Nidhi Sakpal is a student pursuing Computer Science and Engineering, Applied / Computational Mathematics with a strong interest in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and HCI. She has recently been selected as one of the NCWIT Aic National Honorable Mention award recipients for her aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing. Today, Nidhi will share the story of Pea's Journey, a game she's developing with a focus on accessibility for people with vision impairment. Nidhi, take it away!
I’m Nidhi Sakpal, and I have been volunteering at the Mountain Lakes Makerspace (in our local library) for the past four years. My areas of interest primarily lie in programming, AI, & robotics, and through my time at the Makerspace, I have fostered and grown opportunities for younger children to explore the Computer Science industry.
In August 2022, I was given the opportunity to intern for the Universal Design Project & Build a Better Book program through ML Makerspace's partnership with the University of Colorado. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), this program encouraged interns to design and create projects aimed at promoting accessibility and inclusivity within communities.
While talking to my mentor about possible project ideas, it was brought to my attention that students at the Saint Joseph’s School for the Blind loved playing Temple Run, but required assistance with the controls such as 'jump', 'turn left', and so on. As I went to research gaming accessibility, I saw that there are very limited games available for people who are blind or visually impaired to enjoy with independence.
Gaming accessibility refers to the design of video games and gaming systems to make them more usable and accessible for players with disabilities. This can include features such as text-to-speech, larger text, and alternative control options to accommodate players with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments.
The goal of gaming accessibility is to provide an inclusive gaming experience for all players, regardless of their abilities. I was inspired to create a game that allowed students at Saint Joseph’s and others who have a visual impairment to have the freedom to play independently. But there was a slight problem: I had never made a game before.
After carefully considering my options, I determined that my next project will be an audio-based 2D platformer game called Pea's Journey. In order to bring my vision to life, I began searching for a game engine that would allow me to create the game without any programming hurdles or technical difficulties.
My search was successful, and I was thrilled to discover GDevelop - a game engine that is user-friendly and accessible, even for those without extensive game creation experience. The engine is intuitive and straightforward, allowing me to create my game without having to spend a lot of time learning how to use the software.
The platform also offers a vast array of features and resources, including an extensive library of events and actions, assets, and seamless integration with other tools, such as image editors and audio software. Whether you're an experienced game developer or just starting out, GDevelop provides everything you need to build complex, engaging, and enjoyable games.
Moreover, I found the online resources provided by GDevelop to be incredibly helpful. I used the tutorials available on their YouTube channel as well as the online forum to further my understanding of the software and troubleshoot any issues I encountered along the way.
Thanks to the user-friendly interface and helpful resources, I was able to quickly get up to speed with GDevelop and start creating my game. I am confident that this engine will help me bring Pea's Journey to life, and I am excited to see the final product come together.
Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy playing video games, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. With Pea's Journey, I hope to demonstrate the importance of accessibility in gaming and show that it is possible to create inclusive and enjoyable experiences for all players.
Inclusivity in gaming is crucial because it allows for a wider range of players to see themselves represented and feel welcomed in the gaming community, leading to a more diverse and pleasant gaming experience for everyone.
Additionally, creating more inclusive games can help to break down stereotypes and promote understanding and empathy towards marginalised groups. My goal for Pea's Journey is not only to create a fun and engaging audio game, but also to inspire other game creators to consider accessibility in their own creations.