tornadoes, and removing the ladders from swimming pools). There really is no way to win or lose a Sim game. In exploring, building and breaking, you learn a lot. Montessori would be delighted!

SimCity. Montessori would have loved this.

SimCity. Montessori would have loved this.

…according to researchers from University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Boston Children’s Hospital in August issue of Pediatrics.

No f!*#ing kidding. Really? </sarcasm>


Gizmodo says it better.

Please don't buy this crap.

Please don't buy this crap.

Remember the thing about the baby carriages? I know that a some point, carriage makers will use that to guilt parents into buying their product.

So much of marketing of baby products is about generating and assuaging guilt. I’ll address this again in the future when I’m feeling less annoyed (the whole Kindle thing has me all poised for ranting).

New York in Lego

February 3, 2009

Any New Yorkers reading this blog? (Pete?)
New York in Lego

a constructed sense of place

a constructed sense of place

Things to think about:

How we construct our understanding of the world out of the tools we are provided with.

What tools (cognitive/linguistic or material) are given to kids with significant disabilities for constructing?

How much of assistive technology does all of the work of constructing for the user and what are the long-term effects of that on learning?

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It seems I’m not the only person thinking about accessible video games. Awesome (since I’m not in a position to do anything but think about them). Some people are out there making games.
New York Times reports on a music-mixing game called AudiOdyssey that is designed to be playable by sighted and blind users. This one has been around for a while.

You can download AudiOdyssey here.

AudiOdyssey was created as part of a student thesis at MIT. Read Eitan Glinert’s thesis here.

Eitan has created a game company called Firehose Games to create more accessible games. I wish them luck, and I’ll be checking in on their progress as I get further in my career of combining recreational therapy with speech and language.

In addition to that, XBox Live has a game called In The Pit that is an audio-only, single-player action game. It sounds a lot like Be the Wumpus.

video game design cont’d

December 29, 2008

To recap.

We have realistic audio physics with doppler and echoes. 5.1 surround if possible, but stereo at the very least. Rumble support for tactile/haptic feedback as well. Menus and status information supports braille devices.

Let’s go full-bore. Let’s remake Quake3, Counterstrike or Team Fortress 2 in the dark.

Like this, only much, much darker...

Like this, only much, much darker...

This is the full FPS, multiplayer version of Be the Wumpus. The graphics will be blank, or at least have no impact on gameplay at all.

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