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Overcoming Challenges To Game

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the dedicated-fraggers dept.

Games 30

1up has another feature up worth investigating, this one detailing the challenges faced by gamers with disabilities who just want to enjoy their hobby. The article discusses gals and guys who may be physically different than the average gamer, but who seek that Mortal Kombat fatality or enjoy the story of Half-Life 2 just as much as anyone else. They also touch on the unique peripherals available to players who may not be able to utilize standard controllers, and the palliative effect that games can have on folks in stressful circumstances (as we've seen via Child's Play in the past). It's just another instance where the usual gaming labels break down in the face of reality: "In the media's rush to blame school shootings on violent videogames, sometimes stories about gaming's role in communication and positive tenacity get left behind. While some parents worry about their children submerging themselves in the fantasy worlds of videogames and losing themselves to the real world, that same 'escape' often proves soothing to gamers who, for various reasons, are cut off to the world around them."

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Didn't see it in the article (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17844882)

So here here is a link to Audio Games [audiogames.net] . I first found out about them from an NPR spot. What they are doing is realyl awsome, a great place to start looking into them is at Drive [audiogames.net] , a driving game with no visuals.

Re:Didn't see it in the article (1)

Dorceon (928997) | more than 7 years ago | (#17848912)

I can't believe Drive is 115MB for such a rudimentary game! I mean, the visuals are absolutely primitive! Where is all the space going, the soundtrack?

Re:Didn't see it in the article (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17850804)

What sound do people on rollercoasters make?

That's an easy one: "Help! Help! This man isn't my father!"

-Eric

OT: Audio Games (1)

British (51765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17855124)

Does anyone remember the SCTV skit with Melonville's resident video geek, Gerry Todd? He did a commercial for a product called "audio games". It was hilarious. It was this little calculator-like device and any time he hit a button, a laser went off(for some space-related game).

Now it's reality. Funny.

Re:Didn't see it in the article (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 7 years ago | (#17858374)

This article also reminds me of the Blind Mortal Kombat Master [wired.com] . Which I found particularly interesting because I used to be good enough at MK3 that I would frequently take people on while blindfolded as a party trick; though I would imagine it's much more difficult to learn the game without your vision. Thinking of other games I'm sure the Space Channel 5 Series (originally on the Dreamcast and later on the Gamecube and PS2) would work very well for the blind without any modification, being that it's a Simon says/music driven game.

I've often contemplated how my life would be different if I just lost so much as a thumb or my vision or my hearing etc. Gaming makes up a significant portion of my pastimes and it's physical requirements are steep. I cherish the fact that I have these abilities. I think it's great that there are things out there that would expand the accessibility of games. Though it's a difficult task, and I'd hate to be limited to just MK3 and Space Channel 5 it's nice to know that there are people like Benheck who will make controllers for the one handed [benheck.com] and the Audio games for those who are blind. I've been debating trying my hand at developing a small XBLA type game... now I think I might try to design a game that could be enjoyed by the sighted as well as the blind.

Adventure Genre (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17844906)

I've seen special controllers for people with one hand/arm, etc.

But part of me just misses the Adventure genre. It didn't require lightning reflexes, complicated movements, or anything like that. In fact a good Adventure game can be enjoyed by the deaf and blind as well.

I've been replaying Quest For Glory out of nostalgia, and while most people wouldn't pay $50 for a game like this, couldn't we see a resurgence via Shareware, XBox Live Arcade, or such for these games at say $10-$20 a pop?

Indigo Prophecy is the only major proper Adventure game that I've seen in years, which is a damned shame.

Re:Adventure Genre (1)

krakelohm (830589) | more than 7 years ago | (#17845266)

I have not played it yet, but the new Sam & Max seems to be getting pretty good reviews http://www.telltalegames.com/samandmax [telltalegames.com] .

Re:Adventure Genre (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17845722)

Too bad LucasArts axed it initially, along with the Full Throttle sequel.

