An awesome ten-year-old from Martinez, California uses his smarts to create a video game for the blind.
What was I doing at the ripe age of ten? Most likely laying on the floor to my room as I played Mega Man X on the Super Nintendo, but honestly, that’s as far as my love for video games went. Never at any point did a light bulb cartoonishly popped in my head, thus aspiring me to make such a thing, but for Dylan Viale it did.
The fifth-grader at Hidden Valley Elementary in Martinez, California used the game-design program, GameMaker, to produce his very own video game. An impressive feat for any ten-year-old (heck, even for most adults), but it’s unique game design is no doubt more astonishing, because it can be played by the visually impaired.
Dylan’s game is called Quacky’s Quest, a simple maze-based puzzler staring a goofy yellow duck, Quacky, who’s actually based on a funny doodle made by Dylan’s dad, Dino Viale, in his adventure to find the Golden Egg.
What makes Quacky’s Quest so friendly to the blind though, is its use of audio cues. Whenever a player sets down a certain path, the game responds by sending back a corresponding sound to the player to tell them if they’re headed in the right or wrong direction. For example, diamonds, which mark the correct path, give off a pleasant “cha-ching” sound once collected.
If a player should go where they shouldn’t – visually represented by a row of spiders leading towards a stack of dynamite – Quacky’s Quest will mimic their real-world counterpart. So, if you happen to accidentally step over a tile bearing a creepy eight-legged pest, you’ll instantly hear the sound of spiders crawling below your feet, and so forth upon reaching a dynamite tile.
Incredibly, the game worked perfectly. Well, actually, it worked perfectly once Dylan solved one glaring problem that presented itself after initial play-testing. An issue arouse where players would get stuck the moment they reached an area where diamonds had already been pick-up, resulting in no sound clip to help guide where the user was headed.
Seeking help from the Internet and eventually finding an answer, Dylan came up with the sharp idea to let rocks fill the space behind the player, thus eliminating any sort of confusion.
Genius! Absolutely genius! But what really gets the warm, fuzzy-feelings stirring, is knowing that Dylan made Quacky’s Quest for his grandmother, Sherry, who is blind herself. As Kotaku’s Jason Schreier points out in his piece, Dylan and his grandma are pretty tight besties, and when Dylan wanted to share his love of video games with her, he came up with the brilliant idea of game she could play.
The rest, as I’ve laid out here, is history. Dylan even got first place at a middle school science fair for all his wonderful effort, and certainly, it was well deserved.
You deserve something too, fair reader! Sadly, I can’t give you a cool first-place metal just for visiting Walyou, but you can check out the latest and greatest in geek: like this sweet-looking carved Alien guitar or a hotel with world’s biggest cylindrical aquarium. Those two alone are worth their weight in nerdy gold!