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Older Gamers, More Accessible Game Features? 54

Posted by Zonk
from the can't-see-that-damn-pac-guy dept.
simoniker writes "Microsoft's Brannon Zahand has been addressing the key issues of accessibility, from all aspects of game development, noting: 'The demand for accessibility will continue to grow as the gaming population ages. As people grow older, mild impairments can become more severe. Also, people are likely to develop new difficulties and impairments as they age. Adding basic accessibility features to titles can help publishers and developers continue to draw revenue from these customers.' Will we have to change how games play as gamers get older?"
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Older Gamers, More Accessible Game Features?

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  • Not To Mention... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sottitron (923868)
    Not to mention the ailments that gaming can produce... Oh yeah, I always take a 10-15 minute break every hour. Don't you?

    From the Gamecube manual:

    Playing video games can make your muscles, joints or skin hurt after a few hours. Follow these instructions to avoid problems such as Tendinitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or skin irritation:

    * Take a 10 to 15 minute break every hour, even if you don't think you need it.

    * If your hands, wrists or arms become t

    • by zxnos (813588)
      skin hurt after a few hours

      wtf? skin? hurt?

      • wtf? skin? hurt?

        Chafing maybe?
        You know, from.. uh.. repetitive movements.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        skin? hurt?

        Once, I was on this big gaming kick (playing the same game over and over for several days). I developed this hardened area on the skin of my thumb. My Dad said it was called a "callous" and was apparently pretty common back when people were poor and ate dirt. So, yes, I guess your skin CAN be hurt by video games.

        -Eric

    • by hastati (956528)
      What about taking a 8 hour break every 16 hours? Does that count?
  • Then there's always the issue that playing games when younger might have caused some of these impairments. There'd be nothing worse than being the grand champion at Gradius (space shooter) or something like that, and then finally losing the coordination or eyesight to play that game as well. I'd hope there was a way to make a Gradius-like game more accessible... but heck if I know what it is. Maybe just bigger entities on-screen would help.
  • My Dad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dorath (939402) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @01:44PM (#16155058)
    My dad has been playing Diablo style games, RPGs, and adventure games since Diablo, Bards Tale, and Space Quest. He seems to have a new title nearly every time I visit.

    Vision - Blindness, inability to distinguish colors, blurred Vision, etc.
    He plays most of the games in a lower resolution on a 19" LCD, effectively magnifying them. Keeping 1024x768 (or lower) as an option on new games ensures that he'll be able to continue to see the games.

    Hearing - Hard-of-hearing, deafness.
    Volume up! When it's an option, he usually has the "bubble speak" enabled so it's not just audio. A comfortable set of lightweight headphones can't hurt either.

    Mobility - Wrist, arm, leg, and hand impairments.
    He saves early, and saves often. He's not as quick as he was, but being able to save games as often as he'd like means that he isn't set back hours at a time if something surprises him and he doesn't react fast.

    It seems to me that keeping existing features instead of dropping them will help with at least some forms of accessability.
    • by Osty (16825)

      Volume up! When it's an option, he usually has the "bubble speak" enabled so it's not just audio. A comfortable set of lightweight headphones can't hurt either.

      I'm not hard of hearing, but I always turn on game subtitles when available because it makes games faster. Why should I sit through a minute of dialog when I can read that same information in 15 seconds? If a developer cares about story more than presentation, they'll make sure subtitles are available and each line of dialog is skippable to the

    • by Cederic (9623)

      Good approach, makes a lot of sense.

      Nonetheless it is sensible that game creators consider this and plan ahead. People using consoles can't choose screen resolution - it'd be a tad expensive buying a 60" TV just to be able to read the subtitles of the conversation you can't hear..

      Similarly, historically a lot of console games have been very restrictive in where/when you can save. I suspect this is largely due to limited resources for saved games, but also programmer laziness (or, more formally, time/budget
  • Honestly, when we live in an era where game designers so pressed for time that they can't even make the game stable, there's no way that they'll have the time to build in accessability features. Or look at the Dead Rising problem [slashdot.org]; they're not willing to patch an issue that affects a huge group of players, so what's going to happen when people with disabilities want to game?

