Stacey's Serve-a-Thon

A photo of Stacey Aherne, sitting in a stadium posing for the picture.

The Stacey Serve-a-Thon is a lovely idea from her sister Kate Aherne. It starts from today and runs for a month in tribute to her memory and the kind acts she carried out whilst alive. Anyone can get involved in donating an hour of their time or an hours wage, to give to any good cause that serves others. Seems like a fitting tribute.

Accessible Design at Global Game Jam 2013

Screen shot from A Wise Choice: A laughing range of mountains is the back-drop. Hovering in the foreground in front of some lush grass and a withered tree is a floating monkey mug of tea. The text below reads, 'Well hello!... you look... Different. Well, I suppose we are all different in our own little ways, but you look.... wholly not from this world..."
 
Global Game Jam is an annual game hack weekend, where teams around the world are given a common theme to work to (this year's was 'heart beat'), and divide into teams to produce an entire end to end functioning game by the end of the 48 hours. Read on...

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SEMERCs and the 1980s


The video above is of the 1989 "Micros for Special Needs Exhibition" run by the Oldham SEMERC (Special Education Micro-electronics Resource Centres). SEMERCs were set up under the aegis of the Council for Educational Technology in 1982 which shared a body of knowledge on accessible technology for children around the UK.

1982 was also the year that the BBC launched their Computer Literacy Project backed by the Acorn BBC Micro computer. Big improvements in access to computers were just around the corner.


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Kenji Eno (1970-2013)


Sad news to hear that game accessibility advocate and pioneer Kenji Eno died this week at the age of 42. Kenji produced the first ever audio game to make its way onto a games console, RealSound: Kaze No Regret (aka The Regret of the Wind). Here's a brief excerpt from a 2008 interview with 1UP.com:

1UP: After D, you surprised Warp's fans by creating an offbeat Sega Saturn adventure game, Real Sound.

KE: Oh, that's a funky game.

1UP: Yeah, not only was it funky, it was also a game without any visuals. What inspired it, and how did you get Sega to publish it?

KE: After I released D, people were always expecting more CG graphics from me, and I got tired of that. I didn't want people to think that they could predict what Warp would do next. Also, I had a chance to visit people who are visually disabled, and I learned that there are blind people who play action games. Of course, they're not able to have the full experience, and they're kind of trying to force themselves to be able to play, but they're making the effort. So I thought that if you turn off the monitor, both of you are just hearing the game. So after you finish the game, you can have an equal conversation about it with a blind person. That's an inspiration behind this game as well.

So Sega was asking for exclusive rights to the game, and I said, "OK, if you'll donate a thousand Saturns to blind people, then I'll donate a thousand games along with the Saturns." And my condition was that if Sega would go for this idea, I would make that game Sega exclusive. So, that's how this happened. It's been several years now, and of course the contract probably isn't valid anymore, but the reason that I haven't done anything with this game is that I made this promise with Sega back in the day, and it's exclusive because of those conditions.

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Chicken Zen Kane (PC)

Chicken Zen Kane screenshot for PC.

This is a really great turn based strategy game, that reminds me a little of the mindlessly-psychotic robots in Berzerk. There's a fantastic range of accessibility options, including pure-mouse and two one-switch modes. Tam has also been the first person to use the Game Accessibility Information symbol. Great stuff, and well worth down-loading and playing if you have a PC. 

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2012: All Blogged One Switch Games

Fruit Ninja Kapow - One-switch style for chopping flying fruit and avoiding bombs.

One Switch Games Blogged in 2012

Basketball 2012 - Google doodle olympics themed game.
Beat the Beat Rhythm Paradise - Wii rhythm based micro-game mix.
City Sniper Shoot-Out - Superb PC terrorist battle from Tam Toucan.
DJ Hero 2 - Xbox 360 and PS3 DJ mixing game with one-switch mode.
Fruit Ninja Kapow - On-line Fruit Ninja tribute for one-switch play.
GameBase Video Olympicks - SpecialEffect's celebration of accessible olympic themed games, including the superb Vehicle Simulator for one-switch sailing.
Help Kidz Learn - An ever growing mix of polished on-line and iPad switch accessible games for beginners.
Micro Sprint - Overhead race game on PC for one to eight players.
One Dimensional Pong - Huge strip light game of pong.
Punch the Custard - Bonkers PC game for one or two players and real custard.


Favourite Other Posts of 2012

Sip-puff Carnage; LP Accessible TechnologiesSwitch Dog Ball Launcher; DIY Switch Access to Infrared Devices; Switchamajig; Hands Up; Catching up with Ellie; Thurrock Point; "Why Touch Screens Scare Me"; Mynd Play; CEEFAX was here; Skoog single sided play; iPad vs. RCA Studio II; Makey Makey DIY kit; Holy Grail of Controller Accessibility; Video Olympicks 2012; Switch Nerf Thunderstorm Water Pistol; One Switch Reader; AAC in 1974 and 1982; Game Accessibility Guidelines; Includification; Switch adapted BUZZ controllers; Switch adapted Wii-U controller; One Switch 100.

