Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
368-06-15-18 – Part 2 – Video gaming basics for blind and visually impaired people – Joe Steinkamp of the Blind Bargains podcast | www.blindbargains.com/audio
Accessibility on Sony PlayStation 4
Accessibility on Microsoft Xbox One
Xbox Adaptive Controller: A Brief History | Inside Xbox
2018 GA Confrence videos now online
Special Olympics USA Games Hosts First-Ever Video Gaming Tournament in Partnership with Xbox
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JOE STEINKAMP: Hi, I’m Joe Steinkamp, cohost of Blind Bargains Podcast, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.
WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
Welcome to episode number 368 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on June 15, 2018. Today we have part two of videogame basics for blind and visually impaired people with my good friend Joe Steinkamp, cohost of the Blind Bargains podcast. We are going to get into all kinds of tips and tricks all about video gaming for folks who are blind or visually impaired. We also have an app review from our partners over at BridgingApps.
We hope you check out our website at EasterSealsTech.com, sent us a note on Twitter@INDATA Project, or call our listener line. We love to hear from you. The number is 317-721-7124.
Do you ever wonder where we get our guests for the show? There is no rocket science happening. The list and pay a lot of attention to what’s happening in the world of assistive technology. We take advantage of our relationships as part of the Easter Seals network and also the network of assistive technology act federally funded US projects. But a lot of times, we hear from our listening audience. We have researchers, developers, inventors, users, educators, all interested in assistive technology. Pretty often you guys will reach out and say, hey Wade, have you thought about having so and so on the show? So-and-so would be a thought leader or somebody who is carving out the leading edge of assistive technology with a product or service or research or compelling story. We would love to hear from you about who you would like to hear on assistive technology update. You can let us know by calling our listener line at 317-721-7124. Tell us why you think somebody might be a good guest on the show, or send me an email. That email address is tech@EasterSealsCrossroads.org. Give us your suggestions. We want to have people on the show that you want to hear on the show. Thank you.
***[2:34] – App Worth Mentioning: Tunetastic
WADE WINGLER: Each week, one of our partners tells us what’s happening in the ever-changing world of apps, so here’s an app worth mentioning.
DERIN OFTRIZACK: This is Derin Oftrizack [phonetic] with BridgingApps, and this is an App Worth Mentioning. This week’s featured app is Tunetastic. This is a fun, interactive storytelling app that encourages creativity through imaginative play. It’s great for lenders ages seven and up, and it promotes language, story creation, expressive language, social skills, even writing. Within the app, learners create their own animated films by choosing characters, setting the scene, then moving the virtual pieces around to tell the story. The activity is similar to playing with action figures in real life. The animation is fantastic and allows users to add their own voice and music. Kids can share their videos in the Tunetastic community and enter in a film contest, even.
We’ve used Tunetastic with typically developing children and children and teens with diagnoses ranging from developmental delay to autism with great success. All the kids love Tunetastic. They cannot get enough playtime on this app. Learners really seem to enjoy the self-paced, creative outlet. Because the program can record voice, it encourages independence and creating stories to share and is very reinforcing to self-esteem. Teachers can use this app for groundwork for writing lessons by having students create stories with Tunetastic and writing about them. The app also teaches the fundamentals of storytelling like character, stories, setting a, etc.
We highly recommend Tunetastic for users of all ages and abilities. It is available in the iTunes Store for free. Upgrades are, of course, available for purchase. This is compatible on an iPad device. For more information on this and other apps like it, visit BridgingApps.org.
***[4:38] Part Two: Interview with Joe Steinkamp
WADE WINGLER: Last week, we had a fun conversation with Joe Steinkamp about all kinds of video gaming for folks who are blind or visually impaired. Today we are going to pick up right where we left off and continue talking about some of his tips and tricks related to video gaming and what he sees in the future coming down the pike. If you happen to miss last week’s episode, go back and pick it up. It is episode number 367 and was released on June 8, 2018. Now here’s part two of video gaming basics for blind and visually impaired people.
WADE WINGLER: Joe, those are super helpful things and a lot of stuff I hadn’t thought of before. You’ve obviously spent some time on this. Give me some more of those tips and tricks, because that’s good stuff.
JOE STEINKAMP: One of the things I suggest to people who are learning games and want to play with their children is to look up FAQ’s and walkthroughs. There are websites like GameFAQs, G-A-M-E-F-A-Q-S, that have a lot of walk-throughs that tell you how to play the game in text. You can download those and have them in a file and be copilot for children. If you are playing a game, like Lego dimensions or anything involving Legos, a good family title on a lot of the systems, you can read ahead and guide your children to the next objective or provide some way to solve a puzzle if it were too frustrating, because it’s all written out in text. YouTube is another great place because there is something called let’s play. Somebody might have already played the game you’re interested in. I do this a lot to be able to see what the menus look like, to see if I will have any problems, to see if there are customization or features within a game that I might like or just to see what the general gameplay is like by watching someone else play briefly, because I don’t want to spoil myself if it is a story game. I’ll do that in order to gain an idea of whether I think the game is going to be fun, or if I think the game is going to have colors that might be hard for me to see or text that might be too small.