Also check out:

http://www.himalayastudios.com/ [himalayastudios.com]
http://www.agdinteractive.com/ [agdinteractive.com]
http://www.bigbluecup.com/ [bigbluecup.com]
http://www.justadventure.com/ [justadventure.com]

Re:Adventure Genre (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17845268)

I've been replaying Quest For Glory out of nostalgia, and while most people wouldn't pay $50 for a game like this, couldn't we see a resurgence via Shareware, XBox Live Arcade, or such for these games at say $10-$20 a pop?

Not likely. But you can already see a resurgence on the DS for $30 a pop. Go pick up Phoenix Wright and Hotel Dusk; the industry has already noticed that some of these games have sold more units than expected.

Re:Adventure Genre (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17850472)

I've seen special controllers for people with one hand/arm, etc.

You mis-spelled "Wii-mote". ;)

Re:Adventure Genre (2, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 7 years ago | (#17850716)

Only certain games can be played with one hand. For playing Halo 2 (why would you, but people do) you need two analog sticks, and really two hands. But there are remotes that you stick on your knee, piloting one analog with one hand, and the other with your knee.

There is a big distinction between games designed specifically to be played one-handed and allowing others to play most every other game on the planet.

Re:Adventure Genre (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 7 years ago | (#17858294)

Actually I think he's revering to Benheck's recent one handed controller mod for the Xbox 360 [benheck.com] . IIRC it was built for a war vet who lost one of their arms while serving. It's a really interesting design.

Re:Adventure Genre (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17859084)

It's called a joke. Laugh, or move on. ;)

Unfortunately (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17845008)

Unfortunately gaming will always be just a little out of the reach of the physically disabled. Games are usually skill based, whether they are electronic or IRL. You can change the nature of the game, the controls, or other things to approximate the experience, but unfortunately the disabled will never have the same experience. It is a pity that this is so, but there is little that can be done to overcome this. The Gameplay experience will be different, based on what kind of disability a person has. Sometimes people overcome those issues, like the person who learned to play nintendo with their feet way back when.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

archen (447353) | more than 7 years ago | (#17845252)

To some extent the Wii should at least start to balance that out a bit. The more simplistic controlling scheme that involves body movement should be easier for many of the disabled who have problems with traditional controllers. I started thinking that in the same lines when I was watching a four year old trying to play various PS2 games. His hands were too small (but he did pretty well considering), and the combinations of buttons to push were just too complex for most of the games I had.

Re:Unfortunately (4, Interesting)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17845622)

The Wii will help a lot of people and at the same time cause endless problems for others ...

Some people have problems making co-ordinated large gestures (like a lot of the Wii's actions) and others will have problems making co-ordinated small gestures (like pressing buttons on a controller); the Wii will probably offer lots of games which are suitable for people with one hand, but offers little for people who have difficulty with providing adequate hand-grip strenght.

The second you start down the 'Accessability' path it becomes an impossible challenge where your only reward is knowing you're doing the right thing. The fact that every game is designed to support "lower resolution graphics" probably benefits those people with vision problems because one of the main "solutions" for people with these types of problems is to get a larger TV; if you design a 480P game to have text which can be read on a 17 inch TV by most people, many people with vision problems can see it on their 60 inch TV.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

Allison Geode (598914) | more than 7 years ago | (#17855698)

i have a non-gamer friend uses crutches or a wheelchair to get around, and she has difficulty standing on her own. well, i had a whole bunch of friends over for a wii gaming party, and she came over too... she owned at boxing, and was decent at tennis, but had difficulty with bowling: her arm kept getting hung up on the side of the chair. next time we're going to get out my old office computer chair (without armrests) for her. even so, she came in third place (beating the non-gamer who had also had a few too many to drink before coming over.)

even so, she had a great time. however, i just got Super Swing golf, and.... honestly, I can't imagine that being playable for someone who is similarly equipped as her...... which sort of bothers me. (these are the kinds of things i never thought of until i made a couple differently-abled friends, but its a real issue.)

Re:Unfortunately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17847154)

Unfortunately, as somebody who works with individuals (including children and teenagers) with severe disabilities on a daily basis, I can tell you that this isn't true.

