Let’s start at the beginning. It will probably take me 2 or 3 posts to tell the story, but I just have to tell it. I’m overwhelmed. We’re all overwhelmed.
November 2014: The first shock...
The kid doesn’t answer my question. He probably didn’t hear me, I’m thinking.
“So what kind of games do you play?” I ask again.
“What do you mean?” he answers.I get goose bumps. Same question, same answer. They’re all junior-high kids, all blind.
We’re at the Greek Centre for Education and Rehabilitation for the blind, in Athens. We want to set the standards based on which we will construct the first game for blind children.
And that’s when the first shock hit us.
They don’t understand the question “what kind of games do you play?” And they’re kids. Kids!
“What do you play with your siblings?” we ask again, changing the question.
“We play chase, we jump up and down Kostas’ bed, because it’s got the softest mattress…things like that.”
After a lot of interviews, reality becomes clear. What our (secondary) research has shown so far checks out. There are no quality games for blind children.
These kids play chase, hide-and-seek, they tease each other… But there are no games, like Monopoly or something, made for blind children. And even if there are, these kids don’t know of them and don’t play them. What are people doing? What are we waiting for?
November 2014. The second shock
“Pou? And how in the world can you play that on your tablet? Are you kidding me?” I ask her.
“What’s Pou? Nikos asks, always by my side trying to set the game standards – he’s the programmer after all.
“Wait, I got this. So, Katerina, are you joking? Is this maybe for the kids that can’t see?”
“No, it’s the regular one.” She says smiling playfully. For some reason I can’t explain, she seems to like me and be comfortable around me.
“And how…HOW can you play?”
“I just play. I’ve learned where to tap and I play.”
In case you don’t have kids/nieces/nephews etc and you don’t know what Pou is, it’s a Smartphone game widely appreciated among these target groups. But if you can’t see, you can’t play. You just can’t. It’s made for seeing people. You have to jump from one cloud to another, drive a car… you get the gist.
After a long time and a lot of inquiry I got what she was doing. And that’s when the second shock hit us.
She just needed to play; play video games like her friends. So she does whatever she can. She taps the screen, hears the sounds and she feels like she’s playing. Something else, something amazing.
And she doesn’t care about winning. It’s enough for her to feel that she’s interacting with a game. She just plays.
What an insatiable thirst for playing!
How can you take that? How badly do we HAVE to make it!