Update #3 – Support this Kickstarter!

Right now, I’m working on a review of Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, a great board game of strategy and deception. You can expect to see that some time this week – maybe even tomorrow! But before I posted that, I wanted to let you all know about a great Kickstarter that I recently supported.

64 oz. Games is working on making board games accessible for the blind community. They have created card sleeves and accessories with braille text for some popular games, such as: 7 Wonders, Lost Cities, Dominion, Munchkin, and more. They are looking to expand this list, but they need your help. 64 oz. Games is also producing their own micro party game for blind users called Yoink! In this game, you have to feel for different shapes and patterns on the cards, and be the first to make a complete matching set. You can watch videos for this, and their braille products, on the Kickstarter page. I highly suggest you chip in, even if it’s only $5! It is so important to make board gaming accessible for all, and this project by 64 oz. Games is crucial in that endeavor. 

You can find their Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/64ouncegames/board-games-now-blind-accessible

If you can’t make a donation, please spread the word by sharing the link with your friends on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks!

Computer/Video Game Review #1 – World of Warcraft

This is the first in a series of articles I will be posting about video and computer-gaming accessibility. Today’s post is by a guest blogger, and I’m very excited about her contribution. I’ve been watching her YouTube videos for a while, and they’re super interesting and helpful to disabled gamers. I hope you enjoy! Also, I’m always looking for more guest bloggers. If you have something to share, please contact me – you can find my e-mail on the About page, or just leave a comment. Now, on to introductions and the review!

My name is April, and I am a disabled gamer.  After years of thinking outside the box to find strategies to get around roadblocks in video games, some friends convinced me to start a website to share my tips in hopes of helping others. I started Ability Powered in early 2013. Now, I post articles, guides, and tips on my website, and have guides and accessibility first-look videos on Youtube. You can check us out at www.abilitypowered.com, or on YouTube at www.youtube.com/abilitypowered

April's AvatarWorld of Warcraft is Blizzard’s popular MMORPG. Players are challenged with the task of questing and defending the world of Azeroth from invasions of all kinds. With villians and injustice at every turn, you and your fellow gamers quickly become heroes!  Sounds fantastic, right? But what about accessibility?
Mobility in Azeroth is, honestly, as good as it gets. There are multiple options allowing players to choose how they wish to move their character. You can move with traditional keyboard movement, which is fully remapable in the keybindings menu. You can also move with your mouse in multiple ways. By default, you can move by holding down both mouse buttons simultaneously. Want to only press one button? You can do that by enabling the Click to Walk option. Click to Walk allows you to right click a point for your character to automatically run to. Need to walk with your right mouse button, or need an on-screen jump button? That’s also an option! The addition of Move Pad made it possible for disabled gamers to click an on-screen menu to move their character with simple presses of a button. That’s four movement options available to meet players’ needs.

TV Review #2 – Star Trek: TNG’s “Ethics”

When I reviewed “The Loss” from Next Generation, I wrote about my general disappointment with the show. At that point, I’d only seen up to season four, and I felt it was bogged down by too many crew meetings and negotiations. Well, now that I’ve seen the series in its entirety, I have to say that I ended up loving it. Season five was an overall masterpiece, especially the episode “The Inner Light” – it changed my attitude toward the show, and the episodes continued to impress until the end of the series. The episode I’m reviewing now, “Ethics,” is the 16th installment from season five. I decided to review it because it’s sort of the opposite of “The Loss”; while there are a few misfires regarding disability, “Ethics” tends to get it right. I expected lots of cringe-worthy moments based on the synopsis and ableist trailer, but was pleasantly surprised by the points raised in the script. So let’s take a look at the episode, and see if you agree.      