While it's impossible to make detailed assessments of how accessible various forms of controllers are, due to the wide variety of forms that physical disability can take, I think I can safely say that the Wii-mote is perhaps the lest accessible controller ever to break into the mainstream.

The need to physically manipulate the remote, often quite vigorously, puts it out of reach of those whose conditions involve motor difficulties. Moreover, the need to use the remote as a "pointer" in many games, holding it to face the screen, makes play impossible for an even wider group. It is extremely unlikely that Nintendo will ever release a controller to accommodate those with alternative needs and the history of third party development of controllers for their platforms is not encouraging, to say the least. This is particularly disappointing in light of the fact that the Gamecube's controller was arguably the most accessible of the controllers for the last generation of systems.

The range of games available for the Wii is also less than ideal in many situations. You must remember that many people who live with physical disabilities are perfectly fit mentally. Too many people adopt the condescending approach of assuming that people with disabilities must like "simple" games, which are not "hard to understand". This is rubbish - often, the gaming tastes of those with disabilities are extremely sophisticated - the Baldur's Gate series often seems to be a persistent favorite, which may be partly related to the fact that it could be played entirely using only the mouse, or a functional equivalent, but is probably more heavily related to the quality and depth of the game. Most of the Wii titles so far are shallow, multi-player oriented titles. Video games are often used by carers to occupy somebody who requires full-time care for a period of time while the carer rests or attends to other tasks - I attach no moral judgement to this, because many carers work incredibly hard and fully deserve some time to themselves. But in this context, multi-player oriented games with little replay value for the solo gamer are near worthless.

Should Nintendo be blamed or censured for this? Not really, I guess. It is perhaps unreasonable to expect developers to design new systems with people with disabilities in mind (although it would be nice if they could try). The 360 is about as accessible as one of the last generation consoles (which is to say - perfectly usable by some people, fully locked out to others, and partly usable, or usable with external assistance, to a range in the middle). I've not had any first-hand experience with the PS3 yet, but second hand reports indicate that the problems with the Sixaxis aren't quite as severe as those with the Wii-mote, although it's still far from ideal. All I wanted to do with this post was to try to prevent Nintendo from receiving even more undue praise than they already are for the Wii.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

TriezGamer (861238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17855766)

The GameCube controller actually had one major feature that a disabled friend of mine found incredibly irritating -- The L and R triggers had one final click that would act as a separate input in some games. Thankfully, these games were very few, but had developers used that feature more it would have been a much bigger issue for those with coordination issues.

There are skills, and then there are skills. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#17845420)

Unfortunately gaming will always be just a little out of the reach of the physically disabled. Games are usually skill based, whether they are electronic or IRL.

There are skills, and then there are skills. Every kind of skill should have games that play to it. For instance, chess is skill based, yet it doesn't need a lot of motor skills. Even a quadraplegic can play chess with an eye pointer and a sip-and-puff controller. If you still have a working arm but you can't press buttons, you can still play Wii Sports, which is based on larger motor skills than Xbox 360 games.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 7 years ago | (#17848786)

"Unfortunately gaming will always be just a little out of the reach of the physically disabled."

I don't really buy that. Yes, *most* commercial games may well be out of reach, but not "gaming". Games are nothing but software, and software can be dynamically adaptive. If the gamer is struggling with the concept, it can scale back the difficulty. Naturally, the disabled might have a different experience - how does it make it any less *fun* for them though?

Being an audio programmer in the game industry, I've long thought about how it might be possible to create audio-themed games, especially those that could be enjoyed by the blind. Or, put another way - what would I be interested in doing for recreation if I were blind?

How about limited control of an NPC that can join a group of other players in a dungeon romp in a fantasy game? These games already have characters that are blind (such as the Night Elves? in Blizzard's Warcraft III) - having given up their sight in order to gain other powers. They could use combinations of gamepad button presses to trigger spells to aide the other party members or unleash powerful attacks. The AI could assist in guiding the player along with the party. Note - this same concept could be used to allow very young players to join their older siblings in a multiplayer game.

Adventure / mystery games would be a very logical choice. Using only audio, you could develop an insanely deep plot with interesting twists and turns, and give the player a chance to really use their heads to solve puzzles and advance through the story.

