Game Accessibility

Game Inclusive of Visually Impaired Players

AudiOdysseyAs video games continue to grow as an internationally inclusive pastime, a group of researchers has created a truly accessible game which goes beyond flashy graphics. Titled AudiOdyssey, the rhythm-based DJ game is meant for ordinary and visually impaired gamers alike.

With gameplay mechanics mainly focused on sound, users play as a DJ building a catchy tune to get people on the dance floor. Developed for the PC, the game also makes use of Nintendo’s Wii remote, through a Bluetooth wireless connection. However, this last bit is not mandatory as players can also control the game with their keyboard’s arrow keys. Players match the beats by swinging the remote and each time they get it right, a new layer of sound is added. Read More...

AudiOdyssey was developed by the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, a partnership between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the government of Singapore, which explores new directions for the development of games as a medium.

"Everything that happens in the game has two components -- the visual component where you can see what's going on, and then there is the audio component where you can also hear what's going on," said Eitan Glinert a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., and owner of the program.

"We were interested in seeing if we could make a game that would work equally well for both groups," Glinert said.

Another important feature is a completely voice-guided menu, which truly allows the visually impaired to play with ease.

Clara Fernandez tested the system by playing it blindfolded. "It's a very similar experience if you do it without looking or you cannot see," Fernandez said. "It [actually] might be more enjoyable, because you are focusing on the music, and you're enjoying the music as you go."

Forty-one-year-old Alicia Verlager also tested the game. For her, though, the fun is a bit more significant. She's visually impaired.

"Play is one of the ways in which people build relationships," she pointed out, in a news report. "It's fun to take on the challenge of a game and take turns encouraging and laughing at each other's sillier mistakes. That's the experience I am really craving in a game -- the social aspects."

The value of an accessible mainstream game is also considerable. "I really get frustrated with the way blind people are portrayed as if they live in isolation from the rest of the world and have no sighted family or friends," she says.

"Ideally, [players] shouldn't even know that it is designed with the visually impaired in mind, since we want to make a 'mainstream' game," said Eitan Glinert. "After they find out that the game is designed to be accessible, it increases awareness."

AudiOdyssey is currently available as a free download online, running on most recent versions of Windows. Glinert would also like to see the title moving on to the console, in the near future. "If we get the chance we'll definitely move quickly on that," he added.