Play it by ear

American company adapts Quake for the blind

Source - Boston Globe

Videogames are, by definition, a visual medium, and it's usually the graphics that get all the attention when it comes to designing a game. Massachussets based ZForm are taking completely the opposite approach and focusing on sound. Which is lucky, because they're designing games for blind people. It might seem an odd thing to do, but the vast number of blind and partially sighted people around the world means that it's not quite as daft as it sounds. And while ZForm's first release is a fairly straightforward online poker game, they're also working on adapting Quake for use by blind people. The customised version of Quake uses audio cues to guide blind players around the map, making sure they can compete with their unimpaired opponents. For example, the sound of rushing air can be heard emerging from nearby corridors and side passages, so blind players can hear that there is an opening there and act accordingly. The locations of other characters can also be determined by listening for the noise they make, with the volume and direction of the sound allowing players to locate them. The overall effect works quite well according to ZForm's Jeremie Spitzer, who told the Boston Globe that his blind colleague Tim Keenan "slaughtered" the rest of the company during testing of the modified Quake. ZForm's work might just be a curiosity, or it could open up gaming to a whole new audience that was previously excluded. Either way, it's an interesting concept. A free trial version of ZForm poker can be downloaded from the company's website, if you want to see (or hear) for yourself what the fuss is all about, although there's currently no word on when their unique version of Quake will be released.

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