You could even get more creative and create musical / audio based puzzle games. Some blind people have actually trained their ears to use a sonar-like device that scans the room and returns a sweeping tone that represents the physicality of the area around them. You could even use this sort of concept to create some pretty interesting games.

So, don't sell game developers short. I'll bet you'll eventually see some pretty innovative stuff out there.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17848920)

You can change the nature of the game, the controls, or other things to approximate the experience, but unfortunately the disabled will never have the same experience.

Yes but video games, by their very nature an approximation and virtualization of some experience, lend themselves well to being made with the disabled in mind. For example the design of the controller is not a fundamental aspect that would change the balance of the game, so it makes perfect sense (even if there is no market for it) to have a game controller for people who can only use their feet, and that kid wouldn't have had as hard a time playing Nintendo. Now how that would work with the Wii is another story...

The most general form of what you are saying -- that there exist handicaps and games which are fundamentally incompatible -- is true, the video game industry has a unique opportunity to make games that are as accessible as possible in ways that meatspace gaming could never mimic.

Other problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17845410)

What's rarely touched upon is folks that are slightly disabled, myself I'm color blind pretty badly so playing most games is an extra challenge when these games use even simple color puzzle I often find myself slightly frustrated at bad game design, here's a section I can't progress past not because of being a bad gamer or failing to collect some vital mcguffin but because of faulty eyesight.

Re:Other problems (1)

neminem (561346) | more than 7 years ago | (#17854232)

Yeah, I hate that. I'm actually only just the slightest bit color blind, but occasionally I find a color puzzle that I'd never figure out on my own.

And don't even get me started on Puzzle Bobble...

No problem... (1)

Infinityis (807294) | more than 7 years ago | (#17845552)

At first I though "disabilities" referred to mental state, etc. that came about from poor allocation of character points and experience points in First Life [getafirstlife.com] . However, the article talks mostly about physically handicapped players, for which there is a simple fix. If you've taken on too much damage in First Life, just start playing Second Life. I've heard that if you select your initial character type as "cat", you can repeat the procedure all the way up to Ninth Life.

Let me tell you (2, Insightful)

techpawn (969834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17845942)

DDR looks damned hard with one leg [youtube.com] But, we find ways to do the things we enjoy, even if the doctors tell us no. Be it adjusting the way to play to having other hold the controler for us, we find a way.

My handicap (2, Informative)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17847886)

I suffer from "Pwneditis" where I get surprised in a FPS and stare at the other guy like a deer in the headlights for a split second before I get shot. I think they should put a delay on the other players for folks like me.

Seriously though, there is a wide range of handicaps and I've played plenty of people, for example, who have turned out to be in wheelchairs. Online gaming is a real escape for them. Some people I've talked to on teamspeak use speech assistance tech just to chat even if they aren't playing.

I've also played people who've turned out to be stoned or drunk but that is just a temporary handicap.

I don't play consoles ... (2, Interesting)

antdude (79039) | more than 7 years ago | (#17848748)

... because of their controllers. I used to own an Atari 2600, and its joystick was simple, light, and easily placed on a table/desk. With the newer consoles, they are more complex and used in air. This cause problems for me because of my four fingers (also lack of thumbs), elbow problems (can't straighten, collect money like people do, and weak strengths).

I prefer playing games on the computer because of the big keyboard on my desk and mouse. I don't have to hold them, keys are spread apart and easy to reach, etc. Old arcade controllers on their cabinets worked well too.

This will become more and more difficult... (1)

Z0D14( (1004551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17850976)

...as games become more immersive. DDR won't ever work for paraplegics Guitar Hero won't work for people without fingers Don't even get me started on the Wii... My vote is for brain interfaces.

RSI is my "handicap" (1)

PurifyYourMind (776223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17859250)

I tend to avoid most computer games, even though I love the things to death. Since I use computers all day at work, and I seem predisposed to having achy joints (sharps pains, swelling, and dull aches in hands, elbows, and shoulders), I just can't spent another few hours twitching and doing repetitive movements without pain.
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