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Archive for the ‘video games’ Category

]It’s official: Steven Totilo, high-profile game journalist for MTV, sucks at Street Fighter II:

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It’s a new year, and the ADA Amendments Act is now in effect. These Amendments are a response to the Supreme Court’s erosion of protections and rights in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 over the years (see Sutton et. al vs. United Air Lines, Inc, Murphy vs. United Parcel Service, Inc.. The Supreme Court argued that, if a person’s condition is controlled with “mitigating measures”—medication for high blood pressure, for instance—the person does not have a disability…even if that person is fired or otherwise discriminated against because of their condition).

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I subscribe to the International Game Developer Assosiation’s Game Accessibility Special Interest Group (SIG) mailing list, and got this e-mail from SIG chair (and one of Edge Magazine’s 100 most influential women in the gaming industry) D. Michelle Hinn, who advocates for diversity in the gaming industry. From Ms. Hinn:

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PWN! in big blue letters

I’ve been playing The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for forever–well, sort of. I got stuck and put the game down for a while, maybe a couple of months. But when I picked Phantom Hourglass back up again, I couldn’t get unstuck. And I didn’t even know why I was stuck in the first place.

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A cartoon woman clad in leather looks up at a castle high on a cliff. The castle has a red door, a heart-shaped window and smoke coming from the chimney.

Poor Jill. Her lover the queen has thrown her in the bottom floor of her tower. To get out, she’ll have to beware of spikes, cross flaming pillars and dodge floating yellow spiders using only her wits and flea-like jumping skills. And that’s just how she likes it.

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“Collaborative networked framework for the rehabilitation of children with Down’s Syndrome” (PDF) is an old paper from the University of Averio in Portugal, but the project described is really interesting. Presented at the third International Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality and Associated Technology in Alghero, Italy in 2000, the authors propose “a multi-user virtual communication platform that enables rehabilitation and social integration of Down’s Syndrome children.”

Using this platform, the kids engage in fantasy play and problem-solve with their avatars; the neat part is that they’re playing with other kids who have Down Syndrome from all over the world. So not only are kids learning independently in a virtual environment—”learn[ing] by themselves through experience without close adult mediation,” as the authors say—and not only are they collaborating with other people. They’re also working and playing with other people who have Down Syndrome. The framework brings people with disabilities together in ways that aren’t possible in real life because of geographic constraints. While there’s nothing wrong with being around one’s “typically developing peers,” it’s great when disabled people can form communities with other disabled people, too. And self-advocates do a lot of great work.

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On August 22, 2008, University of Washington Electrical Engineering Ph.D candidate Jon Malkin spoke about the Vocal Joystick (VJ) project at the Gnomedex 8.0 tech conference.

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At the Longwill School for the Deaf in Birmingham, England, students study in both British Sign Language (BSL) and English. According to a Futurelab article, they communicate in these two very different languages with the help of PlayStation Portables.

Last year, the school borrowed some units from the Birmingham East City Learning Centre; the deputy head thought that, among other things, the PSP would be good for teaching sign language to the students’ hearing siblings. For instance, an instructor could make sign language videos for the kids to play on their systems, and the kids could practice by signing into their PSPs’ integrated video cameras. The PSP has also become a portable notebook for the school’s pupils. BSL and English have completely different grammars and sentence structures, and written English is still focused on how words sound. (For a more in-depth analysis of the problems deaf people can have with written English, see What Really Matters in the Early Literacy Development of Deaf Children).

What does the Sony PSP have to do with English literacy? Teachers giving writing assignments can ask students to do a draft of their work by making a video in sign with their PSPs’ cameras; then, when they bring their PSPs back to school, they can work on English translation with the teacher’s help. As Longwill’s deputy head Allison Carter says, “[English writing is] becoming much more manageable for the children and you’re getting a much higher quality of work because they can reflect in their first language.” To see more about how Longwill is using technology in the classroom, including images of PSPs in action, see Nathan Monk’s Design Diary.

In related (if much older) news, you can turn your PSP into a portable Teletype (TTY) device.

(Cross posted to GameCritics.com).

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Via Second Life for the Visually Impaired

The Novint Falcon may look like a space helmet with a robot arm sticking out of it, but it’s really a kind of joystick that lets players “feel” the games they’re playing: “When you hold the Falcon’s detachable Grip and move your cursor to interact with a virtual object, environment, or character, motors in the device turn on and are updated approximately 1000 times a second, letting you feel texture, shape, weight, dimension, and dynamics.”

Anyone who’s played Nintendo 64 games with the Rumble Pack or turned on the rumble feature in their PS2 DualShock controller has some idea of how force-feedback or haptic technology can influence gaming, but the Falcon takes this technology to a whole new level: (more…)

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You know what I miss? Joysticks.

Many years ago, a video game system snuck into my house disguised as a computer. While my Commodore Vic-20 had a keyboard, many of its games—especially the “good” ones that came in cartridges you shoved into the back—used a Gemstik joystick. This joystick had one button and four directions, and I liked having something to grip as I snuck stolen gold bricks away from panthers or brought scorpion eggs to safety. Having to push and pull on something in order to move took more effort, made me feel like I was running for my life in ways my Nintendo Entertainment System’s D-pad could not.

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