The Inside Agenda Blog

Another barrier busted: Video games for the blind

by Mike Miner Wednesday July 2, 2008

MIT is working on a video game for the Nintendo Wii that is designed so that blind people can take part. It seems natural that it would be a music-based game.

 

Blind Lemon Jefferson, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles are just a few of the musicians who put aside blindness to achieve greatness. Well, it seems the blind are going to get their crack at the latest frontier of music: Guitar Hero. Well, sort of.

 

Take a look:

 
There are already games for people with disabilities, including about 200 for the visually impaired. What puts this game, AudiOdyssey, apart is that blind people and sighted people can both take part.
 
 

Eitan Glinert, a graduate student in computer science at the Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab, says that the introduction of the Wii controller attracted many women and older players for the first time to the world of videogames. "Lots of people who had never played video games were now playing them all the time," he says. "I started to think, who's been left out? What groups are left behind even with all the new technology, these new systems?"

Then it hit him. "People with disabilities had been left behind. I began to speculate, how could you bring these people into the fold and have them be able to play these games?" He started by looking up everything that was available in terms of computer games for the visually impaired, and found there were already about 200 titles.

"I thought, oh well, it was a good idea. But then I noticed something: As a sighted player, I was unable to play any of these." The games had been so specifically adapted for sound and tactile play that they gave the visually impaired too much of an advantage, making it impractical for them to play with sighted friends. "There were games for sighted people, games for blind people, and never the twain shall meet," he says. "I thought, maybe I could build a game that could be played by both, equally well."