A game that is playable for everyone, designed in a way that even visually impaired can play it. That is the concept behind the game app "Frequency Missing", developed at the University of Skövde. The game was first launched in Swedish. From the summer of 2018, there is also an English version that has been very well received.
For most games, you need to be able to see to play them. Very few games are adapted for visually impaired and people with other impairments. Frequency Missing is an exception to this rule. Frequency Missing was initially developed as a project with financing from The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority as part of an innovation competition. It was produced in Swedish for mobile devices with a touch screen. It was launched and well received, and later on, the idea of making an English version was hatched.
Very positive response
Famous voice-over actors in the gaming community were hired for the English voices and soon the game attracted a lot of praise. "I love this game!" "One of the best games I have played", and "Frequency Missing is a very good example of how to make a point-and-click game available for the visually impaired". These are just a few of the positive reviews for the English version of the game.
Henrik Engström, Associate Professor in Information Technology at the University of Skövde is very pleased.
– The English version comes with professional voice over artists, which makes the quality extra good. Many people have expressed an interest in more games like this, and we would very much like to work with similar projects in the future.
Playing by listening
The game is a predecessor to "Marvinter", a game that was developed together with Sveriges Radio AB (Swedish Radio) for the Christmas calendar children's show in 2017. Marvinter was also developed by using the same inclusive design that is used for Frequency Missing. The inclusive design means that the game should be available for everyone, even blind or visually impaired people. Visually impaired people can play by swiping their finger across the screen and listen for sounds that will guide them through the game.
Story-driven using interesting sounds
For point-and-click games, it is crucial to create an interesting story and environment. Per-Anders Östblad is a lecturer at the University of Skövde, and he is one of the founders of Frequency Missing.
– We wanted to include visually impaired people so we decided to make a story-driven game. It is an exciting and funny story that is also suitable for children. We found inspiration in the noir literature, Tintin and possibly a touch of the Swedish comedy movies about "Jönssonligan", says Per-Anders.
– Many people like the way we developed the game in order to make point-and-click games available and the story of the game and its setting has been very well received. We also received a lot of credit for the graphics and sound, adds Henrik Engström.
In point-and-click games, it is common for the main character to tell the entire story, which becomes very useful for its appeal to visually impaired people. The main character, Patricia, is a radio journalist and the game is mainly set at a radio station sometime in the 60's or 70's.
– That particular era offers may interesting sounds to work with. Typewriters, phones with a cord, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and overall just many more mechanical sounds than we hear today, says Per-Anders Östblad.
Changing the minds of gaming companies is a challenge
There are more disabilities than visual impairment that may affect a perosn’s gaming experience. Dyslexia and colour-blindness may also be problematic for players. It is difficult to replace visual input and Henrik Engström foresees a challenge in promoting the inclusive mindset in more gaming companies.
– All games are not for everyone, but why create more obstacles than necessary, he says.