Video games used to switch roles and learn about disabilities

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Even in a class about video games, it’s not every day that students get to actually play video games. It’s even more rare they get to play them blindfolded to learn about disabilities.

However, that’s just what happened in HAC Professor Justin Young’s honors seminar class, Video Games: Art, Culture, and History of a Medium. Young got the idea after reading a tweet over the weekend. The tweet referenced a post on Reddit by Mandi Bundren about how the newly released Nintendo Switch console and 1-2 Switch game allowed her and her husband to enjoy video games together. That post is quoted below:

Even though it’s just me and my husband (who is totally blind), I bought 1-2 Switch because I figured it would be a little reminiscent of Wii Play or Wii Sports. When he got home from work at 7 I put the game in and asked him to play with me. I didn’t expect to play for more than 15 minutes, but it was after 9 before we quit. We went through every game except for the ones that seem too sight-based (like the dancing ones and the treasure chest game). I was amazed at how accessible this game is for blind people. So many of the games require listening for a prompt to react (like Quick Draw) or feeling the rumble in the joy con to know when you’ve hit the mark (like in Safe Crack). Out of the 28 games he was able to play against me in 21 or 22 or of them, and he beat me most of the time. Even at ping pong! So it turns out, this was a worthy investment for me. 🙂
— Mandi Bundren

Young said that got him thinking about the new Switch sitting in his living room. “I hadn’t intended to do anything in class with it right now, but I just thought this was such a unique perspective on the medium,” Young said. It also just happens to be Disability Awareness Month.

Students Korrenn Broaddus and Jacob Swanson were used as the guinea pigs. Both were blindfolded and played part of 1-2 Switch, a mini-game collection where many of the games do not require looking at the screen. The Table Tennis mini-game they played simply asks players to play table tennis by the sound of the ball hitting the table and then swinging with the Joy-Con controllers.

Young said the fun was followed with talking about accessibility design in games—from options for colorblind players to specialty controllers designed for those with more severe physical disabilities. Young views the issue as personal, since he has a vision disability. “I think any time you can design something to make it more inclusive—more open to anyone—that’s an incredible win for society. I hope students think more about that after leaving class.”

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