Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Controller Company teams with Video Gamer With MS To Make Video Games More Accessible

Steve Spohn has from muscular dystrophy. He is also an avid gamer. With a bag of rice, some duct tape and Xbox 360 controller parts, he is working with a video game accessory company to keep himself in the game.

Arizona-based Evil Controllers specializes in modding video game controllers to make them accessible to gamers that have special needs. Steve's prototype X-box controller is modular. That means that every input component, from the buttons to the directional pads to the thumb-sticks can be positioned and repositioned however the user needs. They also have created a set of buttons that employ the use of mobility Steve has by rigging another pair of buttons that are activated when he shrugs his shoulders.

The controller in the video below is a prototype of a model Evil Controller hopes to produce and mass market.

Accessibility in video games is something that I think both game developers-- and more importantly, console manufacturers-- sorely need to improve upon.

The big thing in gaming from Nintendo's WiiMotion, Sony's Playstation Move and Microsoft's Project natal are all about encouraging people to control a video game by getting up and moving around. While it is an exciting and immersive development, it's not very inclusive to the disabled community.

You'd figure that increasing the user base for video game would be a good thing! Larger audience means more money, right? While I understand the economic realities of making and manufacturing different peripherals might incur extra espense, there are some things that seem like a no-brainer to me. Like closed captioning in all games with speech. A mode for colorblind players (I have seen this in PopCap Games' Peggle series and wondered why more companies don't do this). And... more I probably can't think of.

What about you, members of the gamer and disability community? What would you like to see?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Signal boost: Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Edition

From Nick Mahatmas' blog:

"I noticed that the Readercon programming schedule is up and that there is to be a panel on racial diversity and cover art. Further [info]james_nicoll has collected a couple of links about the malaise in science fiction—either there is no science, or the science is just a magical Singularity of nanotech and bad manners and rudeness toward sexbots or something.

To all of which I can only respond:

The Next Continent

I mean, the people who complain about whitewashed covers are going to be interested in books with accurate covers, are they not? The readers hmmphing about the lack of realistic hard science are surely going to be interested in a novel about a private mission to the moon, neh? So I can Bookscan my title here every week and see the regional buying patterns change based on the publicly announced pent-up demand for both near-term hard SF and stuff that's reflective of the ethnic diversity of the planet in some way, yah?

Because I'm gonna start tracking you all. "

New Retro Review Up

I have a new Retro Review up, this time giving an in-depth look at one of the Nintendo Game Boy Advance's swan-song RPGs... Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2.

Jake Gyllenhaal Stole Gamer's Video Game and Identity

... metaphorically.

Sara Haghdoosti is a 22-year-old Iranian-Australian feminist writer, active with GetUp! Australia, and has been a lifelong fan of the the Prince of Persia video game series, ever since the very first game for the PC.

So she was very excited when the Prince of Persia movie was first announced... and then very disappointed when the movie was first released.
Why does she feel the Prince of Persia movie took computer games the she loved as a child and ruined them in a movie based on those video games as an adult?

She explains:

"As a child I loved the computer games. They weren’t just fun, they gave me an easy way to talk to and relate to others over something that was special to me and my heritage. As an adult, I feel like the movie has totally wiped out that aspect of it. The movie has reduced my identity, my heritage and my cultural background to lighting and make up.

Why should we care about the casting of the latest Hollywood epic action film? Castings of movies like the ‘Prince of Persia’ are important because we know that media images have profound impacts on our identities. "

Nick Mahatmas also explains and points out that the physical and cultural identities are whitewashed or papered over in his review of the film. To wit:

"Are non-white characters being played by white people? Of course! Everyone already knows that Jake Gyllenhaal is the titular Prince Dastan, but he's not the only blue-eyed Persian in this flick. There's two older brothers, one a blue-eyed guy who looks sort of like a Mormon Jesus Christ, and another, angrier brother who is at least dark-complected, but he looks more like Zack de la Rocha than anything else. (Next up for Disney—Martin Mull IS Barack Obama in The Audacity of Hope: The Imax Experience.)... Persia is a pretty neat place, actually. Maybe one day someone will make a cool fantasy movie about it. "

M. Night Shamalyan-directed The Last Airbender, the live-action movie based on the Nickeloden cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender, has encountered similar protests and charges of erasing and whitewashing all of the pan-Asian influences of the show-- changing the Chinese calligraphy to nonsense glyphs, and casting all of the principal lead characters, who were Asian in the show, white white actors instead. There has even been an activist group, Racebending that has been writing about and addressing the controversy for nearly two years.

What do you think we can do, as gamers and as activists and people who care, about the distressing tendency of whitewashing or under-representation? Will you vote with your wallet? Write letters? Speak out to your friends? Or if it doesn't affect you, do you say it's not a big deal? Why does or does it not matter to you?

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