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!

Video Games

The Nintendo Switch Launch -A Beautiful Disaster

But not really.  Since the press conference in January, I’ve been trying to get my hands on a Switch console for pre-order.  Needless to say,  was unsuccessful in doing so but that was a blessing in disguise.  Why, you might ask?  This launch has been so poorly executed, both on the side of the retailers, and Nintendo, that it’s gotten to the point where I’m just going to wait a few months before getting a console.  One of many reasons being, because Nintendo I feel was very misleading with their launch titles.

 

So a while back, they announced a Streetfighter 2 port.  I was majorly excited!  Fighting games are my jam, hands down my favorite genre to play.  What does Nintendo announce today?  That Streetfighter won’t be out until May.  If I had pre-ordered a console, I would have been pissed that I had to wait until May to get something I actually wanted to play because Breath of the Wild doesn’t really interest me.  There are a lot of games that they showed in the January press conference that Nintendo made it seem like would be releasing on launch, but then later down the line they said nope it’s coming out a month or two after launch.  The launch titles are really just Breath of the Wild and 1, 2, Switch, plus a lot of ports from old systems I don’t really care for.
Along with the lacking catalog at launch (I can forgive that, it’s just Nintendo’s way at this point) the retailers are so haphazard with this!  I’ve called around to so many retailers, and they don’t know anything.  I’ve seen so many news articles about pre-orders not being able to be fulfilled because stores were not concrete in how many systems they’d get, Best Buy saying they aren’t going to be getting as many consoles as they were told, and their midnight launch is just going to be to pick up pre-orders (another mislead). When I talked to Target, they said they were only getting 15, that’s right fifteen consoles and were going to be doing a ticket system for people to buy.  Walmart has no idea, but is just selling to people on a lay away program, and Game Stop is…well, acting like Game Stop usually does.  I have no idea how they’re working the launch, but overall the retailers are being kept in the dark, all the while Nintendo is giving out free consoles to “Nintendo Influencers” with Breath of the Wild,, but really they don’t have much to review with the console, because Breath of the Wild doesn’t have any of the Switch’s features built in.  It doesn’t use HD Rumble, and 1, 2, Switch I doubt is an indication of the full potential of the Switch’s capacity since it’s just a party game.

 

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m severely disappointed in how Nintendo is handling this launch.  Not a large launch catalog, along with Nintendo’s usual supply and demand issues just made me decide to wait until May or June to pick up a console, because at least then there will be games I want to play and the pointless hype and pre-order madness will be no more.  It’s really frustrating to not be able to pick it up at launch, for the sole reason of bad planning on Nintendo’s part.  But why should I be surprised?  This always happens with any major launch with Nintendo.  I guess I was just hoping for something a bit more organized for a change.

 

Were you able to get a Nintendo Switch pre-order?  Or are you waiting until the hype dies down to pick a console up.

Video Games

Nintendo Switch Press Conference Highlights

The Nintendo Switch Press Conference just ended and I am still riding that hype so I wanted to post real quick about it!  I’m sure you’ll be able to find plenty of news about it tomorrow, so I’m just going to mention some of my own highlights from the stream:

 

  • Even though Nintendo has a bad habit of not launching titles we want with the console, the titles we’re getting still seem good. Arms seems super fun, and 1, 2, Switch seems like it’s going to be a nice title along the lines of Wii Sports that will just be some good casual fun.  Breath of the Wild launching with the console was a great surprise too, and the trailer shown at the end of the stream actually got me wanting to buy the game.  New Splitoon, and new Xenoblade Chronicles, along with new Fire Emblem  makes me want to get the console at launch just for the anticipation of the games.
  • Man, the controls seem so smooth! It seems like they finally worked out all of the mechanics from the Wiimote and the Joycon seems like it’ll be fun to play with.  I was told its size was pretty small, but hopefully that won’t be an issue.
  • I feel like Nintendo is secretly working towards making games accessible for everyone, because man that rumble technology seems sweet! Even just listening to it being used, it sounded like it would be a really great, tactile, multi-sensory gaming experience which is great for a blind gamer like me.  The sound design sounded fantastic, also:  I could hear from multiple directions, and the sound effects were great indicators to what was going on so AHHHH I can’t wait to get my hands on a Switch to plaaaay~
  • I really like that they’re going to add multi-player online play, along with a screen shot and video capture feature. Let’s plays, anyone?  The HDMI cable included just shows Nintendo is paying attention to what their consumers want, and are looking at the future of their console.  Which, is also something they normally do, with launch titles as well.

