Computer Games for the blind
April 5, 2017 1:16 PM   Subscribe

This article is a look at how some blind people are able to play roguelike games, which are often regarded as hard for people who have full sight.
posted by Alensin (17 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I've played several of the mentioned games myself, and find the experience engaging, for sure. They're the closest blind people can come to the sorts of main-stream titles sighted people play all the time, and it's happy accident that we can enjoy them at all. I wish more companies were aware of the potential market in the disabled community, not just for games, but in general.
posted by Alensin at 1:36 PM on April 5, 2017 [12 favorites]

A Blind Legend (audio only computer game) is on sale on Steam until April 10th coincidentally. I think there's some free teaser levels available on android. Reviews are mixed, a little too much re-use of audio for a game where it's the sole component, but I think I might pick up a copy just to encourage future development.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:38 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, audio gaming has made fairly big strides in the past while, though it tends towards the simplistic gameplay-wise. I still have yet to find anything which had real staying power beyond a couple hours of enjoyment, unfortunately.
posted by Alensin at 1:47 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm kind of an arse, so I never tracked down quite why the Retro Remakes community (focussed on PC remakes of 8-bit mostly-UK computer games) made 1-button controls highly-encouraged/required, but it good on them all the same. I've always been of the opinion that accessibility features in software ultimately benefit everyone, which I'll defend to the death despite acknowledging it being a pretty watery "woo! pragmatism!" sort of argument.

Wasn't there a Roguelike Radio podcast episode about blind or people dependent upon screenreaders enjoying playing roguelikes too?
posted by comealongpole at 1:50 PM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also notable is space giraffe, a game where the only way to win is based on the sounds, and the visuals are just a distraction.
posted by idiopath at 1:53 PM on April 5, 2017

There's a podcast episode linked in the article, comealongpole - is that the one?

Interesting article, thanks, Alensin.

(Looking forward to telling my ten-year-old niece, who has just got addicted to Nethack, that "for many people the barrier is too high" - she will smug.)
posted by paduasoy at 2:01 PM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, cited in that article, actually. :) I take a small amount of credit if only because I was the one who introduced the principle blind guest to the genre.
posted by Alensin at 2:03 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

OK, so I've just actually read TFA and that's great. Not least because Moritz is playing DCSS which is clearly the best roguelike of our times... alright, apart from Brogue or Sil or whatever, if you like that sort of thing. The fact that the streamlined design of Brogue can facilitate the more small-a accessible Brogue-SPEAK is great, IMHO.

Finally, per the article, Roguelike Radio absolutely did do an episode around visually-impaired play:
posted by comealongpole at 2:04 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just read this before I saw the FPP and thought it was great. This is a very underserved community in practically every way but especially when it comes to gaming. Interesting to see how the visually impaired community has made its own path.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:39 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you ever get the opportunity to work with or observe a blind software developer, do -- it is really amazing. Actually, the way I take in rogelikes is my best way to understand how my blind friend reads source code; rather than a stream of machine-gun rapid garbled letter sounds, he must be building up a gestalt from the available input.

Some roguelikes also have periods where the game character is blind and then more of the UI that the player uses will be the same UI that works well in a screen reader. Although at least in nethack, even while blind it displays the part of the dungeon your character has explored.
posted by joeyh at 2:43 PM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

And I thought playing nethack with the zen conduct was tough...
posted by jim in austin at 3:50 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

jim in austin: "And I thought playing nethack with the zen conduct was tough..."

posted by Samizdata at 6:37 PM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm really excited to play these games and see this posted, especially since I want to learn how to design accessible software. Just got A Blind Legend!
posted by yueliang at 7:42 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Actually, to be honest, this also sparks another interest in me, and as a sighted person, I hope this comment doesn't come off as insensitive or appropriating, but if it is, please let me know if you are able to!

I've always wanted to learn how to make games, but the idea of designing something with visual elements has always really daunted me since my visual art skills are still really not where I want to be. But I love sound and music...even though I am not blind, what kind of games or opportunities would people want to play? I guess I could start brainstorming, but I figure I would write it here first. I genuinely know very little about the needs of the blind community but I'd be down to do the research.
posted by yueliang at 8:21 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

The question isn't offensive at all. :) I'm not representative of blind people in general, but it's safe to say that we're interested in variety. You can find blind people interested in anything from action-heavy games to sports to complicated strategic affairs.

You might find this older article of interest. It quotes from a variety of blind people, and the field moves pretty slowly in general. Mobile platforms really have done a lot for audio games, though there's still so much farther to go.
posted by Alensin at 8:32 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I guess I could start brainstorming, but I figure I would write it here first. I genuinely know very little about the needs of the blind community but I'd be down to do the research.

If you're interested in game development, simply reading through forum posts on audiogames (which is not just about games that involve audio) is really, really interesting and enlightening.
posted by advil at 10:18 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I've always thought submarines would be a good subject for audio-only games. Like, maybe you wear one of those vr headsets, and you get your sonar pings back from whatever direction you're facing. You have to figure out where the enemy sub is, and figure out if you have to avoid torpedoes and stuff. Switch between passive and active sonar. Hear if the enemy sub is loudly singing Russian folk tunes on the bridge of their sub like they were in that one sub movie for some reason I forget.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 10:07 AM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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