Social games are becoming more prevalent as mobile devices allow us to maintain contact with family and friends. But those games usually rely on visual displays to play the game and chat with other players.
Debbie Fisher, 37, from Reno, NV, and a mother of four, has been legally blind all her life due to a genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa. She can only see light and dark shapes and cannot discern details.
Fisher said she has always enjoyed playing games with her family. However, those games were usually restricted to titles where other people were physically around to assist her. After she got her iPhone and iPad, she tried playing some of the downloadable games, but due to her eyesight, she couldn’t find a game that she enjoyed and allowed her to play with her friends.
Fisher uses the Voice Over accessibility program on her Apple products to help her “see” what’s on the screen and interact with it. She said it was tough to find games that were compatible with the Voice Over program.
“I always get the free version (of games) to make sure it is Voice Over compatible, which is what makes the iPhone and the iPad talk,” she said. “If it works, then I’ll get the paid version, but I need to make sure it works first.”
Fisher said she’s likes the games on the mobile devices, but has only found one game that works for her and also lets her play and communicate with her friends. “Hanging With Friends” (Zynga) is word game that resembles Hangman, but there are a few twists.
One player comes up with a word that another player tries to discover one letter at a time. Get a letter wrong and the balloons holding up your avatar will start popping until there is nothing to save you from the lava pit below.
The game, which debuted in July, is played one on one and can be played with anyone anywhere. Fisher said “Hanging With Friends” specifically works with Voice Over and lets her “see” what’s going on and chat with her family and friends who are playing.
“Playing a game against the computer is one thing. But playing against real people is what makes it so much better.”
Paul Bettner, general manager of Zynga With Friends, said they didn’t intend to make a game for the visually impaired, but are pleased that their game can be enjoyed by people like Fisher.
“It may seem silly to think that a game can change someone’s world, but why not?,” Bettner said. “’Hanging With Friends’ was designed so that nearly anyone can pick it up and play and we are very happy and proud to welcome visually impaired players now as well.”
Fisher said there are other games that are Voice Over compatible, but they don’t allow for the social interaction that “Hanging With Friends” does. She said she hopes more social games will embrace the Voice Over program so she can enjoy them with her family and friends.
“’Hanging With Friends’ really wasn’t my type of game until I started playing it. I wouldn’t have even guessed that I’d be so into that game before I started playing it,” she said. “But I love this game.”