 

Mainly, I’m super excited for what seems to be accessibility with the joycon controls built in, and the experience Nintendo is going to be trying to create with this console.  Here’s hoping it stays true to its word when it comes out on March 3rd!  I know I’m going to be pre-ordering the console, how about you?

Video Games

Gotta Capitalize on ‘Em All! A Pokemon Generations Overview

This year has been going so slow, that it’s hard for me to believe that it’s still Pokemon’s 20th anniversary.  Because of that, we’ve gotten a lot of Pokemon media this year:  Pokemon Sun and Moon, Pokemon Go, and Pokemon Generations, a series of 18 shorts posted on Pokemon’s YouTube Channel that are meant to expand on the game world of the Pokemon universe.  When first announced, this series said it was going to show us what characters in the video game universe were doing while you, as the main character were going on their journey.  A very interesting, and intriguing concept.  I was really excited for it when I heard that was the premise, because I’m a sucker for good world building and expanding pre-existing universes.  Plus, with the success of the Pokemon Origins mini-series a few years back, I was really anxious to see the games much darker universe brought to life in animated form again, since Pokemon Origins is my favorite piece of Poke-animated media.
Pokemon Generations recently posted its last episode, and I have reluctantly been watching every episode as it was posted.  Now, I’m not one of those die hard Pokemon fans:  I was into it as a kid, which if you grew up in the 90s was inevitable.  I haven’t really played a game since Ruby and Sapphire, but I figured that wasn’t a big deal because I’ve watched Let’s Plays of other games in the series and the like.  Besides, it was going to expand on the universe, not just rip scenes from the games and animate them, right?

 

Wrong!  To my dismay, practically every episode is just an animated version of something that happened in game.  Or, the “seeing what a character was doing while you were on your journey” was something you could deduce, or something that literally seemed like it was happening 2 seconds before you showed up.  Honestly, I kept on watching because I was hoping we’d see some sort of expanse of the Pokemon Universe, but I think there were maybe…3?  Episodes that did anything close to what the original premise of the series said it was going to do.  It was majorly disappointing for me.  To be completely honest, if the episodes weren’t five  minutes or less, I wouldn’t have continued watching.  It’s just a concept that had so much potential, but the fan service aspect of it seemed to take over and was nothing more than rehashing of popular scenes from the game.

 

Another thing that erked me was the amount of showing, not telling in pretty much all of the shorts.  Other than the shorts that had voice over narration to them, the majority had scarce dialogue, no indications of characters via name dropping, and most of the time I had to figure out what was going on in the short by going through the comments section of the video.  This was especially present in the more battle heavy videos, where most of the time characters were like “Attack!” then flashy battle sequences would happen, lots of sound effects, then episode ended.  Once again, I realize this is for Pokemon fans, and by watching they probably will know who is who and what scene from the game is happening, but there just was such a lack of any sort of audio queues in most of the  shorts it was not as enjoyable to me as it probably was to sighted viewers.

 

All in all, Pokemon Generations was a very polarizing experience for me.  I wanted to like it so much, but what they originally said they were going to deliver to us wasn’t what we got, and was really nothing more than a way to get some Pokemon fanservice out there.  For any non-visual fan, You’ll probably be lost unless you heavily know the source material.  When they had episodes about the generations I knew more about, I could easily catch onto what was going on but as the series continued into uncharted territory I felt more and more disconnected from the material.  And I think that’s the best way I can put this series:  It was alright, nothing mind blowing, a bit alienating.  I’d say watch it anyways if you just have time to kill, because each episode is five or less minutes. Just not the web series for me, I guess.

 

What did you think of Pokemon Generations?  Missed opportunity, or did it make your inner Pokemon Trainer squee.