Some of the things people also like, especially if they have hearing impairments, is they look at YouTube to see if there are subtitling options, or they look for reviews from others to see if the captioning can be increased in size. Every television is different, especially when you get to the high-resolution television. The text can be really small for anyone to see, not just someone with low vision. They look to see if that can be enlarged. There is a very famous situation with Final Fantasy Fifteen where the game didn’t ship with text that could be enlarged, but due to general player demand, they actually added the option later because people were just finding themselves having a difficult time trying to read the text within the game on larger televisions with higher resolutions.
But I like the GameFAQs option because maybe you aren’t a gamer, but you still want to be a part of that. What we did here in my family, my fiancé is totally blind. Our son read the text on the screen, but a lot of persona five, which is a Japanese role-playing game for PlayStation for, that game conveyed a lot of its story through spoken text. We used the FAQ in order to describe some of the things done visually that our son didn’t describe to us. It turned into family game night, where he was driving the game, we were giving him suggestion for puzzles, we were all listening to the story. The story is over 100 hours, so it was a really long endeavor. It was a great thing for all of us to do as a group. Plus we were teaching him nonvisual techniques of how we were accomplishing reading the story and following along with him done visually while he was still playing the game. It turned into a great family outing.
WADE WINGLER: That’s interesting. I have a five and six-year-old at my house, and we do very little gaming together because we have a Wii, like the original Wii with Super Mario Galaxy and those kinds of things. But that something that happens. I see my five-year-old doing the play-by-play with my six-year-old as we all engage together. I think that’s a great way, like you said, for family game night. It’s cool.
JOE STEINKAMP: It’s really an emerging trend that people watch other people play games. They are on Twitch, on YouTube. It is something that has really arisen in the last five years, that if you maybe didn’t have the time to play one of these larger games, or maybe you didn’t have the skills to do some of the first person stuff — if you like shooting games or you like watching other people. There is a competitive circuit where people play fighting games or these team-based games like Halo where it is a run and gun, you go around shooting aliens or other people. Some people just like to watch that competitively as if it were football, basketball, or baseball. It’s something we’ve grown up with as part of the Internet. Doing this competitively has existed for a long time, going all the way back to counterstrike and stuff in the nineties. But watching it on ESPN or online and seeing some major corporations sponsoring it is something that still fairly new. It has a large audience. I will watch occasionally professional fighting terminates where they will play a fighting game like Mortal Kombat. There is even blind streetfighter players who’ve done pretty well for themselves in the competitive market, playing at these things that are huge tournaments where people go and play in Las Vegas or in Europe. It’s like a mini Olympics.
Even that is interesting because the special Olympics is going to have them sponsorship from major corporations in Seattle, Amazon and Microsoft and others, laying down a lot of cash to be able to bring us a lot more to the special Olympics, including a videogame challenge. There is going to be a driving game called Forza Motorsport available for people to play with the new Microsoft adaptive controller. Microsoft’s adaptive controller is really cool because it actually has a lot of programmable points on it for those who are playing with switches. If you are in a switch support situation, if you have something where you needed to play with one hand, or maybe you needed to operate the controls with your feet, Microsoft just recently released this wonderful controller which allows larger buttons or custom configurations for those who are physically disabled to play games along with everyone else.
WADE WINGLER: We did a story on that on assistive technology update and how I’ve been trying to learn more about it. That’s interesting that you have some insight. Tell me more about that or any other industry trends that you think we need to be paying attention to.
JOE STEINKAMP: I love that there are now conferences dedicated to nothing but games and accessibility, and they are starting to pop up more and more right before Games Developers Conference, which just happens to be around the same time as CSUN, so that’s a professional conflict. I haven’t been able to go to this yet because I usually have to go to CSUN. But next year they are actually going to be separated.
The Games Accessibility Conference happens right before the Games Developers Conference where all these game developers come together to learn from one another. They placed this at the beginning so they have the opportunity to learn about accessibility as well. So a lot of the big names are there who make games are now starting to come together to support this initiative to allow other people to play outside of what we would normally consider the general population of gaming. Some of that is coming because of the game developers themselves are aging. They are starting to exhibit disabilities themselves. The empathy level has risen. But there’s also the understanding that there is a large number of people who would buy games or be more involved with games if they had access to games, which is fantastic. Microsoft actually recorded the conference from last year, and that’s available through channel 9, their video components. A lot of those talks are of users having conversations with developers about how they can make the games even better for them.
