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…

The Accessibility of Mouse-Only Games, and Five Favorites

The Accessibility of Mouse-Only Games, and Five Favorites

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…

Will the Nintendo Switch Be Accessible for Disabled Gamers?

I have fond memories of playing Mario Bros, Zelda, and Pokémon on a plethora of Nintendo consoles. The last time I picked up a Nintendo title was when Ocarina of Time came out; since then, the system became increasingly inaccessible, especially with the Wii. I felt like the company focused on getting people to move around, leaving many disabled people to look elsewhere for their entertainment. Motion-sensing games are not feasible for someone who can’t move their arms or hold up a bulky controller. The size of the N64 was cumbersome too, but my disability wasn’t as progressed at that time to render it completely inaccessible. Earlier systems, like the original Nintendo and the SNES, had smaller, lighter controllers with fewer buttons, but console designers moved away from that user experience. … Read more…

The Geeky Gimp’s Best of 2016

The Geeky Gimp's Best of 2016. Image of Erin overlayed with fireworks.

While 2016 has been a difficult year for many, I want to reflect on my favorite things that helped me get through the hardest days. Our joy and entertainment, our binge-watching Netflix or slipping away for a few hours with a good book, will aid us now and in the coming years. I hope you enjoy my Best of 2016 list – in the comments below, let me know what you think of my choices, and what’s on your best-of list!

Best Video Game: Stardew Valley

Best video game: Stardew Valley by Chucklefish

By far my most-played game this year, clocking in at 129 hours and counting. You leave a dull office job and travel to Stardew Valley, a small, struggling community with a farm you’ve just inherited from your grandfather. By growing, harvesting, and selling crops, as well as caring for livestock, you earn enough money to expand your farm and help rebuild the derelict community center. You can also go fishing and mining to level up your character. The game never punishes you too much, and there are no time limits for the overall goals; this eliminates the boring grind of most farming sims. Despite all the hours put in, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. Pick this up if you liked Harvest MoonAvailable on Steam. … Read more…

October 8th Live Stream for The @AbleGamers Charity, #SoEveryoneCanGame

AbleGAMers logo is orange with a black joystick

Join me October 8th for a live-stream gaming event benefiting The AbleGamers Charity! Starting at 5pm EST and lasting until 10pm, I’ll play some of my favorite video games over on The Geeky Gimp twitch.tv channel. Watch along, chat, and donate if you can! I’m also going to tweet using #SoEveryoneCanGame, so follow me there for more gaming goodness. My goal is $400, and I can only reach that with your help!

Anyone that tunes in and donates has a chance to win cool, nerdy prizes like a Han Solo pop figurine, Star Wars socks, DC Comics merch, and other surprises. Can’t make it October 8th? No worries – if you contribute funds before the event, you’re automatically entered to snag a prize. Winners will be announced during and after the event as needed. As always, contact me with any questions or concerns.

More on AbleGamers from their website:

Game joystick cartoonThe AbleGamers Charity has served the more than 100 million gamers with disabilities in the disabled community since 2004 as thought leaders, accessibility experts, and assistive technology creators. Over the last decade, AbleGamers has helped hundreds of thousands of gamers with disabilities through the various services and programs offered to the disability community. Providing free, customized solutions, expansive resources, thorough consultations and advocating for gamers with disabilities are the top priorities for the AbleGamers Foundation.

Until then, happy gaming!

Review of The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987

Erin reading the book, looking up at the camera

Cover of book, looks like a NES gameDo you remember the first console game you played? For me, it was probably Video Olympics (with Pong included) or Asteroids on the Atari 2600. Turning that knob to slide the paddles up and down, or pushing that joystick to avoid enemy fire was pure joy for my 5-year-old self. Those pixelated titles ushered in the Golden Age of video games, and it’s striking to see how far we’ve come since then. While we may scoff at console graphics of the late 70s and early 80s, we have to keep in mind how mind-blowingly advanced these systems were for their time. I’m sure 20 or 30 years down the line, PS4 games will pale in comparison to whatever technology has in store for us.

There’s a lot of interesting stories to tell about early console design that deserve attention, and Brett Weiss’ book, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987, zooms in on this revolutionary era of gaming. It serves not only as a trip down memory lane, tapping into that nostalgia we so longingly crave, but it acts as an archive and provides a definitive history of popular titles. … Read more…

Pokemon Go: Developers Drop the Pokeball on Accessibility

Three shelves filled with plush Pikachu at a store

I was excited for a new, free Pokémon game – until I realized it wasn’t accessible.

I don’t begrudge anyone their fun with Pokémon Go. It’s a good way to get folks out and around in their community if they have the ability to do so. Seeing strangers bond over a shared interest is fantastic. Some have said it helps with their mental and emotional well-being. But developers are ignoring a significant portion of gamers – disabled people. Inaccessible games are nothing new (listen to me talk about it), but we can’t accept the status quo when it increasingly and continually marginalizes us.

So, what makes Pokémon Go not accessible for me and other disabled users?Read more…

The Geeky Gimp Riots: Video Game Accessibility

screenshot of Geek Girl Riot website with headline number seventeen, the geeky gimp riots, video game accessibility with a screenshot below of access options in Uncharted 4

You knew I couldn’t stop podcasting, right?

I’m proud to share that I am now part of Geek Girl Riot, where awesome gals record short clips on everything nerdy. My segment, The Geeky Gimp Riots, focuses on disability in geekdom (surprise!).

The first one is on video game accessibility.

Transcript is available on their website. Let me know what you think in the comments below, and suggest future topics you’d like covered!

Until next time, keep rioting 😉

Let’s Play! Amnesia: The Dark Descent

I’ve finally gotten around to recording my very first Let’s Play! Watch me navigate the extra creepy game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, on my iMac via Steam. Listen as I spontaneously break into song, collect inordinate amount of tinder, and blank out on the word “armor.” Subtitles and visual descriptions included – just watch the video below, or click here. As always, leave comments here or on the video to let me know if you enjoyed, or if you have any suggestions for future installments!

Lift Off! Interview with Eduardo Baraf

Cover of Lift Off!

Greetings, earthlings!

I’m excited to present to you my new YouTube channel, titled The Geeky Gimp Presents! I’ll still be blogging here, but this is just a way for me to branch out, challenge myself with a new creative outlet, and engage my subscribers. For my very first video, I interviewed designer Eduardo Baraf. We discuss he new game, Lift Off, which is quickly becoming a hit on Kickstarter. We also talk about accessibility in gaming, his design process, and his previous game, Murder of Crows.

Transcript is available here in PDF, or below the video. PDF: LiftOffTranscript

The video also has subtitles.

You can watch the video below, or click on this link. Subscribe to the channel and receive updates on new videos! I will still be writing here, of course, but I’m just branching out into vlogging!

I hope you enjoy.

Read more…