Stevie Wonder's Plea For Accessibility In Games

Undoubtedly, the Spike Video Game Awards' Best Music Game was going to go to The Beatles: Rock Band, and the show lined up a presenter with enough star power to do the job last night: Motown legend Stevie Wonder.

But it's what Wonder did with the moment that shows why the man is and has been so respected, for so long, in both his art and popular culture. In praising the rhythm genre for creating accessibility to disabled gamers, Wonder - blind since birth - called on the industry as a whole to follow that example, and find ways that this emerging art form may be enjoyed by everyone.

Yes, "video game" would imply that sight is a necessary condition of participation. People have had the same assumption about baseball, which is also played by the blind; basketball is contested by those who use wheelchairs. On and on. These are not the games many people choose to play, and they are not the ones we watch on television. But the value these sports present to their participants can't be qualified by whether the fully abled would want to play.

Similarly, perhaps a game for the blind, whatever form it takes, would not be one that you or I would buy. But Stevie Wonder is right; as the art form mainstreams, it acquires mainstream obligations to serve more communities that wish to enjoy it. His message last night was on the mark. This is a remarkably creative industry, and it can find a way.

Stevie Wonder Pleads for "Disabled Accessibility" [The Lost Gamer]


    Look, I'm all for a Modern Warfare braile edition, but sadly its not going to happen. The market is driven by $$ and theres simply not enough in it for developers. I hate TH Ride, as I'm in a wheelchair, but I also realize games cant be made just for me.

      Still, perhaps a designer could create a whole new genre or style of game by taking this seriously. As Edward De Bono points out with his concept of "Po", perhaps it's worthwhile considering what would happen if the wheel was square.

    How exactly is the Rhythm Genre more accessible? And how is it at all accessible to blind people?

    Is there some kind of non-visual cue as to what key to press?

      Perhaps you could have the fret buttons vibrate. Not sure if that would be fun but it's the first solution that came to mind.

      The Music, perhaps?

    Well, a lot of the things you can do to improve the accessibility of a game can also improve it for able bodied users too.

    For example, providing subtitles for the text helps deaf players, but also helps people who might be playing in a noisy environment where it is hard to make out the dialogue. It can also help people who find it easier to understand written english than spoken english.

    Another easy area to address is colour blindness. This affects a fairly large number of people. As a game developer, you don't lose much creative freedom by making the puzzles solvable to people who won't be able to distinguish certain objects by colour alone.

      This is one of the many things which Peggle gets right - the colour-blind mode adds extra symbols to the pegs to clarify their type.

    My God! An entire market for games where you don't have to spend tens of millions of dollars playing the visual effects arms race with everyone else so that people will even consider playing the demo of your game.

    I see market opportunities here.

    Multi User Dungeons have long been an alternative for blind video gamers. When used with text to speech software they too can enjoy fantasy realms.

    Great to hear Stevie Wonder bringing this issue into the mainstream!

    Michael Munoz suggests MUDs... I suggest *adventure* games have great potential for people without sight.

    A great example of a commercial game for blind people is Chillingham, which I discovered at Game On when it toured Melbourne.

    On the subject of gaming with a visual impairment.. I wonder how many Kotaku readers would be aware that the new Galaga world record holder (An Aussie, Phil Day) had actually lost sight in one eye, years earlier.

    I discovered this whilst interviewing him recently - and was interested to learn that it's *depth of field* that caused him issues - he had to give up real life sports but videogames give him a chance to compete & enjoy himself without 'depth of field' ability.

    I saw an adventure game at that game exhibit what ever it was called, sound only, I think it was like a point and click adventure.

    I do hope developers give this a go. Unfortunately, I feel some developers are more interested in profits *cough* activision *cough* than making games more accessible.

    I haven't played for quite a while but had been a regular player over at who provide a variety of games (draw poker, texas holdem, crazy eights, anagrams, loco locution) that are equally accessible to sighted or blind players.

    I was continually amazed at how well the games were designed such that as a sighted player I couldn't tell whether I was playing against a sighted or blind player. Highly recommended and an example of how companies can challenge the general pre-conceptions of activities the blind can and do participate in.

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