The saying is “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but for me, games are apples. Even if I only have time for a single Sudoku, I have to play something to maintain my mental health. And it’s not easy for disabled social gamers. Even if we manage to avoid ableism in our gaming groups, a myriad of other circumstances can physically isolate us from our friends. Many years ago, I developed major depression from limitations interfering with this hobby. Fortunately, for isolated gamers, technology has presented increasingly sophisticated solutions to our problems. Web-based tabletop gaming (and distance co-op in general) has changed my life by enabling my social gamer – and therefore allowing me to avoid comorbid depression.
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.
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…
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…
As my disability progresses, I find it cumbersome to navigate a keyboard and mouse simultaneously in computer games. PlayStation or Xbox controllers are inaccessible for me right out of the box, so I’ve gravitated toward mouse-only games in the past few years as my primary source of computer entertainment. I can still enjoy the occasional first-person shooter if the keys are remappable, but even then, it’s hard to manage multiple buttons and engage in quick mouse reflexes. Even worse is when designers insist on using button mashing as a mechanic, like in the Telltale Walking Dead games (seriously, stop), which frustrates abled and disabled gamers alike. While mouse-only is a great alternative for disabled individuals, it also creates a streamlined user experience for those who don’t require accessibility hacks.
Below you’ll find some of my favorite mouse-only games I’ve played recently, all available on Steam. Let me know what you think of my picks, share your own in the comments below, or send a tweet to @geekygimp! … Read more…
Game Rating: E (Everyone), with mild violence
Game Publisher: HerInteractive
Platform: Mac/PC, digital download or physical copy
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
Buy this at: Amazon.com, HerInteractive.com, or your local game shop for $19.99
I’ve been playing the Nancy Drew PC game series since their introduction in 1998. I’m a huge fan of literature and point-and-click adventures, so I knew this series would scratch that itch. I remember how the first game, Secrets Can Kill, came with two CDs you needed to switch out during gameplay. Now, some of HerInteractive’s award-winning titles can fit on an iPad! The technology behind these games (and, well, I guess technology in general) has advanced greatly. Gone are the days of multiple CDs, choppy graphics, and long load times; now we can enjoy our games with crisp animation, quality audio, small file sizes, and almost no load times. The Nancy Drew computer games have transitioned smoothly along with the technological advancements, and The Shattered Medallion showcases that exquisitely. … Read more…
Grail to the Thief is an interactive audio adventure game that is currently on Kickstarter, and produced by For All to Play. It simulates text-based adventures, or pick-your-own adventure games, and adds audio (including ambient sound, narration, and dialogue) for blind accessibility. I was able to play the prototype, currently available for Chrome and Opera users, and absolutely loved it. The story is engaging and humorous, while giving the player a lot of variety and freedom. Unlike other text adventure games where you must type in commands, Grail to the Thief offers you multiple choices to advance in the quest. Also, the sounds included in the prototype are not complete yet, but I really liked what I heard so far – the character voices are not dull, and made me feel like I was really interacting with them. The story itself is amusing, and I can’t wait to see what other adventures will be created for subsequent games!
The creators of Grail to the Thief, Elias Aoude, Anthony Russo, and DJ White, were kind enough to answer some questions for me.
1) Can you tell us about yourselves and how you got into game design?
Elias: I’ve been playing video games my whole life. I can still remember going to the local toy store with my parents to purchase my first video-game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. I brought it home and played Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt with my parents, siblings, and cousin all night long. I knew at a young age that I wanted to be working in the video game industry in some capacity, and now, I’m finally doing that.
Anthony: Games have always been, and will continue to be, a huge part of my life. I started playing games at a very young age, probably around two or three, on NES and later, Sega Genesis. I cannot remember a holiday, birthday, or trip outside the house that I didn’t ask to buy a game. I have wedged games into my life in every way that I possibly could. At a young age, I started learning how to produce 3D art for games. I wrote papers all throughout high school on the design and psychological effects of games. Even my Eagle Scout project was related to games, as I donated a Wii to a retirement home so the residents could get up and bowl once in a while and have fun as a community.
I am a lucky person, in that I have always known what I wanted to do and why. I want to make games because I want to deliver the sense of community and enjoyment that games have given to me my whole life to others. Whether it’s yelling at friends over multiplayer games, comparing times in a racing game, discussing story beats of a well-written narrative game, or talking about the intricate mechanics of the latest strategy game, I have yet to see a more social, engaging, dynamic medium than games. I have always wanted to be a part of its production, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
DJ: I’ve always been really interested in video games. My parents owned an NES before I was born, so some of my earliest memories are actually of watching my mom play The Legend of Zelda. But I never really considered working on games until I was at WPI. I had already decided to head towards computer science, but as I thought more about what I was planning on doing after school, I realized that game design was where I was really headed. … Read more…