Introducing the idea of Audiogames

Hello all,
As I’m part of the blind community I thought I’d give you all a taste of our gaming world too. I won’t say absolutely everything but I’ll just give a sort of idea of what used to happen and what happens now.

I stumbled upon audiogames completely and utterly by accident. It was an audiogame for windows called ESP Pinball, from a company called Esp Softworks. Back in these days, I had dial-up and only could play the demo versions of these games. It was interesting because we discovered that these games had no pictures, so my parents just left me to it and I had to learn how to play. I discovered something called a readme file, which was, in effect, the games’ manual. The demo had a recreation of pac-man (sound effects and all) in a pinball format which to this day is still quite funny, but old, and it’s really starting to show it’s age, put it this way the original pac-man is aging much better than this. And another table it had was one called Soccer Star. Well it was OK until I kept hearing a beeping. Well it turns out I had to use the shift key to flick at a target, which would be a small sound. That pinball game was OK for a while, until I found something else on the same website, which was infamously funny and still lives on today as an audiogaming classic.

Possibly the funniest game of the time, unfortunately I don’t have an audio example of it to show, but, esp whoop ■■■. Using the shift and space bar keys, someone would throw a punch from the left. You’d use left shift to block. You’d then press either space or right shift to punch. All this while the sound of a weston salloon was in the background and insults were thrown at the beginning of each round. Each round got longer and longer as well until you’d eventually lose, and it was one hit instakill (the bad guy knocks out your character’s teeth). Well I was just laughing so much that I kept on losing, which made me laugh even more because the sound design was so cheasey.

I was really quite intrigued and wanted to find more games. So over the years we kept looking.
It wasn’t until 2004 that I found, what was essentially, a centralized website for audiogames, known as audiogames.net
Here, I found a bunch of new games that I hadn’t even heard of. Super Liam, a side scroller, Tarzan Junior, a sort of side scrolling shooting hybrid (programmed in java script, I’m not making this up it seems silly now I think about it), and then there were the really experimental projects. Stuff like Demor which was a first person shooter that required a head tracker and gps device, which later got adapted to a pc and required a joystick/game gamepad to play, it was the first time I’d ever experienced surround sound, and even now, surround sound in audiogames is an absolute rarity, which is really surprising.
Through the years we’ve amassed maybe 200 games, but the community wants bigger, more complex projects. We’re behind the times, you guys have had a final fantasy style game since the 90’s, and have tons since. We just have, maybe one or two, huge games that break the mould, most of our games take 30 minutes and are completed. Then some japanese folks come in and release a completely sprawling audio rpg called bokurano daiboukenn, with no English translation, and some folks start to mod screen readers to translate the japanese to English because they reall want to play it. Well, it caught on and two sequels were developed, each one larger than the last. The third game Bokurano Daiboukenn 3 is one of the largest audiogames, at 400 mb in size, most of that is sound and music data. Consider, most albums are maybe 60 or 70 mb for an hour of music, well this thing’s 400 mb for a project with no graphics what so ever and people are still finding secret weapons that aren’t even documented.

Recently, with the advent of the iPhone, audiogames have taken a slightly different leap. Games like Papa Sangre, The Nightjar, and Audio Defense all use surround sound to convey their worlds.
Then you’ve got the countless text games which are truly huge in scope. I love anything made by a company called choice of games. You guys have stuff like mas effect. Well, this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to playing a game like that.
At first, projects like Choice of Broadsides were maybe 30 minutes long per playthrough. But now, you’ve got stuff like Zombie Exodus and Tin Star, which are huge, sprawling novel length games. I still think Tin Star is one of the best games I’ve ever played. In fact they became so popular with both blind and sighted alike that some of these games are now available on Steam, you can definitely find Zombie Exodus and Tin Star and they are quite cheap but they’ve got a lot of content. You can find these on a website called choiceofgames.com

On the iPhone though, I think the most standout experience was the revamped update to something which some of you might know about. Does anyone here know about a cult classic online game called “A Dark Room”? Well the person behind that went above and beyond and made the game experience very accessible with the iPhone’s screen reader. It automatically read stuff as it came in, but to explain how this game works isn’t the purpose of this post. It’s one of those games that tests you and by the end it really felt like a journey, making me think about my perception of what a game can be. It was art. It was hard at times, but very, very satisfying at the end.

I don’t know what the future holds for audiogames. IT’s kind of expanding yet it’s kind of going down hill as well. We’re losing some of our past developers, and the new ones especially on the windows front, seem to not be making as good a quality games. Me and @SightlessKombat sometimes discuss the state of the audiogaming community, and we agree that console games are still better, both sound and gameplay wise.

1 Like