Review

Magic Scrolls #1: 3 Reasons why you should Read “Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products

Stuart MacFarlane and Johanna Höysniemi  are the authors or the awesome book Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products, this reading takes you through every step of testing and evaluating every kind of interactive product for children (from toys to games passing through web softwares and much more).

Keep reading to know three good reasons for to put this book in your backlog right now!

1. Deciphering a new target public

“Children expect more from ordinary products. They may believe technology is magic. This may lead to high expectations that might not be realized”

– Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products, page 30

Children may look like little adults and in many cases we underestimate their intelligence and wits, the reality is that those little goblins have a whole different way of seeing and interacting with the world around them.

The first part of the book focus only in describing different theories about child cognitive and emotional development through each age, how they relate to interactive products and the role of interactivity in the development of their education.

This section is invaluable to all the designers that think that developing for younglings is basically making an simplified version of your interactive project. Children are a very peculiar and unique public to develop for, and this part does a good job of analysing and explaining how their minds, behaviour and skills are geared.

2. The Wizard of Oz  and other methodologies

Part 2 and 3 of the book focus solely in how to evaluate the products, interviewing, testing, recording methods are all thoroughly explained. This is the part you bought this book for, all the information in this part is very applicable to interactive projects and most of what is said about interviewing and recording data from testing with children can also be applied to adults.

One of the highlights of this section is The Wizard of Oz method. This is great for teams that desire to test their projects before programming an alpha version.

How does it work? As stated by the authors:

“A Wizard of Oz evaluation is one in which some or all of the interactivity that would normally be controlled by computer technology is imitated, or “wizarded”, by a human being”

– Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products, page 219

Not only this makes it possible to test your product before the developing phase, making it possible to forecast usability issues, as this method makes it possible to adapt the “software” feedback in real time as the “wizard” feels will better suit the children experience.

This method is not easy to apply, making the right environment and fast response to keep the belief that the software is really working without the aid of a human behind it is very hard, but the book offers great guidelines to build this methodology.

3.Amazing cases

The fourth and last part of the book tells the story of different cases that applied the methodologies mentioned in the book and reviews the all the steps taken in the application of the products prototypes.

Chapter 16 is one of the most interesting ones, it talks about three prototypes of games controlled by motion and the way the had to predict how children would behave in order to capture the movements is very interesting.

The Wizard of Oz method is very well applied in this case, were a man controlled the game’s feedback according to each movement, only proving the usefulness of this technique.

@ rights of header photo are of Seth Werkheiser. (this image licensed as Creative Commons)

Darkvision: Where are the games for blind and visually impaired players?

bateye

Life is not like a RPG where you carefully build a character choosing each attribute, talent and skill, you never know when or how you are going to get a permanent disadvantage. The truth is that there are more than 280 million visually impaired humans living around the globe, and as any living being, they like to play.

Developing for this user base has always been a challenge, as the game designer Eitan Glinert states in his great article about the matter “Designing Games That Are Accessible To Everyone

“ […] games for the blind shouldn’t mean games for only the blind.

Games for only the blind is a terrible model that most blind people themselves hate[…]”

Of course!

Making a game exclusive for the these players is the absolute opposite of making accessible games. In Glinert’s philosophy, games should be make with accessibility in mind to get the best experience even for disabled users. Nevertheless there are always the stray sheep like the blind youtube user MegaTgarrett who got until the end of Zelda: Ocarina of Time only by using audio cues, patience and tons and tons of save states.

A blind man cleared water temple, what’s your excuse?

If you watched the video above you can see how the last part of the game was a chore to complete, but at the same time, the way the audio cues of Link’s steps and Zelda’s shouts make this section of Ocarina of Time possible to complete.

But what we are after in here aren’t games that these users have to struggle to complete, on the contrary, they must be fun and playable for all fans of videogames.Where are them? Do they exist?

Fear not! I’ve compiled a list of three games with excellent ratings, scroll down for the delicous loot!

lootLoot Time!

blindlegend

A Blind Legend

A Blind Legend is an action/adventure game released in April of 2016 that relies only on audio inputs and awesome voice acting. The game costs only C$ 7,78 and his reviews are very good, it is worth checking out. The game is available for android, iOS and PCs.

audiorun

Audiorun

Audiorun is an action game for iphones by game developer Alexander Shen, it uses heartbeats and crisp sound design to give the player the sensation of being jumping from rooftops and obstacles while the protagonist is running.

king-of-dragon-pass

King of Dragon Pass

King of Dragon Pass was launched in July of 2015 and is fully accessible for visual impaired users at the same time it is beauty to behold. The art is amazing and the game is praised for its charming customizable narrative. The RPG/adventure game is available for iOS and Android devices, as well as on Steam and it is a must for all the fans of the genre no matter their status.


You can see(or listen) that these are just a glimpse of the huge existing market of games adapted to this public and they are still engaging and fun experiences that anyone can enjoy. There are many other games accessible at audiogames.net (with at least 500 on their archive at moment this post is being written).

This is the golden age for visual impaired gamers all over the world. As the videogame industry matures and development tools become more and more accessible (even for blind developers!) we will start to see more mods adapting gameplay for all kinds of gamers, just as it happened to Minecraft that turned a mod into an official version for the visually impaired. There will always be issues with making multiplayer versus games symmetrical for all users at the same time, but this is just a sidequest in the path of a, until now, very successful main quest.

Until the next quest, adventurers!