Descriptive video for videogames
July 27, 2011 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Descriptive video for the blind and visually impaired... for videogames? Does this exist? I’d like to do it. I know there are a million videos of people playing videogames around, but I'd like to do ones tailored for people who can't see.

I’m training to become a braille transcriber, but I thought it might also be neat to do descriptive videos of videogames for the blind and visually impaired. Does this sound like something people would be interested in? I could do both videos and sound files, so those with some vision could benefit from seeing what they can, and those without don’t have to bother with the video.

I can’t find any indication that this exists already, but it may just be that my Google fu is weak. If I knew a blind person, I would ask what they thought, but I don’t know any personally. I figured perhaps someone who can’t see might be interested in knowing a bit of what videogames are like (or perhaps they used to be able to play them), and I think I have good descriptive abilities and the patience to go slowly and describe everything I see and do. I was thinking of doing World of Warcraft to start - I know the game very well, and there is lots of interesting quest text to read, good stories, good characters, and humor. Another possible game to work on is Starcraft 2. There are plenty of casts of games around, but perhaps a cast tailored for people who can’t see the screen would be helpful.

So... good idea or bad idea? I haven’t gotten started yet, but I figure that if descriptive videos of movies and tv are pretty popular, there’s got to be a couple people who would like to listen to detailed descriptions of videogames as well. Am I being unrealistic?

Also, is there anything that I need to know or should keep in mind if I do this? I will be sure to make the website very simple and accessible, of course.
posted by marble to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Adapting games for blind children. Scroll down a bit and there's a bit about electronic games; it's an older article, but it should help. The folks at NFB, by the way, are happy to talk about what works in the sighted world and what doesn't.
posted by Melismata at 3:45 PM on July 27, 2011

I think this is a great idea. There has been some work on computer games for blind people -- I would start talking to the people who are working on this and ask how you can help. Also connect with blindness groups on line and speak with the NFB. Here are some links: one, two, three. The blindness community is super organized so I have no doubt that you will be able to find the people who are interested in talking about your idea.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 3:50 PM on July 27, 2011

The American Foundation for the Blind offers consulting services that might help you.

(MeFiMail me if you want -- I have a good (blind) friend who is very involved in accessible technology for the visually impaired. I could broach the subject with him and possibly connect you if he is interested and has the bandwidth.)
posted by trip and a half at 8:24 PM on July 27, 2011

There are lots of people who work on accessible video games. This one is based on Warcraft, I think, but maybe more simple. (I've never played Warcraft.) It's free, so you might try it out.

A friend of mine started an e-magazine about games for blind people, and there used to be a mailing list as well. (Might still be.) There website is here.

Good luck. There are lots of people making these games, and they seem like great people. I hope you find a project you can get into.
posted by Net Prophet at 4:01 AM on July 28, 2011

There's an iPhone game called Papa Sangre which is entirely audio, and was apparently very well-received by the blind community.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 4:05 AM on July 28, 2011

I am trained as a describer for the blind. Your idea carries a special challenge which may make it unworkable. Much description is of static environments (think: museum exhibits). When I would describe live action (musicals, plays, films), many hours of watching the action in advance were necessary to be able to develop a concise, descriptive text. Even then, the action occurred pretty much the same way every time. Not sure how this would work with video games.

I also did description of impromptu live action like parades and (yes) rodeos. In those cases, the description necessarily followed the activity by just enough time that no real interaction (as I assume would be necessary in a video game) was possible. By the time I managed to describe what the cowboy was wearing, and a few movements of the bull, the cowboy was lying in the dirt!

Unless I am misunderstanding something about the way video games would be played (something which is entirely possible, given that I'm not a gamer), I don't see the potential for description for the blind to be used to assist a blind person to play a video game.

Don't give up, though. The world is full of great things that started as "nobody thought it could be done" ideas.
posted by John Borrowman at 2:48 PM on July 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all for your comments and links! You have given me a lot to think about. I have a lot of reading to do, and I've been doing more brainstorming and writing down some ideas. This weekend I plan to just mess around making some videos just to get my feet wet and see how it goes. l also bought a book from Amazon called Design Accessible Websites, so I can research that before I actually put a site together. Back in the day I hand-coded simple html, so with the guidance of the book I think I can make something simple that is decently workable. But still, much research to be done - I am only just barely getting started.

John Borrowman, I haven't really begun to research descriptive audio yet, but I think it would actually work pretty well for the games I am thinking of doing (or at least starting with). With World of Warcraft, I can pretty much just stand still at any time between fights and talk for as long as necessary about what is on screen, what I'm doing, that sort of thing. The pacing is really quite controllable. I just have to make sure to not go *too* slowly and keep it interesting. Starcraft 2 is similar - I can watch a replay of a game and slow it down or even pause at any time (or even rewind) to describe where units and bases are, that sort of thing. Harder would be adding descriptive audio to a game already casted by professional commentators, but I will look into that as well eventually.

And I'd like to add a thank you as well to the people who MefiMailed me, I'll reply to you soon.
posted by marble at 3:49 PM on July 29, 2011

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