Since this past weekend was my birthday (I got several games, including one I'm ashamed to have taken so long to get to), this week's post is another trilogy of disability-related gaming news.

A woman with long dark hair stands in front of a factory wearing a white, backless, sleeveless dress. She is facing right, looking off into the distance.

Heather Kuzmich, a finalist on cycle nine of America's Next Top Model who won nine CoverGirl of the Week awards and has a form of autism called Asperger Syndrome, is studying video game-art design at the Illinois Institute of Art. In an interview with founder of Voodoo PC Rahul Snood, she said:

To be honest, I always wanted to do something that included art and creating stuff with my hands. At first I wanted to get into costume design, but that soon changed to game design, especially since I frigging love games and love doing weird designs for characters.

The news, review and community site for gamers with disabilities AbleGamers.com announced on January 30 that Mythic Entertainment's MMORPG was the most accessible mainstream game released last year. Right from its September 18, 2008 release date, Warhammer Online

include[d] options for the physically disabled such as mapping nearly all actions to the keyboard, or playing the entire game just by using a mouse or special controllers. There is also text for all key events to aid the hearing impaired and the game has also been made accessible to the colorblind.

 Despite the features available upon launch, members of the disabled community still had one concern: Warhammer did not work with the On-Screen Keyboard. This is a tool gamers with physical limitations use to type data on screen with a mouse. It is one of the few MMOs that missed this feature.

According to Mythic, a new patch will be released within the next two weeks taking care of the On-Screen Keyboard.

In "Subtitles: Increasing Game Accessibility, Comprehension" over at Gamasutra, Gareth Griffiths provides 16 guidelines to help make video game captions usable by everyone from Deaf and hard of hearing gamers to HDTV owners. One of my favorite recommendations is to make the button that controls the subtitles different from the "action" button, so that players who are reading through conversations quickly don't accidentally start those conversations over or choose a response they don't mean to.

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk grew up in a small Nebraska town called Papillion. Although she has a nonverbal learning disability that affects her visual-spatial skills (among other things), she's always loved video games. Her first game system was a Commodore Vic-20, which her mom bought at a garage sale for $20. With this little computer Tera learned to write Mad Libs in BASIC, to play chess and to steal gold from Fort Knox.

But then a friend introduced her to the seedy underworld of the Mario brothers and she spent her saved-up birthday and Christmas money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Her mom didn't like the Nintendo at first, but The Legend of Zelda changed her mind. (When Tera got Zelda II: The Adventure of Link one Christmas, she suspected it was as much for her mother as for her).

Though she graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2002 and recently learned how to find the movie theater restroom by herself, Tera still loves video games. Far from being a brain-rotting waste of time, they've helped her practice spatial skills and discover new passions. Her love of games like Kid Icarus and The Battle of Olympus led to a degree in Classical Languages and Literatures. She thinks games have a place in discussions on disability and other cultural issues, and is excited to work with the like-minded staff at GameCritics.com.
Tera Kirk

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Mory Buckman
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7 years 7 months ago

Asperger’s Syndrome is not a disability. (Okay, well, technically it’s a “social disability” but it’s not what people think of when they hear the word.) We think differently than other people, but our thought processes are not inferior to anyone else’s. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what Asperger’s Syndrome actually is, but people with it tend to be very gifted at specific things, which makes this person’s success impressive but hardly surprising. Also, every person with Asperger’s Syndrome I’ve ever met loved video games, and had some game they wished they could make.

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