They refer to the quality of existing, not the quality of living (or the quality of gaming)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/11/26 07:01 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2010/11/26/10096827.aspx


So it was not too long ago that I blogged a blog for this Blog entitled The bizarre variation of a skeleton that is iBot + me, to a Kinect.

In it I talked about a meeting inside Microsoft with internal folks with an interest in accessible gaming.

That meeting took place maybe a week before one with lots of external influential folks in accessible gaming (mentioned here).

I was told that with the exception of some purely internal issues that couldn't be discussed, the two meetings were remarkably similar, with the same slide decks and analogous setups for the labs.

Even at that meeting, barely a few months before the release, we were told that feedback we gave was almost certainly for future versions, because it really was mere months until the release.

But now, on the other end of the Kinect release, I know that even if none of the feedback people mentioned in the meeting was applied to the Kinect that the feedback they recorded with the iBot and the Kinect was used -- because the Kinect was no longer confused about me in almost every way that it was confused two months prior.

Although a tiny bit of me can be frustrated about the fact that I was now to be shut out of some games, the vast majority of me knows that if they had shipped that version of the Kinect I would have ripped it to shreds. Simply to shreds. And thus there is no way I can say that they made the wrong decision here or did the wrong thing.

In some ways, they are one of the few part of Microsoft that I feel is on course these days!

But ACCESSIBILITY is a big word, much bigger than just my experiences -- which are at best limited to physical mobility issues of one guy in a wheelchair.

For Microsoft, that word isn't just a line item.

It's over a dozen different line items, since it covers just about any kind of physical or mental challenge that makes a computer or a computer program or a game harder to use, or impossible to use.

Now blogs like Joe Clark's Where open-source is as good as Microsoft (which cites my iBot/Kinect blog even though most of his blog is focusing on a different aspect of accessibility than the ones I have obviously been focusing on).

I am not going to respond to Joe's blog directly since it is mostly about issues I have no experience with, except to say that I have talked with people who have other disabilities and accessibility challenges who don't always say as many nice things about Apple as Joe does. Which is not to say they say much that is better or nicer about Microsoft either.

Both of them kind of suck for games, for many people with accessibility issues. The few exceptions relate either to unplanned benefits or government regulations, for both companies, and actually most companies.

My own experience with getting the iBot approved by insurance, described in Cogito ergo cathedra... (I think, therefore IBOT...), reminded me that they didn't care about how much easier it would make traveling -- they cared how it helped around the house and such. Because that was what they cared about -- quality of existing, not quality of living.

Other exceptions (e.g. the XBOX "Indie Games" In the Pit game which is audio only) actually get panned by people who point out all of the "flaws" in no video (e.g. this negative review).

I guess you could say that this person never really considered the fact that I have had blind friends of mine tell me they were able to kick the ass of any sighted person when they played this game because it actually forces a person to deal with the same limitations and issues that someone who is actually blind can face.

So I suppose one could look at that review somewhat ignorant to the wider issues of accessibility and say that (since a game with those limitations on it is bad) and conclude the reviewer is saying that being blind makes for bad games. Because in that reviewer's view, games without those features are bad.

I doubt John Kershaw (the reviewer) would extend his "the graphics are rubbish" to claim that "blind people are rubbish". And if asked to review it in the wider context of someone who is blind, he might have written a very different review of the game -- one that was a bit more sensitive to the situation.

But games are a real wilderness when it comes to accessibility in general. None of the big companies making games target disabled players, and with the exception of such Indie games and modified controllers that cost a lot of money, no one is doing much to make sure that the gaming situation itself isn't rubbish.

What I liked about the summit and about the general feeling of the team is that there is lots that can be done in the games spaces for accessibility, since for every extreme case like me there are many who are tired when when get home and can't jump around standing up. And for every extreme case of someone who is deaf there are many who can't discern sound well when there is lots of background noise, in the extreme case where someone is blind there are many who are colorblind or unable to see as well. And so on.

