Audio Game Hub game review

I received a response from my review of A Blind Legend asking me to take a look at another audio game, Audio Game Hub available for iOS, Android, and Microsoft Windows (from the official website). This game has a somewhat confusing name and when I first received the request I wasn’t sure if I was being asked to review a game or an app/website that collects a list of audio games (which, by the way, does exist); the app is in fact a collection of eight arcade-style games adapted for playing by sound.

Although it’s been a long time since I played A Blind Legend and, consequent to my BIID going away, I no longer have much of a personal interest in audio games, I nevertheless decided to take a look (figuratively speaking) at the Android version. I’ve played each of the eight games and while I’m not going to give a full review for each there are some general aspects that I would like to comment on.Read More »

Another look at A Blind Legend

I wrote a review a few months ago of the recently-released “A Blind Legend” audio-only game for mobile devices. When I wrote the review, I had only played the game for half an hour or so, and already I was impressed with the quality of the 3D audio and the gameplay looked promising, but I wanted to come back after I’d played the game and take a more in-depth look at the gameplay itself. That review has received a lot of views on my blog, so here’s the follow-up.Read More »

A Blind Legend game review

Sometime during the first half of last year, I came across a new video game being developed for iOS, Android, and more recently Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X (the desktop versions were not available at the time of writing so please note that this review focuses on the mobile versions only). Unlike almost every other video game, it was intended to be played using sound only, making it accessible to blind players. Furthermore, the main character in the game – and the character which the player plays as – is in fact blind, and as someone with an interest in technology, an interest in accessible software for the blind, and considerable experience with pretending to be blind in real life, I was very interested in the game and intended to play it as soon as it was released, which was supposed to be some time in October last year. It was released, I believe, on time, although it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally got round to downloading it, and only this morning did I get a chance to play the first few scenes.

I’d like to start off by saying that the game is as impressive as I was hoping it would be. The environments and game play feel incredibly realistic and immersive, and the player gets into the first-person role quite quickly. This is one game that you’ll definitely want to have plenty of time to try out.Read More »

Armless, the movie

A few days ago I watched the film “Armless”. Having previously seen Quid Pro Quo, I was hoping for a similar nice overview of BIID but with more of a lighthearted touch, as the film was supposed to be a comedy. This, I thought, would be an interesting mixture and something that I believe the right filmmakers could have pulled off very well.

Let me start by saying that it failed at both. It’s probably the worst representation of BIID that I have seen from the media (even worse than the recent Jewel Shuping story), and this is particularly disappointing considering that this film was released two years later than Quid Pro Quo, the latter of which gave an almost perfect representation. The comedy elements are also rather cheap, and are incredibly thin and dry most of the time. The plot also remains rather flat, and the ending is disappointing although could have been better with a different build-up.

Nevertheless there were a few funny moments, and perhaps two continued gags. There’s plenty to keep a viewer laughing on the surface for most of the film, but it’s not the kind of in-depth, well-planned comedy that I value. And considering that there is pretty much no value in the film from a BIID perspective – if anything it does more harm than good – I can’t see any reason for someone to watch this film over and above any other mediocre comedy, BIID sufferer or otherwise.

I’ve given a more in-depth look at the film below, however this section contains spoilers. You have been warned.Read More »

Quid Pro Quo, the movie

Yesterday I decided that I really ought to watch the film “Quid Pro Quo”, a.k.a. the BIID film. I’ve known about it pretty much since I first started researching BIID, but so far I had not thought to watch it.

Overall I’d say that it was a good film. Bearing in mind that this is 2008 that we’re talking about, it gives a surprisingly accurate representation of BIID, considering the usual mis-portrayals that the media somehow manage to come out regarding even things as common as blindness. Although it focuses specifically on the paralysis variant of BIID, one could easily apply the ideas suggested to any other variant.

On the other hand, the plot had numerous holes in it and was not exactly consistent, generally falling apart in places and the end of the film could quite easily be from a different story to the beginning – although that might have been the intention. The general tone is that of a drama with a bit of a thriller thrown in in places, and the plot and portrayal thereof also has quite a heavy psychological element.

As someone with BIID, I’d say that the film hit home with me in a lot of places, despite me personally having the less-common blindness variant of BIID, and I could frequently identify with the characters. I also found that the depicted relationships between the paralysed protagonist and the “wannabes” was very close to the real-life experiences of people with BIID that I have read about. Nevertheless I found the “creepy” aspect a bit offputting in the beginning and slightly offensive, although this softened as I got further into the film.

