IGDA Game Accessibility Special Interest Group

360 Magazine - "The Forgotten Gamers?"

360 Magazine front cover - issue 42 - featuring 'The Forgotten Gamers?' article on game accessibility. Alice Bonasia has written a fine six-page article on the state of game accessibility as represented by the Xbox 360 magazine - "360".

It opens: "As the games industry continues to look for that elusive 'Blue Ocean', is it actually missing a core gaming audience that not only enjoys games but also enjoys significant improvement in its quality of life because of them? 360 investigates gamers with disabilities and what's being done to incorporate them."

It closes: "It does seem strange, to say the least, that with all the talk of breaking into new markets and wooing new audiences to gaming, the industry steadfastly ignores a ready-made audience that asks for nothing more than to be able to play these games. Disabled gamers seem to be one of the last great untapped audiences, and leaving them behind could be, if nothing else, a very costly mistake".

Whet your appetite? Then support the supporters and order yourself a copy from Imagine Publishing. Alternatively if you're in the UK, they're on the shelves now at £2.95 a copy.


Accessibility and Rock Band

Accessible Rock BandFrom AbleGamers: "The great people over at Harmonix have sent us two "ROCK BAND - SPECIAL EDITION", one for Playstation 2, and one for XBOX 360 for us to use in our fund raising efforts for GDC [promoting accessibility at the Game Developers Conference 2009].

We are selling raffle tickets for each at the price of $10... We are only selling 50 tickets for EACH one, so there is a 1 in 50 chance to win (or more if you buy more). We will have the winner selected and sent out as close to Christmas as we can (We are shooting for Dec 15th)." More on the compo here.

Excitingly for OneSwitch is that Harmonix generously sent some kit my way to see what I could do with it to make it more accessible. Now my daughter and her friends are at school (presently known as "The Rockettes") I've got a chance to pull it apart and see what's what.

Great from the off is that any accessibility switch with a 3.5mm plug (that's almost all these days) can be connected to act as the bass-drum foot-pedal. So if you can't use your feet - you may still be able to use any other part of your body to play.

The next brilliant thing is in it's compatibility with a PC through the USB sockets. I've had the Guitar playing riffs via the Guitar Shred Show and drums playing my own samples quite easily using JoyToKey. Following recent accessible music work with William Pilgrim, we've got something else in the pipe-line that will work with Rock Band controllers and/or accessibility switches. More coming soon...

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Unique Custom Gaming Controllers - part 2

Image of a complex bespoke accessible controller set-up for the Playstation 3. Mark Felling of Broadened Horizons and "KitsuneNoYume" worked together to build a pretty marvellous bespoke controller to suit Kitsune's particular abilities, much as MERU did for Frankie in the previous post.

This fantastic work spread to the news portals of Kotaku. I can't say that I'm 100% impressed with the 'Handicapped PS3 Owner builds Frankenstein controller' heading - but the coverage this has garnered is a great thing. Now Sony - any chances of you lot doing anything for accessibility? Go on - you don't want to be last again do you?

Via: Playstation 3 forum - YouTube video here.

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Unique Custom Gaming Controllers - part 1

Danielle, Frankie's sister and carer, says: 'Frankie's ability to do things he enjoys has gradually been declining and for him to suddenly be enabled rather than disabled is like a miracle. Thank you so much. MERU and others have created some fantastic bespoke controllers for people needing unique solutions. This from their Summer 2008 newsletter:

"Nineteen-year-old Frankie has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive, muscle-wastin condition. As a result, he has severely limited mobility and this means he has to spend most of his time in bed.

During the few hours a day Frankie can spend in a chair, he enjoys playing on his Playstation. However his condition had progressed to the point where it had become impossible for him to use the conventional controller supplied with his console.

Cardiff University, near Frankie's home in Powys, Wales, tried to help by making a custom footswitch but his deteriorating condition meant that within a short time Frankie could no longer use it.