    That being said, it *is* nice to have some of those accessability features, even if you don't really need them. Subtitles/Closed Captio
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @01:48PM (#16155092)
    So you make some accessibility features for games. So, if your coordination ain't the best anymore, you'll get "compensation" from the game by having a mild to heavy auto-aim feature. Or if you can't see so well, you get the enemy highlighted in bright colors.

    Sounds familiar? Right. We call that "cheating" today.

    It's not that I want to look down on aging people. Hey, I'm myself starting to notice that I start to lose my edge. I can't compete with 16 year olds anymore, and I'm saddened by the prospect of not being able to even beat the next Burnout at all anymore. My reaction is getting slower, my eyes ain't what they used to be, but hey, that's ok. I get old, and I'll play what's there for me. No biggie. I'll be as good as I am.

    Toning down the game to make it "accessible" would feel like cheating to me. Multiplayer or not. In multi, it's even more blatant because, well, what would keep a non-disabled person from using those tools as well? In single, I'd feel like I cheat myself.
    • by KDR_11k (778916)
      Of course there wouldn't be disability bonuses in multiplayer. Maybe age brackets for player matching. And of course a game design that minimizes unnecessary inaccessibility (e.g. by using large fonts and icons).
    • yeah... old people should stick to games that aren't so difficult on them. like checkers and shuffleboard. maybe dominos or croquet.

      Ira
    • by Strolls (641018)

      So you make some accessibility features for games. ... I can't compete with 16 year olds anymore, ... my reaction is getting slower.... Toning down the game to make it "accessible" would feel like cheating to me.

      Well, if the authors were to add "disability features" like auto-aim then the easy answer is not to allow those who use them to play against players who play the game without the aids. Sorta like leagues.

      But I don't even think this is necessary. I don't own a Nintendo DS (yet, at least) but I und

  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @01:48PM (#16155094) Homepage Journal
    • Super Mario Grandfathers
    • Sid Meir's Remembering Your Grandchildren's Names
    • Mavis Beacon Teaches Napping
    • Tony Hawk's Pro Mallwalking
    • World of Long, Rambling Stories About Your Time In Warcraft
    • Square/Enix presents Kingdom Heart Conditions
    • Mavis Beacon Teaches Napping

      I have taken a few of these courses, they're great! The best part is [zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz]...
    • by josteos (455905)
      Don't for get the up'n'comign classics:
      • Doom 4: Hey! Demons! Get Off My Lawn
      • Retirement House on the Hill 27: The Laxative Strikes Twice
      • BattleField 27 (with value-add presale premiums such as armored Depends Undergarments)
      • Dark Age of Glaucoma
      • Harmonica Hero (now with Denture Retention System)
      • LARK Thunder 2015
      • Unreal Bridge Tournament
      • Shuffleboard Madness
      • PharmaCraft
      • The Sims 2: Pensioners
    • I've finally had to start wearing reading glasses, and most of my gaming is still Nethack and Solitaire, so I'm allowed to make old-geezer gaming jokes...
  • quake for the blind: "there is an enemy at 11 o'clock. he is shooting at you. you're dead."

  • Accessibility is an issue that affects millions of Americans (and worldwide) with disability, not just disability due to aging. While the implications of aging will affect a lot of contemporary games and the current "gamer" population, there are quite a few youngsters with disability who are disenfranchised from the enjoyment of video games due to access issues. I remember hearing an article on NPR about the blind being able to play text adventures through text-to-speech. While I doubt the feasibility of
    • by joshetc (955226)
      I don't want to sound like a troll or flamebait but things like this is why they are called disabled. Granted, I have no problem with helping them as long as it doesnt affect non-disabled people.
      • by Hahnsoo (976162)
        Well, aside from the obvious playful semantics, those who are supposedly "disabled" can easily thrive in computerized environments (including games) if they are given the tools to do so. This isn't about giving aim-bots to people who can't twitch as well as the next caffeine-addled professional gamer. This is about giving them access to a great and enjoyable hobby that is right up their alley. I'm sure people with disability can be asshole cheaters online, and I'm not suggesting that we should give them
  • 55 & over only. Allows limited visiting hours from characters from other servers. Can you see it? Lord of the Rings online can have "The Grey Havens". WOW can have "Ashes to Ashenvale", that kind of thing. And when you go your main character can get either a tombstone that is visitable by characters on other servers, or an actual in-game object that holds the ashes.
  • While researching a bit on reaction times, I stumbled upon this link from Clemson's biology department:
    http://biology.clemson.edu/bpc/bp/Lab/110/reaction .htm [clemson.edu]

