Blind computer users are playing by ear

Justin Daubenmire, founder of BSC games, is one of a tiny band of game devotees who specialize in computer games for the blind — games that use precisely recorded stereo sound rather than 3D images to guide players through the action.

His first title, Troopanum (2002), is a blend of 1980s classic arcade games, like Galaxian, Space Invaders, and Missile Command. The player must shoot down attackers as they come scrolling down the screen. Only this time, there’s no screen. Sounds, playing through the computer’s stereo speakers, guide the player who has to zip back and forth, trying to blast the enemy without being blasted himself.


Since then he’s upgraded the game and rolled out Pipe 2: Blast Chamber and Hunter. Demo versions are available for free downloading.

Daubenmire and his team have to translate all the action of a computer game into sound. Game instructions are narrated by a female voice. Every attacking spaceship or monster makes its own sound, which grows louder as it approaches the player. Threats also “move” from side to side, thanks to the use of stereo. “You’re listening for objects, and you’re centering them,” explains Daubenmire. When the bad guy is in range, there’s a lock-on sound — time to hit the control key and blast him.

This kind of sound-based play isn’t exactly alien to the world of sighted gamers. For years, computer games have featured surround-sound capability. Players with high-end audio systems can hear attackers sneaking up from the rear.

Via LCGRN Boston.
Related: Location-based game for blind people.
See also: New audio-based video games are developed for blind gamers.