Editorials/Opinion Pieces · Video Games

What An Accessible Video Game to the Blind Means to Me

Disclaimer:  This is an opinion piece, I am by no means an expert and am just voicing my viewpoint on the subject.

 

I see it often, as news on Twitter and Facebook.  “A game fully accessible for the blind!” and I go check it out, and it’s a game that’s just a completely black screen, with auditory feedback only.  Perhaps some tactile feedback as well, but to me, those games don’t quite cut it.  I won’t say it’s not accessible, because it is, but at the same time it feels like it’s still limiting the amount that the blind can play with their sighted peers.    Before I get fully into this post though, I’d like to say I’m super happy with the headway accessibility has gotten in the past ten years.  The fact that it’s something game developers are even thinking about, and implementing in their games is amazing, and makes me want to get back into gaming again.  I saw that even big companies, like Microsoft and Sony are putting text to speech controls in their consoles, and I’m hoping that the Switch will follow suit (though the HD Rumble is a step in the right direction).  Indi developers that think about how to adapt their games, and create games specifically for the blind isn’t something that I would see when I was a teenager and pre-teen, and it warms my heart to see that people are even thinking of how to make things easily available for everyone to play.
With that out of the way, I feel like making games without graphics isn’t exactly the right way to go with making games accessible.  I know being legally blind is a rather blanket term, but being legally blind, or visually impaired, doesn’t always mean someone is 100 percent blind.  There are people who have full sight out of one eye, have light perception, tunnel vision, peripheral vision, and so many other visual spectrums, that developers should account for.  Sure, a legally blind gamer who has sight in one eye but none in the other may like to play a game that doesn’t have any visuals, but they also may not care for that sort of game and want to play something that has graphics they can see to the best of their ability, to immerse them further in the gaming experience also available to their sighted peers.

 

Blindness is a term a lot of us use because it’s easiest to say instead of something like “I’m actually visually impaired, I can see colors and light perception” because to a lot of people, that’s hard for them to grasp.  I know I’ve seen a lot of blind gamers just say, give me good sound design in a Triple A title I’ll do the rest with my other senses.  For some, being able to magnify things is enough, while for others, the text to speech menu options are all they’d need.  Others would just need inverted color schemes, while others may prefer a fully audio, fully tactile game.

 

What I prefer in a game, is just to have the entire experience, like any normal game.  Sound design is fantastic nowadays:  I watch videos of games on YouTube, and can tell what’s going on just by the placement of the sound.  I don’t have any new gen consoles, but I can only imagine how easy it is to play and how immersive it is for a blind gamer.  I memorize where things are, or get sighted help from friends and family when something is too difficult, but overall that’s usually my gaming experience.  That being said, I love fighting games for how easy they are to just pick up and play.  Pick a mode, pick a fighter, and you’re good to go XD

 

Like I said, I’m super impressed, and happy to see the strides that developers, both big and small are taking towards gaming being doable for everyone.  But when I see a game that says it’s fully accessible, but is lacking in features, I’m always so conflicted.  I love that people are doing it, but at the same time, why not do it so it’s literally accessible to everyone?  Games like 1, 2, Switch are doing a good job of being playable for everyone, while not looking like it’s excluding anyone from being able to play, and I think that’s more what developers need to stride for as far as making a game fully accessible goes.  A no graphics, audio only game may be interesting, and a good game to have out there but at the end of the day it’s very niche and won’t be as interesting a game to play as say, a Final Fantasy game and I’d overall just like to see more access to games that are more mainstream.  Good steps in the right direction on all fronts though, very interested to see where game development for the blind and visually impaired will be going in the next few years.

 

Have any thought’s on the subject?  Would love to hear in the comments!

Editorials/Opinion Pieces

A Musical Moment: Searching for Friends from Final Fantasy VI

Welcome to the first post of my new blog feature, A Musical Moment!  I’ll be talking about tracks or albums of music that I love from video games, anime, and other nerdy media I watch and going in depth about why I love them so much.  For my first feature, I wanted to do a track from my favorite RPG of all time:  Final Fantasy VI!
This particular track is from the 3rd disc of the soundtrack, which I find to be the most neglected disc from the OST.  I find all of the World of Ruin music to be amazing, but this piece in particular from that section of the game is one I adore.

 

Picture this:  You’re in a baron wasteland of a world, and barely realized that at least a few of your friends are alive.  But you still have to stop the mad man who sent the world into chaos.  To do so, you need an airship to get to the big bad’s airborn tower, which, the only airship was destroyed when the world was.  But, hurray!  You find out your airship pilot was hiding a second pair of wings (attached to a tragic backstory, because of course) and had to go to an underground crypt to get the new airship.