For everyone, ACCESSIBILITY is about quality of existing, not quality of living (or quality of gaming).

My biggest hope is that this realization can have more impact on the Kinect, and the XBOX folks, and the game studios. Because much of the work to help people with disabilities can help everyone else -- since we are all getting older and find things we can't do, and we need programs and games that help everyone. The fact that the people behind th XBOX and Kinect are looking at the problem without the kinds of government regulation that drives most of the industry to do work here means a LOT to me.

Because no one else is really trying to help just the people with accessibility issues.

Not even the games that run on Apple products....


carlos on 26 Nov 2010 9:36 AM:

The In The Pit review you link to points out all the flaws (after all, it is a "negative review") but concludes "I personally loved the game."  That's hardly a panning.

John Cowan on 26 Nov 2010 10:29 AM:

Well, I wanted to point out to Clark (whom I never heard of before) that the Apple world has all the advantages of tyrannical paternalism over freedom and democracy, but I couldn't, because he hasn't made his blog accessible to comments.

But that's by the way.  What really struck me was the phrase "in an iBot", which is obviously cloned from "in a wheelchair."  I get the impression that you don't think of yourself as being "in" the iBot, any more than a bicycle rider thinks of himself as being "in" the bicycle, even if it's a reclining bicycle.  Am I right?

Kershaw's review of <i>In the Pit</i> is actually fairly positive: 7 on a scale of 1-10. (There is an 11 on the official scale, but it's "perfection", which obviously does not exist.)  "The graphics are rubbish" is evidently a joke, since there aren't any.  And he says "I personally loved the game".

Michael S. Kaplan on 26 Nov 2010 11:41 AM:

I hadn't thought about it that way, it seems like one of those "George Carlin -- On vs. In the Plane" conversations. Joe actually does know a lot about accessibility, especially closed and open captioning.

The In The Pit review that doesn't even mention the blind connection, and points out what many might not like without mentioning the one thing that might make people think a it more.... and the review calls itself a negative review....

John Cowan on 27 Nov 2010 12:03 PM:

It's actually Negative Gamer as a whole that publishes "Negative Reviews", which is why their 1-10 rating scale is expressed as -1 to -10 (with 0 as perfection).  As of August 2010 they became Nukezilla and switched to a conventional 1 to 5 positive scale, but older reviews haven't been changed.

Michael S. Kaplan on 27 Nov 2010 12:25 PM:

Okay, missed that. I'm still unhappy about missing the most important part of the game, but I guess the review itself isn't "negative" in the bad sense. The only sin is of omission....

Thank you for criticizing me for points I did not make on 27 Nov 2010 1:10 PM:

Accessibility of gaming is so poor that the industry in general has outsourced it to Able Gamers; reminiscent of the Microsoft attitude toward accessibility (we make products for normal people first, but feel free to fix them later on if you can), game developers have pretty much given up on the idea of building anything other than captioning into games from the ground up.

But gosh, wasn’t it just the other day on the Maccessibility podcast where guests were discussing how much more accessible a few games they liked had suddenly become under iOS 4.2? Still, I would just like to state for the record that I do not have a horse in the hunt for game accessibility. I work on enough issues as it is.

And your habit  of claiming you’ve talked to a couple of people who have told you something other than the verifiable truth, hence the verifiable truth must be neither, is as misplaced here as it is in discussions of, say, Canadian English.

Also, tell John Cowan it’s my site, not his, and there will never be comments on it. He seems to have no trouble commenting anyway.

Meanwhile, how *does* a blind person use a Zune? Anyone?

Michael S. Kaplan on 27 Nov 2010 2:23 PM:

Joe, since that is not in fact Microsoft's attitude toward accessibility, I am going to ignore the rest of the comment (venom, flame, and all), and probably block/delete future such comments. You can write them on your own blog if you truly feel that must be written.


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