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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A spot on Attack of the Show about designing game controllers for people with disabilities brought the Wii Assist team at University of Delaware to my attention.

http://tv.gawker.com/5603299/wii-assist-wii-can-make-a-difference

University of Delawarehttp://vimeo.com/6365551

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.

Interactive toys

February 13, 2009

Now this is a toy with clever design!

TED talks

PDF from MIT Media Lab
As an AAC person, I am always thinking about modalities of communication and contexts for interaction. In addition, we need to be looking at new interfaces for humans and computers to communicate. This toy rethinks the way that people interact with the computer.

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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Video game brainstorm

November 15, 2008

I’m throwing this out there with no claim to copyright. Anyone who wants to take this and run with it is free to do so.

Time for a remake of Hunt the Wumpus (more precisely, Be the Wumpus)

Screenshot of Be the Wumpus gameplay.

Screenshot of Be the Wumpus gameplay.

My imaginary version is:

WiiWare download.

Full stereo support. With doppler and echo physics.

Don’t forget the Wiimote has its own speaker. (Sonar? Ping and echo?)

Rumble.

The Wiimote is getting a gyroscope for full-motion detection.

Environmental sound effects to create and navigate a map.

No graphics. Maybe not a blank screen, but the visuals don’t impact gameplay. This is a tactile- and audio-only game.

Wumpus, in my mind, is just an experiment of the mechanics. Ideally what I’d like is to make a multiplayer First Person Shooter that could be played blind. Anyone who’s ever played Counterstrike or Unreal Tournament (or even Mario Kart in versus mode) knows how much fun it is to blow up friends. Unfortunately, this is a pleasure mostly unavailable to people who are blind. (There are audio-only games available. I just don’t believe any of them are multi-player frag-fests.)

I mention Counterstrike in particular above because the audio in that game is particularly important to gameplay.

If you could get the sonar mechanic right and the audio physics designed correctly, it would be possible to make a maze-running, multi-player deathmatch without any visuals.

Playstation 3 controller

November 11, 2008

This is the sort of thing that exemplifies why I started a blog.

Kotaku reported on a homebrew PS3 controller for a gamer who has a disability.

Here is the inventor/user’s (KitsuneNoYume) post on the Playstation forums. KitsuneNoYume uses 16 switches simultaneously. These are all wired to a circuit board culled from a Playstation controller.

The device was designed by KitsuneNoYume himself and assembled by Mark Felling of GimpGear.

This rig runs a Playstation 3

This rig runs a Playstation 3

The whole rig in use

The whole rig in use

Adapted controllers for video games. That’s new, right?

Not really, check out this 1989 ad for a controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

NES Hands Free Controller

NES Hands Free Controller

Chin joystick with sip and puff for A, B, Select, and Start. I’ve seen one of these in real life used by probably the most hardcore Tetris player I’ve ever met.

Funny that Nintendo hasn’t used their new-found interest in unconventional controllers to make the Wii more accessible.

Strange Attractor updated

October 7, 2008

Strange Attractor is a video game that you can play with a single switch. Strange Attractor 2 is playable with 2 switches or with a single switch.

Strange Attractor 2

Strange Attractor 2

Developer’s website You can get SA1 at this site.

SA2 was Featured by Greenhouse and won an award at PAX (Penny Arcade Expo). Penny Arcade is pretty serious about games. They wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t completely awesome.

Accessible games do not need to be crappy. A well-thought-out game can be fun for everyone.

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