I have a lot of friends who play video games. One of these friends started talking to me a while back about an audio-based game they were playing, and said it would be accessible to the visually impaired- read more about features that make an app accessible to the visually impaired here. I started doing some research into audio games and stumbled across Audio Game Hub, which had several different audio games for not only people who are blind, but also people with low vision. Here is my review of the Audio Game Hub app, from someone who rarely plays video games but was entertained for hours with this app.
What are audio games?
Audio games are electronic games that use primarily auditory and tactile feedback, as opposed to visual feedback, making them accessible to visually impaired gamers. One of the primary technologies used in audio games is binaural recording, also known as 3D audio, which allows gamers to figure out the placement of an object by determining if the audio comes from the left, right, or center channel. Most audio games are played on PC, but over the years there has been an increase in the amount of audio games available on mobile platforms.
What is Audio Game Hub?
Audio Game Hub is a mobile app for iOS and Android that gives users access to 11 different audio games, including casino-style games, archery, bomb disarmer, and others. The games are designed to be played by people with various types of vision loss, from those who have low vision to those who have no usable vision or that are blind. The app download is free, but there are in-app purchases to unlock the full functionality of the app, including all of the games- I chose to do the lifetime unlock of the app for $23. Download Audio Game Hub for iOS on the App Store here, and for Android on the Google Play store here.
About my devices
I tested this app using a 5th generation iPad with a 9.7 inch screen, as well as a Google Pixel 2 Android phone. I did not have VoiceOver or TalkBack enabled while testing the app- the developer recommends disabling these settings, since the game has a built in screen reader. Read more about accessibility settings for iPad here and Android phones here.
Audio Game Hub has a high-contrast interface that features a black background, large white text and simple colors. The app uses a familiar gesture based interface for navigation- things like swiping, pinch to zoom, and dragging. The app can also be configured to have an inverted display, or have the display turned completely off, which is beneficial for users with no usable vision or simply those that prefer the "blindness mode."
The developers really thought of everything when it comes to accessibility. Audio Game Hub's three display modes mean that people with all levels of sight can be included, and there are no strobe or flashing lights either. Information from the screen is read out loud by a natural sounding voice with a New Zealand accent (which makes sense, given that's where the developers of the app are based). This is helpful for people who don't like the robot-sounding tones of other screen readers.
My favorite game to play on the app is archery, because I find the use of 3D audio fascinating, and it's probably one of the few times I will ever be able to hit a bull's eye on a target on the first try. The blackjack game is also really fun, and I avoid having to buy more coins by only betting one coin per game- coins are also an in-app purchase, but aren't used for anything except the card games.
Playing with sighted friends
I tested this app with two sighted friends who were asking me about how blind people play video games. We used both the normal high contrast mode and the blindness mode, although they found it easier to use the high contrast mode. They found the 3D audio feature fascinating, and I noticed they mostly relied on the tactile feedback in order to play the different games, as opposed to listening to the audio like I was doing.
This app is a lot of fun to play with and I really enjoy using it, though it is expensive. I could see this app being useful for people recovering from eye surgery (read more about my eye surgery here), for kids who like technology, or families that have more than one visually impaired person, which would help to justify the cost. Even then, I recommend this app for people interested in audio games or accessibility of video games in general.