Although Wales is a long way outside MERU's usual area the charity became involved becuase no other organisation had the appropriate skills.

Over 17 months Project Leaders Graham Race and Hayley Smith made several visits to Wales and trialled different solutions.

Eventually they and volunteer engineers Adrian Fisher and Doug Sander devised and made a completely unique solution which would capture Frankie's movements, giving him full use of the Playstation's 18 controls.

It also has the flexibility to let a carer take over some of the functions if Frankie gets tired.

Frankie can now use his switches to play the games he loves."

Sadly Frankie recently died. Full respect to him, his family and MERU for what they strived for and achieved. Support MERU here.

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The Escapist: The Silent Majority

Image of Enjoy the Silence 12inch record cover. Black rose on yellow background. "It's not that hard to understand the plight of the deaf gamer - just try playing Dead Space with the sound turned off.

EA's new sci-fi horror game is a showcase for big-budget production values, seething with smoky atmosphere and gory detail - all in the service of scaring the shit out of you. It's obvious that the publisher spared no expense. EA produced a comic book series. It released an animated movie prequel. It localized for Polish speakers.

Step onto the deck of USG Ishimura without the aid of headphones or speakers, however, and the game falls apart. Without sound, you don't hear music cues, the swell of dissonant strings that alerts you to danger. Without sound, you don't hear the monster leaping out of the ventilation duct behind you. Without sound, you don't hear the whiz of passing poison darts, much less where they're coming from.

Dead Space without sound is fundamentally broken..."

Read the rest of this excellent article at The Escapist: The Silent Majority.

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Fundraising for Special Effect

Image of Special Effect and Retro Remakes banners below an image of a young boy delighted whilst using an Eye Tracker for the first time successfully.The following is taken directly from Retro Remakes a community of game programmers and huge long-term supporters of the accessible gaming movement:

"As you're all no doubt aware, we've dedicated a category to getting some games made to help out the SpecialEffect Games For Helen project. Well, that's not all we fancied doing for the cause.

As well as trying to get a bunch of games banged together, we figured we'd try and go the extra mile and raise some cold hard cash for Special Effect so that they can keep on doing the damn fine work that they do in making games more inclusive and getting more young people out there playing not just our games, but games as a whole.

Now, I know there's a credit crunch, times are hard, it's coming up to Christmas and all that - I also know that not everyone has a few quid to spare. We've set the target pretty low - £500. If enough people chuck in just a few pounds then we'll get there in no time. If you can't afford to donate, and I know that with all the best will in the world sometimes you just can't give - that's fine, no pressure whatsoever people. But if you can spread the word, tell people about it - make a blog post, pass it on, then it'll help us get to that £500 target in no time and I'll be eternally grateful.

We're going through JustGiving - it's the fastest and easiest way to get your cash to the charities and to get the GiftAid for UK donations sorted. Our page is here: http://www.justgiving.com/retroremakes - it's not very pretty, but it doesn't have to be, right?

It's open for 12 months so there's plenty of time to do this and in the very near future I'll be announcing this on the front page, there'll be links on all the competition pages too.

Here's that page again: http://www.justgiving.com/retroremakes

Thanks chaps and dig as deep as you can, spread the word wherever you can. We're all gamers here of one variety or another, lets help bring some games and some smiles to some kids faces."

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Midnight Tune 3 - Namco Barrier-Free Technology

Image of a Namco/Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3 arcade racing game - with the seat removed and replaced with a wheelchair ramp. It seems the foot pedals have been replaced by a hand control. Following on from Atari's race game SF Rush 2049 which featured an accessibility feature for gamers unable to work the foot pedals comes an adapted "Maximum Tune 3" from Namco.

Namco are known in some circles for their Assisitive Technology and Rehabilitainment work. It's fantastic to see them carry this on with such a fun game. More please - oh and some accessibility switch sockets would be great next time too!

Via: OneSwitch.org.uk



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