We open with Worf and La Forge investigating some chemical leak in cargo bay three. As they scan the area, they discuss a recent poker game. Thanks to his VISOR, Geordi can see through the cards, but he only admits to peeking after the hand is over. I liked this little banter between the two because it connects the reality of disability with everyday life. Some suggest that Geordi’s disability/VISOR are only used to make him “special” or “superhuman,” thus falling into a disability trope, but I disagree. His VISOR helps him navigate the world, just like my wheelchair helps me navigate the world. The fact that his VISOR can sometimes be helpful in a mission or, in this case, give him an advantage in a poker game, doesn’t take away from his fully-developed character; he has a backstory, love interests, hobbies, a personality, etc. TNG doesn’t focus on his disability – it is treated as part of who he is, but does not define who he is. What his VISOR can do is just a reality of the adaptive technology of that time period. My wheelchair can do some pretty nifty things as well, but that doesn’t make me “superhuman.” … Read more…

Comic Review #1 – The Killing Joke

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Batman comic, and I’ve surprisingly never read The Killing Joke. This graphic novel is considered a classic, written by Alan Moore of Watchmen and V for Vendetta fame, and hauntingly illustrated by Brian Bolland. I purchased the 2008 deluxe edition, which was recolored by Bolland; he uses a cooler palette than the original color artist, and makes the flashback scenes into black and white, with small touches of color to add emphasis on certain objects. I’ve seen the original 1988 comic (thanks, internet!), and I definitely think the new coloring transforms the comic into the darker, weightier story it was meant to be. You can see the difference here:

kj_comparison

The original looks psychedelic, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t fit the dark theatrical nature of some of the scenes. The recoloring and illustrations are the best things about this comic. That isn’t to say that I didn’t think the story was well executed, but the art is so great here that it overshadows the other elements. I particularly liked the way the Joker was drawn – he looked sadistic and frightening, but you could still see the human behind it. The carnival scenes are effectively chaotic, highlighting the perverseness of the Joker’s thought process and actions.

Despite my praise for the artwork and plot execution, there are some very problematic things about this novel – namely the treatment of Barbara Gordon. So let’s just get right down to it so you can see what I mean. … Read more…

TV Review #1 – Star Trek: TNG’s “The Loss”

I am not a huge fan of The Next Generation, despite what my Pez dispenser and TNG comic collection might tell you. I haven’t seen every episode yet, but I’ve watched four seasons and I find it difficult to get through at times. I understand the appeal this show has for a lot of people, but many of the episodes are bogged down by meetings and negotiations. The Original Series, while also having meetings and plenty of talky moments, felt more balanced. This may have something to do with Kirk’s ability to challenge and oftentimes defy the Prime Directive, which leaves room for more action and conflict. Despite my somewhat negative outlook of the show, it is still great to analyze and discuss its plots and hit-or-miss attempts at social commentary. The episode I’m reviewing now, titled “The Loss,” is one that stuck out to me because of its weak attempt at disability discourse, and its ability to make my indifferent feelings about Troi switch to complete disgust in only 42 minutes.

Troi making people cry
Troi likes to make people cry.

The episode opens with Ensign Brooks in a counseling session with Troi. Brooks recently lost her husband, and seems to be in a state of denial. Troi reminds her that it would have been her husband’s 38th birthday, and shows her a music box she’s saved that belonged to him. Brooks breaks down and cries on Troi’s shoulder.

Cut to the bridge. Worf picks up something on the sensors that quickly disappears, and Data is unable to see anything with his equipment. As this is going on, Troi says goodbye to Brooks, and suddenly clutches her head in pain. She enters her room and passes out on the couch. And then…

SPACE! THE FINAL FRONTIER! You know the rest. The opening credits are the best (and least rage-inducing) part of this episode. That should tell you something about where I’m going with this review.

Picard orders Data to resume course to T’lli Beta because there is nothing showing up on the sensors. As soon as he says “Engage!”, the ship jolts and is unable to enter warp. They go to a full stop and yellow alert, but the Enterprise begins moving again – albeit very slowly. Some unknown force is pulling them along. After a failed attempt at breaking free, Data suggests immediate shutdown and Picard does his infamous “Make it so!” They continue to be pulled in the same direction and at the same speed.

Back in Troi’s room, we see her wake up and call Dr. Crusher. She says she feels dizzy, but isn’t sure what happened. After dealing with a few other crew injuries, Crusher arrives and wants to run an internuncial series on her in sick bay.  She’s still clearly in distress, so medical scans are probably a good idea.

Read more…