Aodi is a a social gaming platform that gathers sighted and visually impaired players around audio interactive fictions. This app concept is part of my final project of my Bachelor’s degree in interaction design.
It is a first step towards an approach I want to develop more in future projects : making design more accessible and inclusive, but also bringing people together and ensuring that technology is not a factor of isolation.
Role : Research, Concept, UI/UX design
VIDEO GAME ACCESSIBILITY
I started my research around two words : Immersion and blindness. Immersion means diving in a certain atmosphere, blending into another environment in order to understand it better. Blindness is the loss of useful sight. The word “blindness” also includes visually handicapped and visually challenged.
I also did some research on video game accessibility. Usually, video games have features to help visually impaired people. But most of the time, the game is created for sighted people and is then adapted to be playable by people with mild visual impairment (color blindness, etc.)
This is the first problem I identified. Blind gamers have to adapt to games built for abled people. Some of them actually use sound to play their favorite games. They do it by listening carefully to the sound cues, the directional prompts and other binaural indicators.
THE HISTORY OF AUDIO GAMES
In order to get a better grasp of the topic, I looked into the history of games for the blind. I learned that one of the first games that could be played by visually impaired people were text-based interactive fictions.
Back in the 80’s, computers didn’t have graphical operating systems, so people were creating games using the command line tool on their computers. Since they were based on text, you could link a speech synthesis software and they would become relatively accessible to visually impaired people. These games were similar to the “choose-your-own-adventure” type of books.
Aside from text-based games, other developers like Kenji Eno created games specifically for the blind. In his game “Real sound : Kaze no regret”, the player must listen to the story and use the joystick to choose the direction that the story will take. Kenji Eno wanted a blind person and a sighted person to have the same experience.
VIDEO GAMES AS A WAY TO SOCIALIZE
My project was also influenced by a thesis written by Thomas Gaudy , a game designer specialized in video games ergonomics. He wrote about the social aspect of video games for blind people. and how it helps them develop a network of relationships. This would explain why young blind people prefer playing non-accessible video games rather than existing accessible sound games. They want to be able to share experiences with others.
After this research phase, I came up with two development axis I wanted to work on :
- Adapt audio games so that they could be played in the same contexts as video games, in order to make them more accessible to sighted people.
- Turn audio interactive fictions into a more sensitive / global experience and explore new ways of interactions other than those that are already used in video games.
Aodi is a social gaming platform gathering sighted, visually impaired and blind players around interactive audio fictions. The concept is a mix of 3 different notions I had researched previously : interactive fictions, gaming as a vector of dialogue and social linkage, and immersion as a way to encourage empathy.
This app is a platform on which you can play a wide variety of interactive fictions. You would also be able to write your own and share it with the community. You would also have the possibility to turn on a blind mode in order to get the same experience a blind person would have.
Gather blind and sighted players around the same immersive experience
Foster interaction by letting players see other people's choices and comment on them
Deliver sighted players an experience that allowing them to perceive their environment differently
Encourage creation and sharing through a tool that allows users to create their own interactive fiction
How it works
The user can use VoiceOver (or TalkBack on Android), a screen-reader feature to navigate the app. By using different gestures, the user will reveal the contents of the screen and select options. For example, by double-tapping or sliding their finger on the screen, the user can either select or activate a selected element (see video with the sound on).
You could cast the interactive fiction on your Google Home and play using your voice with other people. (see Story Speaker ) If a family has a visually impaired member in it, this could be a fun and inclusive activity that brings everyone together.