    It's a pretty good literature review on the various studies done on Reaction Time and the various factors relating to it. Some pearls:

    Many researchers have confirmed that reaction to sound is faster than reaction to light, with mean auditory reaction times being 140-160 msec and visual reaction times being 180-200 msec (Galton, 1899; Woodworth and Schl
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kfg (145172) *
      I also remember being in a Science Museum and one of the exhibits claimed that the best reaction times on their particular exhibit in traditional studies were seasoned Aircraft Pilots.

      There was also a study comparing ordinary drivers to racing drivers. Under normal circumstances the reaction times of both groups was the same, but as the speed/pressure went up the ordinary drivers exhibited the expected degradation of reaction times - while the racing drivers reacted faster and faster commensurate with the s
  • by antdude (79039) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @04:47PM (#16156716) Homepage Journal
    I enjoyed this article because it relates to me. There's a reason why I don't own a gaming console. I haven't owned one since Atari 2600. Due to my four fingers on my hands, lack of thumbs, and inablility to hold game controllers in mid air, I cannot use those console controllers very well. I have to use them on tables to hold them. This is why I do better on computer games because of keyboards, mice (small light ones like those old two/three button ones), and simple small joysticks (think of those old one/two buttons one like those old school Atari 2600 joysticks [google.com]). I currently have a Microsoft Sidewinder joystick [amazon.com], but they have too many buttons and too big for my hands, so I don't do well when flying (I avoid flying in Battlefield [ea.com] games ;)). :(

    I also have speech and hearing impediments, so I don't use Teamspeak [goteamspeak.com] or any voice communications. I tried it once in Day of Defeat [dayofdefeatmod.com] (original version) and obviously, no one knew I was saying (even my friends whom I talked to!). Hearing is another problem since I don't hear well with my analog bone conduction hearing aid (mono -- one microphone and can't determine audio directions). I love games that use closed caption/CC and suititles like in Half-Life 2 [halflife.com] games (only use the dialog ones) and F.E.A.R. [whatisfear.com].
    • I highly recommend you pick up an xarcade stick. It's basically a set of arcade controls mounted on a heavy base that you plug into your pc or almost any modern game console using adapter cables. No holding stuff in mid-air, no thumbsticks, no bizzare hand gestures required.

      here's a reason why I don't own a gaming console. I haven't owned one since Atari 2600. Due to my four fingers on my hands, lack of thumbs, and inablility to hold game controllers in mid air, I cannot use those console controllers ve

      • by antdude (79039)
        Interesting. It's a bit big and not sure if I have room for it. I will check it out if I need it. I rarely use my joystick and I don't own any consoles right now. :)
    • by Cederic (9623)

      I don't use a joystick when I fly in the BF games.

      (I just crash a lot ;)
  • This wouldn't be such a problem if I had neural interfaces that could transmit input and output without having to use my cumbersome body. Early methods would probably only use thought-controlled input, but I want to be truly immersed in games some day buy having it all take place in my mind. If I could have the graphics superimposed over part of my vision, I could play a game or do some other activity on my computer instead of having to day dream while I'm stuck doing tasks that don't require much attention
  • The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) has a Special Interest Group (SIG) about accessibility. There are some really interesting links and documents to be found. Search it yourself at http://www.igda.org/accessibility/ [igda.org].
    Also [shameless plug] this year's Retro Remakes [retroremakes.com] Competition (scroll down till Competition to see the rules, or search the news to find the games entered) was held with disabled gamers in mind. At least in that community, accessibility is kept in mind.

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