A perfect example of that is Karen Stevens over at Electronic Arts who took a lot of community feedback and added it in to the workflow for Madden 2018. Totally blind people were playing a game which you would essentially think is very visual and could not be played, being blind. Some of that was just vibrating the controller at the right time to let you know how to kick a field goal or letting you know when you could make a pass and giving you audio feedback from the commentary that is already in the game to let you know that you’ve succeeded or not. They are going a lot further with it in the next iteration, and I’m excited to see.
That’s the trickle-down effect. It just takes someone to do it first. I’m limited by what my mom used to say, which is nobody wants to be first, but everyone will kill to be second. That’s starting to happen in this industry.
WADE WINGLER: It’s interesting. From the business perspective, it sort of makes sense. I’ve been studying the issue of corporate social responsibility versus corporate social innovation recently. Corporate social responsibility says big companies need to not only make money but do good things for people in the environment and things like that. But the emerging trend is what about corporate social innovation where that do-gooder kind of mentality actually turns into business value and those kinds of things? It sounds like I’m starting to hear some echoes of that in this situation you are describing.
JOE STEINKAMP: With the case of the adaptive controller from Microsoft Xbox, the head of Xbox came out and said this technology is a hours. We are happy to share it with everyone. We are not going to be gatekeepers on that. He offered it to Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft has an inclusive lab where people can go and learn about inclusive gaming from a number of people. I think that’s important because Satya Nadella has gone out of his way to mention accessibility, because he has disabled children. It’s a passion point for him. Of course we’ve heard Apple talk about accessibility for a long time.
That’s starting to come over with things like the new braille HID initiative were Apple, Google, and Microsoft are going to have a protocol which allows braille displays to work on all of their platforms. I think a lot of that is starting to emerge organically. They didn’t have to come through lawsuits, and it didn’t have to come through social justice. It has just come as these individuals themselves have grown older, as they start to understand who their users are. And then it just feels good when they can provide the solutions and get direct feedback from the community through things like Able Gamers or Special Effect or even the Veterans Administration, who, unfortunately, disabled individuals sometimes can have a lot of free time on their hand. Just having a quality of life issue with games can bring up an attitude or an Outlook and maybe even turn things into a positive. Maybe that kind of thing helps them achieve goals, builds self-confidence, and I can turn into so many other things within their lives.
WADE WINGLER: What are you playing now? What’s your all-time favorite game?
JOE STEINKAMP: I’m currently in the process of unfortunately going through my retro history. Sega just released a Sega Genesis collection which has all of his old Genesis games from the nineties. There are 50 of them. There are two games, Landstalker and Light Crusader. They are the same kind of game. It’s the isolinear thing, of all things. They never really finished them in the nineties, his wife come and gone back to that. I’m still playing Injustice 2 which is a fighting game with DC superheroes them up for very little reason other than they exist. Role-playing games are a must in my house. We are actually playing persona four. Our 15-year-old wants to play the persona series black words. He came to persona five and now he wants to go through the older titles. We are playing persona four as a family now. There is another story driven game where we are all sitting down after dinner and watching the characters interact. That’s a big thing.
I’m thinking about getting a Nintendo Switch for the family because our son is a huge Pokémon fan. We will probably have to get that because they’ve announced a new Pokémon game for that, and he would be very upset if he didn’t have access to it. We will probably have that coming up. Plus it gives me the ability to get more into the accessibility functions of that device. Believe it or not, I’ll use Microsoft Seeing AI to read some of those menus and screens. I’ll grab my phone and pointed at the screen to read things that may be too difficult to read. The Xbox 360 is a perfect example of this. They put white text with green highlighting as their menu system. That is just so glare centric. I will use Microsoft seeing AI on the phone to read whether I am installing something correctly or two double check that I’m not and I screen with an error screen that I can’t figure out visually.
Looking at high definition gaming, we had 1080p television in the house, and I’m going to move us two 4K. My fiancé and I might not necessarily get a lot out of it, but I know he will, especially being a graphics aficionado. Looking at upgrading those is another thing, because understanding what video works with the what and how and connecting that in trying to provide the best picture for your family when you yourself may not see that video on the great, is another issue. That gets into things like Dolby vision versus HDR and compression. Do I play off a streaming service or do I play off a Blu-ray? Listening to the family and deciding what to do best. I’ve got a lot of technology in my future. It’s always like that when you do this for a living. It’s a lot of fun because the things were talking about now, especially when it comes to having a screen reader on a videogame console, our new things. That just came about in 2015. Now most of the people on my friend list on Xbox are blind. That’s just crazy.
