New computer game for vision impaired players

November 23, 2017

Sound games: Brian Fairbanks is creator of a new computer game for vision impaired players

Games developer and Murdoch alumni Brian Fairbanks is creating a unique computer game for vision impaired people that appeals equally to sighted players.

Lost and Hound can be played on regular computer consoles by the vision impaired and has already won rave reviews for its originality.

Mr Fairbanks, who has a degree in Sound from Murdoch’s School of Arts, said he had the idea after watching a game-making competition where vision impairment was the theme.

“I was shocked to find that most of the games played only served to stigmatise vision impaired people and treated them like victims instead of giving them a fun gameplay experience,” he said.

After spending time with scent tracking dogs, Mr Fairbanks hit on his concept of a canine hero, Biscuit, the corgi rescue dog who uses sound to track down various targets.

“I realised that if we compare the five senses between canines and humans, dogs are like super heroes – using sound and scent to rescue people and detect crimes – and that's the way I could empower characters through non-visual means.

“It also meant I could introduce drama without violence which is a big plus for me because I can’t think of many games in which killing isn’t a part of the gameplay,” he said.

Mr Fairbanks has spent many hours getting advice from vision impaired gamers and has engaged a vision impaired consultant to ensure his game has maximum accessibility, and does not stigmatise or patronise gamers without vision.

His presentation at the recent PAX Expo generated a lot of interest among gamers.

“Some games claim to be fully accessible for vision impaired gamers but actually are not because many of the visuals lack audio cues, for example, the player health,” he said.

Producing a quality game for such a small market will not make much money through game sales, so to overcome this Mr Fairbanks is making the game fun for sighted people by including key visual and audio features for them.

“There are a number of audio games made by hobbyists that are largely narrative driven, gaining their appeal from a strong story and not requiring skill-based play,” he said.

“Lost and Hound is attempting to feature both and as far as I know there are no other games like mine.

“Everything you will need to know, and also all of the ornamental, extra things added for flavour, are through audio.”

This means that it takes sighted players a few minutes to learn how to play.

“It’s a bit like going to the gym and trying out a new weight machine which feels weird at first and takes a while to get used to – it’s not the weight that is the challenge, it’s the fact that you’re using muscles you’ve never used before,” he said.

“Sighted players are not used to relying on audio cues and so their sense of using audio as an informational source is underdeveloped, myself included.”

Check out the game at https://gamejolt.com/games/lostandhound/281570 and https://twitter.com/lostandhound1

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Media contact: Eugenie Harris
Tel: (08) 9360 2734  |  Mobile:   |  Email: Eugenie.Harris@murdoch.edu.au
Categories: General, Teaching and Learning, Future Students, International students, School of Arts
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Comments (One response)

Anderson Carvalho de Oliveira November 24, 2017

I'm very glad this game is reaching people's ears that fast. When I decided to join Mr Fairbanks as a writer for the project I saw a huge potential for it, but I honestly didn't think it would grow that fast due to it's new approach and goals. It is amazing that people are open to new ideas.
Best regards, Anderson.

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