Accessibility in Destiny 2: A Deaf Gamer’s Perspective

Accessibility in Destiny 2: A Deaf Gamer's Perspective

Thanks so much to Chris for writing this guest blog post and sharing his point-of-view as a deaf gamer. Follow him on Twitch to see some stellar Destiny 2 action.


September 6, 2017, was a big day for both old and new Destiny players; Destiny 2 was finally released on Playstation 4 and Xbox One!  

From my experience with Destiny 1, it was a game that you could pick up the controller and possibly never put it down. There was a rewarding feeling, with all the grinding, when you completed something hard as a team.

So now that Destiny 2 is here, I’ve been playing it almost non-stop! To tell you the truth, I wasn’t planning on buying Destiny 2 because I didn’t want to get addicted to it. I didn’t want to deal with the frustration of trying to find a team to play with when it’s required to have a mic to coordinate with the players. I don’t use a mic because I’m deaf. I don’t want to annoy people by repeatedly asking “what?” every time I didn’t understand them; but I ended up getting the game anyway, knowing that I may run into the same issues again. However, Bungie (developers of Destiny) somewhat made it easier to actually find people with the overhaul of the Bungie.net website; now it’s easy to post your LFG (looking for gamers) on there, and people tend to immediately join up. … Read more…

Geeky Gimp Birthday Event: Streaming for AbleGamers Charity #SoEveryoneCanGame

The Geeky Gimp's Live Birthday event for AbleGamers Charity August 27

Join me on my birthday for a fundraising event to benefit AbleGamers Charity!

On August 27th, from 2pm to 8pm EST, I’ll stream games on my Twitch channel and collect donations for this wonderful organization. AbleGamers’ goal is to ensure video games are accessible and affordable for a plethora of disabled gamers; they offer grants, services, and equipment so everyone can game.

Make sure to follow my Twitch page to know when I go live, and pop in the chat on the aforementioned date to find the donate link!

I hope you stop by the stream even if you are unable to contribute financially. I’m giving away two $50 gift cards to Steam or Amazon (your choice), so you won’t want to miss out.

Shares on social media are also greatly appreciated – just link to this post! The more we get the word out, the more money we can send to AbleGamers – and then, they can help more people live their gaming dream. Being able to do this on my birthday is the best gift I could receive.

I ran a similar event last year, and raised $446. My goal this year is $500. Let’s see if we can go higher this time.

Happy gaming!

Follow The Geeky Gimp on Twitch

On Perception and Authentic Disability Representation

Perception and Authentic Disability Representation. A woman with moths on her face, her eyes are blank and Perception is in braille

Perception is a horror exploration game attempting to bring forth a strong disabled protagonist with an original gameplay style. In this title made by the same developers of BioShock, you play as Cassie, a blind woman who taps her cane on surfaces to see, much like echolocation. When tapping Cassie’s cane, a blue wave emits and briefly shows the outline of the objects in your vicinity. If you tap your cane too much, an evil force is disturbed; you can take cover briefly in one of the hiding locations you come across, like in a wicker basket or under a bed. You also have access to Cassie’s cell phone, and can use it to take pictures of different texts, like prescription bottles or cards, and have the accessibility program on the phone read them aloud for you.

It’s rare to find a video game that realistically portrays disability, and abled developers and storytellers often rely on tropes to carry their narrative. With Perception, I was wary of the blind person with echolocation stereotype; but I thought if developers could show a disabled person using accessibility tools to navigate the world and solve mysteries, it would be a step toward normalizing disabled characters in video games. So even if the whole echolocation bit concerned me, I was willing to give it a shot. I backed the digital copy on Kickstarter and waited over a year to finally play it.

I want to point out that I am not blind or have low vision. My disability affects my strength, dexterity, and range-of-motion, so I am going to start with my initial thoughts and access barriers, then bring in the voices of actual blind/low-vision gamers to share their experiences. … Read more…

My Gimpy Feet: The Quest to Find Accessible Shoes

My Gimpy Feet: The Quest to Find Accessible shoes. My feet wearing Mary Jane style shoes, one shoe's fabric looks like a notebook cover and the other looks like lined paper

Finding shoes that work on my feet is a trial, for several reasons. Muscular Dystrophy makes my ankles contract and curve inward; this shape also makes my ankle bone protrude, leaving the sides of my feet extremely sensitive. And because they arch so heavily, they’re smaller than average, meaning I wear child-size shoes. Imagine me, age 33, trying to find sandals in the kid’s section that aren’t bedazzled with Frozen characters or excessive bows. But that isn’t the only trouble; my sensitivity issues mean I can’t slide my foot into most shoes – so sneakers and boots are out, and anything with a heel is impossible. … Read more…

Making Nintendo’s Switch Accessible through 3D Printing

Making Nintendo's Switch Accessible through 3D Printing. Image of a 3D printed joy con in background

While I haven’t been able to get my hands on a Switch, I am still following the accessibility reviews coming in from disabled gamers. One big issue is the Joy-Con controllers and the inability to remap their buttons in many games. When disabled programmer and designer A.J. Ryan emailed Nintendo about this access barrier, their response was anything but appropriate. An employee from Nintendo wrote: “I realize it can certainly be very frustrating to not be able to enjoy the same games as many others do due to having an unfortunate condition, and we sincerely empathize.”

Nintendo here is framing inaccessibility as a personal challenge to overcome rather than a design flaw that needs fixing. They are patronizing A.J. for wanting inclusive access rather than directly addressing the problem, and in the process, further stigmatizing disability in gaming. I’ve stated over and over again how accessibility cannot be an afterthought, and that it must be part of game development from the start. While disabled gamers wait for this tide to change, we make and rely on our hacks to play. We depend on the creativity and ingenuity of the disability community and non-disabled people working with us to partake in our favorite hobbies.