WADE WINGLER: Tell Ricky I said look out. She can listen to this interview and know what’s going to happen with the family budget.
JOE STEINKAMP: She would say that you have a wedding to plan. I paid off the ring so that’s good, I know that part is done.
WADE WINGLER: Priorities.
JOE STEINKAMP: Exactly. One for you, one for me.
WADE WINGLER: What still needs to be fixed? What is on your wish list? If you could wave your magic wand in the gaming world for accessibility, what would you do?
JOE STEINKAMP: I think for a lot of people, it’s content. It’s nice that the system sees things are running on is becoming more accessible and that we can access them and be a part of understanding how that ecosystem works and how we can pay for it or how we can browse the store and buy things for ourselves. We don’t have to leave home anymore. You don’t have to go to a retail store and browse a bunch of games or feel awkward with the guy behind the counter judging you for being blind and coming in and rubbing her nose up against all the titles to see what they are. You can actually just do it from the comfort of your house. That’s awesome.
The question I get asked a lot is what kind of games can I play. Right now, the answer is very limiting. Some people may find that they like playing rhythm-based games. You play a song along with the computer and do it in the correct time, so you play plastic instruments like a drum or guitar or tap the controller. Some people are not football fans, so the Madden example I gave you a minute ago might not appeal to them. Some people might not even be aware what kinds of games they want to play, because they never have the express before. A lot people are going to the Microsoft store and learning about it, or going to game stop and playing around with the PlayStation to see what the accessibility is like. For a lot of people, it’s that. It’s knowing what kinds of things I can play, and if I like them or not.
It’s a lot like talking about sushi. I read about it online. I’m not sure that I want to try fish. If I did try raw fish, did I try the right raw fish? That whole conversation really depends on where you feel on the menu of raw fish. Maybe you just go there and go, you know, I’ve decided I’m not going to do this. I think I’ll just have stirfry instead.
WADE WINGLER: Very ago. There is a lot of new ones and stuff there. If you had to recommend one starting point, if we have somebody listening to this interview — which has a ton of great information, and I appreciate it. If someone says okay, I want to stick my toe in this a little bit, where would you recommend as a good starting point or points?
JOE STEINKAMP: I think if you have a friend, neighbor, or if you have someone within your family who is already in one of these camps. Because it’s very much like I am a fan of Captain Kirk Star Trek. No, I’m a fan of Captain Picard Star Trek. I’m a fan of TNG. I’m a fan of Deep Space Nine. If you already have someone who has a stake in the game — haha.
WADE WINGLER: Nice.
JOE STEINKAMP: You can lean into that, because if it’s not for you, then you can just pass it on to someone else. Let’s take the example of maybe there is a PlayStation on sale, and your children have expressed that they are interested in God of War, which is a game about raising a child in Norse mythology. Then you have something to fall back on. Or maybe you can regift it. I found that it wasn’t for me, and I’m not a fan of this, but it was so cheap and was a great deal, because they are always going on sale, I’ll just pass it down to someone else within the family. Or maybe you turn around and donate it to a scouting organization or a youth group or a hospital, like a Children’s Hospital. If you do find that this isn’t something for you or you tried it and it was not meeting your needs, there are organizations that will help you find places for that technology to go so it doesn’t necessarily have to sit in the closet and gather dust, which I think is really important.
WADE WINGLER: This has been very helpful, lots of good stuff. Let’s plug your show one more time before we close out. But you absolutely. You can go over to BlindBargains.com. Head on over to the podcast section. You know, let’s get our apps. We have them available for Google Android as well as iOS. It’s a weekly show. We also have news stories that pop up for blindness and low vision. We have a tendency to do convention coverage, so CSUN what you heard me mentioned before as well as the summer blindness conventions, ACB and NFB. We interviewed a lot of the major players within the assistive technology industry that are located within the fields of blindness or low vision. We also have a tendency to talk about all sorts of things. We just did our WWDC wrap up show. Life will get very interesting when we get to the hardware events. September, October, we will be talking about whether it’s worth it to go ahead and buy some of these things. Of course, we also talked about home automation because we have Echoes and Google products and are always talking to those things. Definitely check us out. You can also follow us on Twitter at blind bargains.
WADE WINGLER: Joe Steinkamp is the cohost of the blind bargains podcast, video gaming expert, and my good friend from way back. Thanks so much for being on the show today. But to thank you for having me on. I hope everyone has happy gaming experiences.
WADE WINGLER: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find other shows like this, plus much more, at AccessibilityChannel.com. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.
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