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A trilogy of gaming-disability news

Since they're all so cool I couldn't decide between them, here are three neat things I found:

1. Max Shooter, an XBox 360 adapter

2. "Strikes for Strokes donations aid in rehab," from Mt. Vernon Register-News

3. SpecialEffect.org.uk

Virtual reality project lets kids with Down Syndrome communicate with each other

"Collaborative networked framework for the rehabilitation of children with Down's Syndrome" (PDF) is an old paper from the University of Averio in Portugal, but the project described is really interesting. Presented at the third International Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality and Associated Technology in Alghero, Italy in 2000, the authors propose "a multi-user virtual communication platform that enables rehabilitation and social integration of Down's Syndrome children."

PETA spoofs Cooking Mama for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is trying to get the word out about the conditions turkeys are born into, raised and slaughtered in just so they can become that delicious dining table center piece on the last Thursday of November.

In typical PETA fashion, it has co-opted something that mainstream society can relate to (Majesco's Cooking Mama) and made sure its version hemorrhages buckets of blood (blood pours from broken eggs!). And it also makes sure to throw as much chilling information and videos into the mix as "bonuses" to further shock you into vegetarianism.

Whether this will persuade meat eaters to change their ways is debatable—I, for one, kept playing trying to better my score—but whatever your view, Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals Unauthorized PETA Edition is an entertaining diversion.

Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals Unauthorized PETA Edition

Heidi Klum Guitar Hero commercial on The O'Reilly Factor

Bill O'Reilly must have had an intern scouring the Internet for news because the Internet-only version of the Heidi Klum Guitar Hero World Tour commercial was the subject of discussion on last week's The O'Reilly Factor.

The twist is that O'Reilly thinks like most red-blooded American (male) gamers, that Heidi Klum in nothing but a T-Shirt and underwear is very appealing.

But in an effort to not come off as sexist or offend his conservative viewers who might have a problem with the video—and his approval of said video—he asks two pundits to chime in. And in another twist, the conservative female pundits see nothing wrong with the commercial for the most part. 

Heidi Klum Guitar Hero World Tour Commercial on O'Reilly Factor

GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 3

It's the thrilling third episode of the GameCritics.com Podcast!
This week's topics include:

  • Impressions of Art Style: ROTOHEX, Gears of War 2, Castlevania: Order of Ecclasia, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts demo and Tomb Raider: Underworld demo
  • The Annual Holiday Gaming Glut: Its impact on gamers and the industry.

Download: Right click here and select "Save Target As..."
Subscribe: iTunes | Zune | RSS

Please send mailbag questions to podcast (at) gamecritics (dot) com.

Motion-sensing PlayStation controllers for gamers with disabilities just in time for the holidays

Via Computeractive.uk:

UK charity AbilityNet is partnering with Excitim Ltd. to make PlayStation, PS2 and PS3 controllers that can be manipulated with head movement. Part of their "Dream" line of adapted toys for kids with disabilities, the Dream-Gamer comes with a motion-sensing baseball cap which " enable[s] individuals to use head movements to control aspects of the game such as moving left, right, forward or backwards."

Video: Gamer, tech journalist Michael Phillips demonstrates his accessible Mac setup

Michael Phillips is a gamer, tech journalist and AppleMaster. He's written for Inside Mac Games. Michael has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and uses a USB switch interface called Swifty and SwitchXS, a program which lets people who use switches access all Mac applications. Right now, he's the editor for AssistiveGaming.com.

Dead Space and the evolution and elimination of HUDs

Dead Space

As far as the video game part of my life goes, last week was all about Dead Space. Well, I also finished up the original Metal Gear Solid (After the credits rolled, my mostly non-gaming wife aptly summed it up as "very Japanese.") but I digress. I rented the PS3 version from Blockbuster and played it steadily through the week until finally beating it on Sunday night. My wife was actually backseat for the entire duration, so props to her for sticking it out.

While I wouldn't consider Dead Space a truly great game, I do think it's a very good one. The graphics and sound are top notch, the zero gravity gameplay is quite cool, the story is decent (enhanced by watching the six downloadable video comics), and the game as a whole just does a great job of delivering the scares. Oh yeah, and I really dug the way the game handled being in a vacuum with no sound. Rather than talk about that stuff, however, I'd like to focus in on something that really stood out to me about Dead Space: the absence of a HUD.

Video game helps disabled people learn life skills

A ScienceDaily article from May profiles a video game that helps people with disabilities learn to shop at a supermarket. The game's development team was led by three 2008 graduates of the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, and is part of the CapAbility Games Research Group. The game is called Casual Shopper and its supermarket is based on a local brick-and-mortar store called Price Chopper, right down to the blueprints:

A computer monitor set up directly in front of the user simulates the layout of the store, and a second monitor to the left displays a virtual shopping list. Users start the game by selecting a meal they’d like to make—such as a spaghetti dinner, a holiday ham, or even rotini with alfredo lobster sauce—and complete it when they’ve found all the items on their list.

I think simulating an actual place in a video game is a really neat project. Of course, I'm biased.

Computerized toy helps autistic children learn language

Helma van Rijn, a graduate student at the Delft University of Technology, developed a computerized toy to help young autistic children learn language. The project is called LINKX. A person can say a word (e.g. "fishbowl") into a kind of pictogram called a "speech-o-gram"; they then attach the speech-o-gram to the object it names. Kids can link special blocks to the speech-o-grams, which light up with colors and play sounds. Here's a video of LINKX in action:

(Note: While the video's spoken language is Dutch, English subtitles explain the action taking place).

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