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Video games without the visuals for blind gamers

A series of five new audio-based video games for blind and visually impaired users are being designed, after a crowdfunding campaign to support the project achieved over 150% of its target funding.

The games, including versions of classic arcade title ‘Frogger’ and a cricket game, will be available on mobile devices, tablet computers and desktop computers, through the iOS and Andriod operating systems, as well as Windows PC.

In April 2016, the Audio Game Hub project released a free package of eight “experimental arcade videogames” that relied on audio, rather than visuals. Designed primarily for people with sight loss, the games were fully playable without the need to look at a screen, featuring an option to turn off the visuals completely. The games – including ‘Archery’, ‘Samurai Tournament’ and ‘Slot Machines’ – proved incredibly popular with both non-sighted and sighted users, receiving over 33,000 downloads.

Audio Game Hub founder Jarek Beksa told e-Access Bulletin that the idea came several years ago, when testing equipment at a telecoms company: “During one of the tests we spoke with a blind user. He told us ‘Nobody makes games for us.’ Since then, we started thinking about the idea of creating accessible games, Beksa said.

The team behind Audio Game Hub – based in Auckland, New Zealand – were soon inundated with requests for more games, so they launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in November. People who backed the campaign also voted on which games the team should develop, chosen from a list of 14.

In just ten days, the campaign had exceeded its goal of 6,000 New Zealand Dollars (approximately £3,370) by 150%. Most of the money will be spent on sound production and voice recording for the games, Beksa said.

The five games chosen by people who donated to the campaign were: ‘Frogger’, a version of a 1981 arcade game where the user has to guide a frog safely across a busy road; ‘Cricket’; ‘Simon + Super Simon’, a memory game where users remember commands and sequences; ‘Blackjack – 21’, a popular casino card game; and ‘Runner’, where users control a character running through different terrains.

The new games will be available as in-app purchases through the existing Audio Game Hub collection, which is free to download.

In addition to the five chosen titles, another game, ‘Whispering Tunnels’, will be released as a standalone purchasable app. According to the Kickstarter campaign page, ‘Whispering Tunnels’ is “an audio role-playing game specially tailored for the visually impaired”. Players must solve puzzles, avoid traps, battle monsters and engage in dialogues to escape from a tunnel.

Audio Game Hub was created in collaboration with the Gamification Lab of the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany, and the School of Computer and Mathematical Sciences of Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. The project is also sponsored by Auckland University and the AbleGamers Charity.

Read more about the project and download the original eight games for free at the Audio Game Hub website:
http://eab.li/45 .

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