 

Cut to outside.  The baron wasteland is still prominent, but amongst the murky waters of the ocean, you see a cresting wave.  It’s your airship bursting out of the water, taking its first flight, and the first few chords of this play:

 

 

 

I LOVE THIS THEME!  It captures all the hope your party is feeling in that moment.  There are still some unsure, melancholy chords in it, but the main melody soars it the absolute joy that is realizing it’s alright to hope again. And, as a bonus, this is your new world map theme!  What impresses me about this song is it’s chord structure, as well.  I’ve been transcribing different Nobuo Uematsu tracks on piano, partially to learn piano and particularly because I was curious.  Most, if not all of his melodies, are all done entirely in one scale!  Searching for Friends has 2 sharp notes in its melody structure, but the rest are white keys.  It never strays out of the scale it starts in, and that always amazes me.  It’s fantastic how many melodies you can make with only one octave  at your disposal, and even when Uematsu-sensei goes outside of the octave in other tracks, it’s still just transposed notes.  It’s something I’ve been mirroring in my compositions, because if you’re going to learn how to make music, why not learn from one of the greats?

 

When I think of all that Final Fantasy VI captures for me, I think of this song.  Simply a gorgeous piece of music, wonderfully written.

 

And that was my first musical moment!  Hope you enjoyed it.  What’s your favorite track from Final Fantasy VI?  Let me know in the comments below!

Editorials/Opinion Pieces

My Policy on Spoilers

I’ve been wanting to start this series of opinion pieces on different fandom/nerdy topics, but couldn’t think of a snazzy name for it.  That’s a silly reason to not start a post series, so I’ll just write some and if I come up with a snazzy name rename and tag accordingly later.

 

If you’ve spent even a second on the internet, I’m sure you’ve seen the word “spoiler” around.  More specifically, you’ve probably seen “No spoilers!” which to me, is even more annoying to see.  After all, if you don’t want spoilers you can not read or look up stuff about the topic, instead of yelling at the entire interwebs about sharing spoilers.  This got me thinking:  What do I think about getting spoilers?  Scratch that, I already know the answer:  I don’t care about seeing spoilers.  But that got me thinking:  why don’t I care about seeing spoilers?

 

The short answer is, I don’t think seeing a spoiler detracts from enjoying a story.  When you look at the story structure of an anime, a book, a game, they all are very straight forward.  Every story has a beginning, middle, and end, and getting spoilers for say, the end of a story will never spoil the journey I experience with the characters.  A spoiler doesn’t ruin getting to know a character, cheering for them, crying with them, all in all bonding with them.  And, let’s be real:  unless you read a Wikipedia article, you’ll never get every spoiler from a story.  If you’re reading a Wikipedia article, or looking at say, tumblr to see if you’ll like the story, you probably weren’t fully invested in experiencing the story in the first place, because if you were, you’d just hop straight into experiencing the story.  So when I see a spoiler like someone dying, or the final plot twist, or a betrayal, I’m not really concerned because even though you know that spoiler occurs, you don’t know how the other characters react to that death, or plot twist, or betrayal.  You don’t know how anything will effect the story moving forward from that point on, because you only really know that one specific event in time that happened, unless for some reason you read the synopses of the entire story (which I do often).

 

Still, after reading an entire synopses, I decide to watch or read the story anyways.  Why?  Like I said, there’s a huge difference in just reading what is essentially a plot blurb, and watching 25 episodes, of ups and downs with characters, seeing the inner workings of the world you’re setting takes place in, the side characters that aren’t mentioned in the synopses because they aren’t relevant  enough to the central plot to be mentioned. There’s a lot of depth to every story, and knowing spoilers really doesn’t detract from that depth of story for me.  If it’s just a bad story however, I really could care less about knowing what happens.  It may peek my interest enough to wiki the plot, but I really don’t want to sit through 20+ hours of force feeding myself a boring story, when I’m more or less slightly curious to see how the story unfolded.  A good example for me of this recently, is The Red Queen novels by Victoria Aveyard.  If you read my review of the first book, you’ll know I couldn’t stand the characters or premise.  However, the third book of the series came out last month, and I’ve heard that some things I wanted from the first book happened in the third.  I wasn’t willing to read the second book, or buy the third, and that’s where simply looking at spoilers and synopses came in handy.  In the end, there seem to be good concepts, but not enough for me to brave revisiting that series again.

 

A better question for me I suppose, is when do I not like spoilers?  Usually when I’ve already started reading a book series, or watching an anime/TV show, and am enjoying the ride.  Because of the speed I consume media at when I start…consuming it, stopping and looking for spoilers just isn’t my style.  If something is driving me crazy that won’t be revealed for a while (like will a certain romantic pairing end up together, because authors like to drag that sort of thing out) I’ll go look up a spoiler so I’m not driven crazy while reading or watching.  Sometimes that backfires, because it’s easy to read a piece of spoiler material you don’t want to know, but for some things it’s easy for me to forget what I didn’t want to know.  Other than wanting to know tiny tid bits like that, if I’ve started a story and only know the basics about it before starting it, I won’t look up anything about it because I’ll finish it in a few days anyways, so what’s the point of looking up spoilers.  I’m doing this with the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron, because I’m really enjoying the ride and it’s an easy, light hearted read to get through (most of the time, it’s starting to get a bit dark).  Even if I find a spoiler with this method of media consumption, it doesn’t bother me that much because still, it’s all about the journey, and why the events leading up to the spoiler made the spoiler happen, and how it effects the characters and plot.
So that’s my basic policy on spoilers!  TL;DR  They don’t bother me at all, and some people need to chill out about seeing them, or not engage in social media about them until they’re done enjoying the story.  What’s your policy on spoilers?