Micro Sprint

Screen shot of one-switch race game, Micro Sprint. An overhead racetrack where you can see all the cars racing.

I overlooked Micro Sprint the first time I saw it, but that was a mistake. This is superb. It's a pure one-switch racing game for one to eight players (or up to two players with the free demo). It's not far away from Atari's Championship Sprint but far more accessible.

The entire menu system is one-switch accessible, activated by setting the "GUI AUTO CYCLE" to your preferred speed (find it in the preferences area). Even when you have this system on, you can still very comfortably use the mouse if needed for setting a game up, as it deactivates auto-scanning for a few seconds when you move it. Very nice.

The game has reconfigurable controls, various difficulty levels, practice areas and an excellent speed assist mode which I've not seen before. When switched on, you get a little green or red indicator that follows your car around. If it's red it means you need to slow down or you'll bash into the side of the track. A nice alternative to "auto-braking" which would take all the fun out of a Scalextric game otherwise. I also really like the way it indicates where your car is at the start of a race when you press your switch impatiently.

You will need good visual tracking skills to play this well on the harder levels as the cars are tiny. This is a great game, and well worth the current $2.49 asking price.

You can find more one-switch race games at the OneSwitch library.

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Playing the Spoons

AccessAble Games have made fun use of the Makey Makey DIY controller kit. Playing Dirt 3 with spoons. Gives an idea for how light-pressure control can be in this way. Would love to see this made compatible with modern games consoles.

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A Sea Change?

A sunny hazy picture from the sea of a train running down Southend-on-Sea pier.

This post is aimed at the game industry in general: I remember back in 2006 Kotaku publishing a really offensive article linked to game accessibility. It was an example of one or two ignorant men in positions of power, not really getting it.

What was far more frustrating to come up against at the time was the amount of ignorance in general around what things in gaming design were commonly disabling people; What it was that stopped people from being able to enjoy playing a game. It wasn't that people in gaming didn't care about their fellow humans. It was frequently that they simply just didn't know anyone was finding it a struggle.

Roll on six years, and I can sense a sea-change in understanding, willing and empathy. It makes me really proud and happy to have been a small part of the game accessibility movement that is bringing this about.

Below are some key 21st century efforts to get good useful information across to game developers...

IGDA GASIG White Paper (October 2004)
RetroRemakes "Why Can't They Play?" (April 2005 onwards)
IGDA GASIG Top 10 (September 2005)
UA-Games Game Over! (April 2007)
Eelke Folmer's Help You Play Interaction Design for Games (May 2007)
OneSwitch Design Tips for... (August 2008)

BBC's internal Accessible Games Standards v1.0 (August 2010)
7-128's Blind Computer Games Guidelines (January 2011)
SpecialEffect's Wish List for Accessible Game Design (May 2011)
SpecialEffect's Top 5 Tips for Game Developers (September 2011)
IGDA GASIG Top 10 (revised September 2011)

CEAPAT Best Practices in Video Games (Spanish April 2012)
Ian Hamilton headed Game Accessibility Guidelines (September 2012)
AbleGamer's Includification (September 2012)

You can find much more at the moth-balled Game-Accessibility.com  resource section. To be honest, you can't go too far wrong with most of the above. Dive in!

This isn't everything developers need, and the sheer quantity of information can seem daunting (try addressing one point of a Top 5 or Top 10 for a gentler route in). There's still a long way to go before there's a truly one-stop resource for all you need. Perhaps there never will be. Don't let that stop you trying to boost accessibility. And never forget that even if you add just one accessibility feature, it can make a massive difference.

This all very much ties up with the UN's Convention of the Right of the Child, Article 31:

"1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity."

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Includification: Includification.com. A practical guide to Game Accessibility.

Mark Barlet and Steve Spohn of AbleGamers have brought together a truly impressive set of Game Accessibility Guidelines: Includification.

The booklet and site give rich and colourful reasons for why access matters, and why it's not as intimidating as some may think. Really great to see.

On a personal level, I'm really chuffed to have had an opportunity to shout out to touch-screen developers to think a bit more about those who can't use their devices. Here's hoping...

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Massively impressed by the bespoke game controller above from Remap's Leicestershire and Rutland panel. This is an approach I've not seen before, but it looks like it works brilliantly.

The need for this type of controller I have seen before. Other solutions for people include that of Marc Busnel in France and by using an array of Altec Ultralight switches.

Update 06-01-2014: This controller was built by Graham Law which interfaces into a standard console switch interface.

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Doo-zy Switch

"The Doo-zy Switch is a unique switch for people with special needs packed with features to meet a wide range of communication, access and control needs. Join in stories, play your favourite music, control toys even change channels on the TV. The light touch low profile switch has light and vibration prompts and feedback making it easy to access for those with complex sensory or physical needs. Using the Magic eye the Doo-zy can even work with no touch at all!"

Via Trabasack.

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New HKL Accessible Games and Activities

Six screenshots: Games: Space Shooter, a space invaders themed game. Stories: Car Wash, a cartoon image of a man in an open-top car with the roof-down in a car wash. Find Out: Loud the Track, an image of a crane loader and flat-bed lorry. Early Years: Bumper Cars, image of two cartoon bumper cars bashing each other head-on. Stories: Five Little Aliens, image of a space ship. Games: Hurdel Champion, cartoon image of two hurdlers.

A raft of new activities, many of them one-switch accessible have arrived at the Help Kidz Learn site. They've also some one-switch accessible games for the iPad, which are extremely rare things to find at the minute. Most work from a cause and effect level onwards.

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One Switch Music Games

Four images of switch accessible games. Clockwise from top-left, being: Guitar Hero World Tour, (adapted guitar with large red accessibility switch). D.J. Hero 2. Um Jammer Lammy in one-button play mode. And Konami's Dancing Stage, a.k.a. Dance Dance Revolution.

SpecialEffect's GameBase is turning up some really nice one-switch games just lately. Turns out that DJ Hero 2 has a one-button playable "Beginner" option. The guy playing with his foot, Isaac, has a way in. For those unable to access in that way, I'm guessing a one-switch hack would be pretty easy to do.

Added with pleasure to the "Musical One Switch Games" area.

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Around the world...

It's been so encouraging to see so much positive coverage for the Game Accessibility Guidelines. Even more so, to see all the positive comments. Things are progressing. Well done, Ian Hamilton and all involved in this struggle, past, present and future.

Mentioned on the BBC, Destructoid, Game Informer, Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun, as of now over 150 unique mentions on Twitter (i.e. excluding Re-tweets) and beyond.

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Game Accessibility Guidelines

Game accessibility guidelines: A straightforward reference for inclsuive game design. Guidance, examples and advice on how and why to cater for gamers with disabilities and other impairments.

"Today sees the launch of a comprehensive developer guide to addressing the accessibility issues faced by over 20% of video gamers:

www.gameaccessibilityguidelines.com has been created by a group of developers and experts, coordinated by Ian Hamilton, an accessibility and usability specialist with a background in game development. 

The website offers all developers guidelines on how to better serve the needs of gamers with a range of visual, hearing, speech, learning and motor conditions. The hope is that by highlighting the relatively simple changes needed, the games industry as a whole will be able to ensure that they quickly become part of its normal working practices."

Read the full press-release at Real-Wire. Really happy to have been a part-of this effort. Now lets hope it takes hold and develops further with the support of all with an interest in this field.

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