One such ingenious person is Julio Vazquez, a mechatronics engineer using the power of 3D printing to build accessories for disabled gamers; his latest project is a design for the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con. I was excited to interview him and learn more about this project.

A blue 3D printed case surrounding a printed, gray controller. There are two red buttons on top for the left and right controls.
Julio’s 3D-printed accessibility design for the Joy-Con

Read more…

Tabletop Game and Accessibility Review: Avenue

Tabletop Review: Avenue with a cartoon castle in the background and a blue sky

The Basics:

Avenue is a quick pen-and-paper game where each player draws directional lines on their 6×7 grid, connecting green and purple grapes to farms and castles. It was published in 2016 by Aporta Games, and was designed by Eilif Svensson and Kristian Amundsen Østby. It’s for ages eight and up, supports one to ten players, and has an average game time of 15 minutes.

Rules:

At the start, a random farm card is picked and revealed to all players; there are six farms designated A through F. One player then flips over route cards depicting one of six different lines you can draw on your grid. After the fourth yellow card is shown (direction cards have gray or yellow backgrounds), the round ends, and you score based on how many grapes connect to the specified farm. You continue this for five rounds, then tally up your points and add bonuses for similarly-colored grapes connecting to the green and pink castles. The highest score wins! … Read more…

Losing Friends to Ableism

Losing Friends to Ableism. Little wooden meeples, one side they are all grouped up, other side is just one, lonely meeple

“I would’ve made sure it was accessible if we were closer friends.” An ex-friend said this after I expressed hurt over his party being held in an inaccessible venue. I wasn’t even mad at him initially since it was a surprise planned by his family; they knew I couldn’t get inside, and ignored guests offering alternate, accessible spaces. When this ex-friend told me of the event, all he said was “sorry you can’t come.” That was it.

I wouldn’t have been too upset if this person offered to visit for a mini celebration with mutual friends. I wouldn’t have been angry if he gave a sincere apology rather than defensiveness and silence. Making accessibility a privilege offered only to closest friends or family is horrifically ableist. This person was someone I hung out with regularly, so I assumed we were good friends. But even if we were acquaintances, what he said was dehumanizing. To make things worse, he spouted that quote above knowing I was going through an emotionally vulnerable time in my life. I’m glad I ended that friendship, especially after realizing he was toxic in other ways. … Read more…

LARPing While Disabled: My First Impression

LARPing while Disabled. Two Storm Troopers, one in a wheelchair being pushed by the other

It’s been a few weeks since I attended Dreamation, a tabletop and LARP convention in New Jersey. I’m more of a board gamer, and my only experience with RPGs has been online. I play-tested a LARP about disability at a previous convention, but beyond that, I’ve yet to break into the hobby. My boyfriend Michael is into LARP, so I decided to go out of my comfort zone and play a full game. At the least, I would get blog material; the worst outcome would be me spiraling into anxiety mode and quitting. I ended up playing two LARPs that weekend, taking away a new understanding of myself and the space I inhabit as a disabled woman at a convention.

The hotel hosting the event was ADA compliant, with elevators, smooth flooring, automatic doors, table seating near the bar, and spacious rooms. The folks running Dreamation also had a disability liaison on hand (the amazing Elsa), and attentive staff aware of potential access needs. Because organizers give attention to safety and accessibility, a lot of disabled people attend; not just physically disabled, but mentally and chronically ill gamers were in abundance. So I knew if I had a problem in-or-out of the game, Dreamation’s staff would support me and find a solution. Other conventions should follow this pattern for disabled attendees. … Read more…

Overwatch Developers, Don’t Ban Disabled Gamers

Overwatch Developers, Don't Ban Disabled Gamers text over an image of Sombra character page, a cartoon woman in neon clothes

These past three days, I’ve played Overwatch obsessively on PC, now understanding why many love this game. It took me a while to start playing, as I tend to avoid most competitive online experiences; they lean toward inaccessibility and obnoxious alpha players. While Overwatch can attract those sorts of gamers, I have yet to run into any in the teams I’ve played so far. I think it has a lot to do with the matchmaking system; it pairs you with those of similar skill levels. There are also practice modes to learn each character’s abilities and test them out before you jump into an online game. Overwatch is addicting, with beautiful graphics, smooth controls, and unlimited ammo. Each character has unique abilities and user interfaces that you can explore in detailed maps. When your team is victorious, there is a rush to try again, racking up your XP and hoping for an MVP vote from your comrades.

But what sets Overwatch apart from other first-person shooters is its accessibility.Read more…

Crip The Resistance: Thoughts and Resources for Accessible Protests

Crip The Resistance: Thoughts and Resources on Accessible Protest, black background and white text

What does protest mean for disabled people, and how can we contribute through our lived experience or active engagement? I can’t access in-person marches or similar events, and sometimes I must completely disconnect from current events to stay healthy. It’s hard to find solace when our rights and safety are threatened, so I write when things become too much. That’s how I channel my anxious energy, and it works for me.

There is no right way to protest – one method does not count more than another. Protest is about building each other up in resistance to crisis. It’s about those with privilege filling the gaps while amplifying marginalized voices. “You’re not doing enough” shames those who may be struggling to get through another day, or who don’t have the means to contribute more of their time or energy. We don’t all have to show up and hold signs and tweet to be in a political movement. For those who bear the weight of oppression, our lives and bodies are inherently political, and surviving is a form of protest. Surviving can be enough. … Read more…