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Balancing game universes for playing without sight or hearing.

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Stockholm University, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Sweden.


Equal access to cultural activities is important for inclusion and computer gaming is one of the most common activities in digital culture. However, many people with impairments are excluded from participating. While parallel game universes (PGUs) provide a method to achieve equal access, the question is: how can a balanced collaborative real-time game be designed with the help of PGU for playing without sight or hearing? Balance is a central concept in game design and is important to avoid perceived cheating or disadvantages due to individual or environmental differences. The question was examined with a design science approach, where a game prototype was created in two iterations with a structured design method and evaluated using interviews and observations. In this first step of a more long-term study, ten experienced gamers without impairments were selected with purposive sampling to provide relevant data through simulation of temporary impairments or environmental issues, which can affect many or all gamers. By sorting out these issues first, later testing with actual blind and deaf gamers can focus on more specific issues for each group. The ten participants played either without sight or hearing. The results confirm the use of PGUs for creating a balanced experience but also finds that while multiplayer feel is not optimal, it is a reasonable trade-off for universal access for blind and deaf being able to play together. The results also show that a help system and equal understanding of the game play between the blind and deaf players are important aspects to achieve game balance. Further research should be done involving actual blind and deaf gamers, and similar evaluations of game balance should be conducted with users having other types of impairments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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