I was thinking about the next game to build in the Blindfold series, and I thought I would make an attempt at Flappy Bird. While that game doesn’t have the characteristics that Doug said a good accessible game should have (one of the blind gamers I met in Boston who has been evaluating products for accessibility for decades), it seemed like it could have potential. Doug’s requirements were that the game include a lot of physicality, high quality environmental sounds, and an ever increasing difficulty level.
If you are not familiar with Flappy Bird, it’s a trivial game that was so addicting that people would play for hours. The objective is to direct a flying bird, which moves continuously to the right, between each oncoming set of Mario-like vertical pipes, reoccurring every 1.5 seconds. If the bird touches the pipes, it ends the game. The bird briefly flaps upward each time the player taps the screen; if the screen is not tapped, the bird falls due to gravity. The player is scored based on the number of pipe sets that the bird successfully passes through, with medals awarded for the score at the end of the game.
To see exactly what it’s like, watch this video on teens playing the game:
Here’s how the audio-version would work. Your right ear is like the vertical pipe. In your right ear, you would hear one of the notes from a piano scale. Each of the eight notes would represent a different position of the opening. The sound would be far away, but within about 2 seconds, it would be at your right ear.
Your left ear would hear the bird. The bird would sound like a descending piano scale. Every time you tap the screen, the bird would pop up a little – it would move up 2 notes on the scale, and then would start dropping down – you would hear the piano notes descending in your left ear. Tap again, the bird pops up by 2 notes again. Tap three times, she pops up by 6 notes.
The bird starts far away from your left ear, but within 2 seconds, it would be at your left ear.
To get through this virtual pipe, the bird must be singing the same note as what your hear in the right ear. Hence, the hard part of the game is to time your taps so when the bird gets to ear, it is singing the same note as the vertical pipe. For example, if the bird is two notes lower that what you hear in the right ear, and you have about 1/10 of a second before you hit the virtual pipe, tap the screen. That would pop the bird up by two notes, what your hear in your left and right ears are identical, and the bird passed through the opening.
If you do it too soon, the bird will drop by 3 notes, and you will crash into the virtual pipe. If you did it too late, the notes would be different and you crash and lose the game.