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Atari Accessibility


Atari Fuji Symbol over a grid and in front of slit-scan colours.

Whilst doing research for "One Switch 100", and having just finished reading the excellent Atari Inc. Business is Fun, I was reminded what an early trail-blazer Atari was for accessibility in computer games. Here's a short list from the 20th century in no particular order.

1. Touch Me was one of the earliest audio-games (1974), playable by blind players following the "Simon Says" sounds or deaf players following the light patterns.

2. Special Feature labelling was used on main-stream games to mark out some extra accessibility. Used on Atari VCS games at the height of Atari's success (1981-82), such as Missile Command with its specially slowed down version.

3. Colour and B/W TV Type options were more a product of the times than anything else, but this alone ensured colour-blind players had a good chance of being able to play.

4. Difficulty level switch and game variations enabled players to find fairer or easier ways to play. This started from day one with the Atari VCS and the pack-in game Combat (1977). Fat slow plane vs. three quick small planes with three times the fire power springs to mind.

5. Atari Controllers employed an interface method that Commodore and others followed. This lead to a huge range of compatible controllers across multiple gaming platforms. The standard is even compatible with some ranges of wheelchair joysticks (such as MERU's Moozi). Additionally, Atari also promoted the adaptation of their controllers for disabled gamers (see left-handed gamersKen Yankelevitz and John Dutton), although this wasn't a service they provided themselves. They even prototyped mind-control and voice-control for the VCS.

6. Vidcom was a portable communication aid first developed and sold in 1978 for people without clear speech, enabling face to face and telephone communication with words and sentences. Namco would follow this path of a games company creating AAC communication devices to this date.

7. Steeplechase would be the first one-switch video game playable by six players in 1975. This would later be pirated and played in Communist Russia.

8. The Atari Kid's Controller was probably the first alternative game controller built by a main-stream developer, built for additional accessibility. Aimed at very young children struggling with the standard joystick controllers, and supported by a small range of specialised games. Atari also brought on board a child psychologist and Sesame Street to galvanise their efforts.

9. Cheats and gaming aids - VCS Space Invaders had a well-known cheat giving double-bullets. Third party hard-ware developers created auto-fire in-line adapters to make shoot-em-ups easier. This stuff made a difference.

10. San Francisco Rush 2049, featured a mode whereby people with no use of their feet could still race. It was also Atari's swan song in amusement arcades.

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OXM: Left Handed Players

Scan of a letter detailing frustrations in the lack of left-hand play options in games.

Reading "Minority Report" in the March 2013 issue of the Official Xbox Magazine (see above), made me think three things. 1. Left handed gamers are still frequently ignored. 2. Things were probably better in 1981 (see below). 3. Farmer's Left Hand Fighter with a Xbox 360/PS3 adapter is still a pretty good solution for those ignored by a lack of in-game reconfiguration options.

Page 30 of the same magazine has an excellent "Let Us Play: Disabled gamers ask for access to the games we love" featuring Mark Barlet and Steve Spohn from AbleGamers and Ian Hamilton of GameAccessibilityGuidelines.com and Lynsey Graham of Blitz Game Studios. Well worth a read.

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De Game-it adapted game controller


De Game-It is a wireless games console controller, and using Google Translate and my eye-balls, I have gleaned/cribbed that: It allows for an ultra-light joystick to be positioned separately from the interface box. It has a sip/puff interface built in. It uses the same lovely "Pro Signal" black and gold sockets I first saw on Excitim switch accessible devices.

More details can be found at the YouTube page

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SpecialEffect Switch Adapted Lego Train Set

SpecialEffect switch adapted Lego Train set ("Cargo-Train-7939")

I was recently contacted by the Mum of a young lad with Cerebral Palsy both keen to get him kitted out with a switch adapted train-set. He'd used a Lego train-set at Kent's excellent CAT service and loved it.

Through SpecialEffect, I was set the task of replicating Kent CAT's brilliant adapted train-set (which I had previously seen at their Techno Talk event), but using a switch adapted Doro infra-red learning remote, which they had said they couldn't get to work. I was pleased to learn that although fiddly to teach the infra-red codes (you have to spin the orange speed control fast for a fairly short-burst of time), once it is working, it seems to stay working. Even when you remove the batteries for a short-time.

And as a nod to the adapted train-sets spanning back decades, here's a link to many more. Just great to find a relatively simple way to get modern day train-sets working. Find more D.I.Y. details at the YouTube page.

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