Playing video games as a couple can be hard enough, but try finding something for two people to play when one of them is blind adds a whole new set of considerations. Enter 1-2 Switch, the interactive party game that finally gave a wife and her blind husband something they could enjoy together.
At 23, Rich Maroney was diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy as a result of Type 1 diabetes. He and his wife, Mandi Bundren, have fun at the movies, go to concerts, and hiking trips without any problem. For gaming it's different though. "We can't play video games together unless we have something like 1-2 Switch that uses multi-sensory output," said Mandi.
Rich loves fighting games but she's not that into them, so with the exception of Wii Play and Wii Sports several years ago, the the games that come along that they can both enjoy are few and far between. Thankfully, 1-2 Switch is one of them, due in no small part to the HD Rumble in the Switch's Joy-Con. The technology is supposed to delivery specific physical sensations through the controllers beyond just whether it's vibrating or not.
In the Switch's reveal, the example was given of being able to distinguish how many ice cubes were theoretically clinking in a glass based on haptic feedback alone. In 1-2 Switch, a mini-game like "Safe Crack" uses the HD Rumble to simulate for the player each step in trying to undo a combination lock.
"His favourite is Quick Draw because of how quickly he is able to react to win," said Mandi.
"He beats me every single time. He is also really good at Ping Pong and Boxing Gym. You have to move your hands and arms really fast and I just can't compete with him. We both really like Safe Crack — it is really cool how you have to detect a slight change in the rumble to know when you've hit your mark. My favourites are Ball Count and Shaver because those are really the only ones I consistently win."
Being a longtime fan of Nintendo, Mandi was set on getting a Switch back when seeing the first preview last October. "My husband was too — we actually have his original NES from his childhood sitting on our TV stand," Mandi said.
But when she brought it home last Friday after work, she didn't expect to fall in love with the game the way they did. "When he got home from work at 7 I put the game in and asked him to play with me," she wrote in her original Reddit post on the subject. "I didn't expect to play for more than 15 minutes, but it was after 9 before we quit."
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The truth is there aren't that many games out there for people who are blind or live with other complications. Some people have found creative ways to make do anyway, but whether it's games that don't include voiced dialogue, or only include voiced dialogue, there's a lot of work to be done in the continuing effort to make games more accessible to everyone.
And for all the harsh criticism lobbed at 1-2 Switch, it's unique use of the HD Rumble is part of that trying to find different ways for people to interact and play video games together.
"I'm eager to see what comes out with the Nintendo Switch," said Mandi. "If they can incorporate the HD rumble and sound cues into some adventure and puzzle games so that Rich can play I'd be ecstatic!"