For someone without BIID, I can’t see much in the film that makes it exactly amazing. The plot is interesting, and contains a lot of small details about BIID which are actually true, so from an informational point of view the film is better than one would expect for something of this nature, but I can’t imagine someone without BIID really being able to engage with the story. The numerous plot holes also detract from this element, and quite frankly I think the film is of rather poor quality apart from its informational accuracy. For someone trying to learn more about BIID, however, I would say that the film does offer a good overview however it is important to bear in mind the factual inaccuracies which I will point out below.

I’ve given a more in-depth look at the film below, however this section contains spoilers. You have been warned.Read More »

Current BIID support groups

If you’ve done much research on BIID you’ve probably come across numerous references to a website called transabled.org. You probably then tried to find this site, and got either a 404, a “server not found” message, or a domain squatter’s advert (“this domain is for sale” or “find other content about transabled” with a bunch of spammy links) depending on how long ago you looked for it. The bad news is, you’re not alone. The good news is, you’re not without (all) hope.

In its heyday, transabled.org was indeed the most vibrant community of people with BIID around. People from all over the world and with diverse medical histories contributed to the site, which was an unusual mixture of a forum, a blog, and a collection of informative articles. The goal of the site is not entirely clear either, as in some ways it seems to be aimed at increasing awareness of BIID while the users definitely regarded it more as a support group. Run by the former BIID sufferer and advocate Sean O’Connor, the site sadly disappeared at the end of 2013 along with the rest of Sean’s online presence (we still don’t know what actually happened to him). Almost all of the content has nevertheless been archived at the Wayback Machine and you can read it here.

But while that may be good for informative purposes – and indeed I have gained a lot from reading the archives of the site – it’s not exactly exciting news when you’re looking for a support group, like I was when I first found out about transabled.org.Read More »

Custom Debian systems

Ever set up a new Ubuntu installation only to then attempt to remove most of the installed packages? I have, when I wanted to put a small, fast-to-boot, command-line only live Linux system on the backup hard drives to facilitate backing up the computer without an optical drive. And it was a real pain, because I pretty soon had a broken Ubuntu system which nevertheless had a lot of clutter left behind from packages that I didn’t even know were there until I removed a dependency thereof. Fortunately I gave up on trying to “slim down” an Ubuntu system and turned to Google for an answer.

This should have been much easier to find, but it wasn’t, and that’s why I’m posting it here: Debian. Debian live, to be precise. Yes, unless you specifically choose a version that includes a graphical desktop, you get just a basic command-line interface with a number – but not an excessive number – of common Linux tools included. Exactly what I needed.

But the real power of this “base” Debian system is not how little software comes pre-installed, but rather how much software is available. You’ve got the full Debian package repositories available – the same repositories that projects such as Ubuntu are based off of – and combined with the slim system that you get either in the live environment or after installation, you’ll be building up your perfect system from modular blocks rather than stripping it down from a pile of bloat.Read More »

Most accessible: Ubuntu MATE

Yes, that’s right. The most accessible Linux distro that I’ve used so far is not Vinux, a purpose-built Ubuntu remix designed for blind users. Neither is it the standard Ubuntu with the Unity desktop environment. It’s Ubuntu MATE.

But why? Well, let’s start with standard Ubuntu. The Orca screenreader works out of the box and is easily launched with a simple keyboard combination (alt+winkey+s for those who are interested), and pretty much all of the installed software works nicely with it, including LibreOffice which relies on a bridge between Java and the Linux ATK framework for Orca to work with it. The only thing which doesn’t work nicely with the screenreader is… the desktop itself. Switching between multiple windows of the same application in the Unity desktop environment ideally requires one to see the thumbnails of the windows. Pinning and rearranging items in the launcher is impossible without the mouse (or at least so difficult that even I can’t figure it out). Let’s not even mention the dash – it crashed the screenreader every time I tried it.

Now I’ll tell you a secret about Vinux: it’s really just Ubuntu under a different name. You’d think that it’s been “tweaked” a little to make it more accessible – in fact that’s what they claim on their website – but actually it hasn’t. Short of being configured with a different wallpaper and login sound, a larger mouse pointer, and a screenreader that starts up by default rather than by pressing a key combination, there’s pretty much no difference between Vinux and Ubuntu. It’s got the same Unity desktop environment with the same accessibility issues as standard Ubuntu. Furthermore, for some reason LibreOffice isn’t installed by default and it doesn’t work with the screenreader when one installs it from the package repositories – the latter of which are almost completely broken due to numerous mis-matched package versions which prevent apt from installing additional packages that depend on them. In short, Vinux is a hacked-up Ubuntu system that doesn’t offer any genuine advantage in terms of accessibility for blind users.Read More »