A series of audio-based videogames that can be played without sight will be created during a ten-day ‘Audiogame Jam’ in October, to raise funds for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and spread awareness of the barriers faced by blind and visually impaired gamers.
Game developers from around the world will take part in the event by developing and building accessible games during the ten-day period – October 12-28 – and uploading them to the Audiogame Jam website before the deadline. After the event, all games submitted are available for anyone to play for free.
Audiogame Jam was launched by James Kyle as a fundraising event for RNIB in 2016, after being influenced by other charity ‘game jams’ and similar events. Kyle – who now works for RNIB as a network administrator – is visually impaired and wanted to help the charity for the support he has received from them over the years.
In an exclusive interview with e-Access Bulletin, Kyle explained that he feels blind and visually impaired gamers are often overlooked by game developers. He said: “Very few games are marketed as being playable by blind people and those that are, are generally made by smaller studios and published independently. As a result, blind gamers have developed a community through which they share information on which ‘AAA’ games (high budget, high profile, popular games) are playable by them and what steps need to be taken to achieve this.”
Everyone who takes part in Audiogame Jam is encouraged to contact and work with visually impaired gamers throughout the event. Kyle, who completed a master’s degree in game design, said that although most developers in the event are sighted, he hopes that as many game submissions as possible will have featured involvement from someone in the blind gaming community as a tester or design consultant.
Kyle said: “While there are guidelines on making your game blind-accessible, having your game undergo regular testing by a visually impaired person is a great way to meet Audiogame Jam’s accessibility requirement. I hope this will build relationships between blind and sighted gamers and developers, and increase knowledge of the blind gaming community’s existence within the general game development community.”
Games created during last year’s Audiogame Jam include ‘EscapeBeat’, where players must find their way out of a series of rooms while fending off enemies, ‘Lab Invaded’, in which gamers take control of a robot trapped in a laboratory full of invading aliens, and ‘Dark Sounds’, a puzzle game where players have to escape from a room and dodge ghosts.
While there are currently no plans to showcase the games at public events, Kyle is looking into this option. “I would very much like to see some of these prototypes developed into full, finished games or shown at accessible game events,” he said.
Find out more about Audiogame Jam, including how to enter and where to play previously submitted accessible games, at the Audiogame Jam 3 website.