At the heart of the video game, there is a connection engine. Through games, we build camaraderie among our teammates. We discuss storylines with other fans. We share our greatest accomplishments and our epic failures. However, the development of this social network depends on each player‘s ability to access the same game. For millions of players, their disability prevents them from participating in the majority of games enjoyed by their peers.
One such couple is Milos and his wife, Jana, who reside in a small town 210 km southeast of Prague, Czech Republic. Fifteen years ago, Milos spotted Jana across the room at a college party. The connection between the couple was immediate and they closed the party at 3am. Milos called Jana the next day for a follow up date and they have been together ever since. Over the years, the couple deepened their relationship through shared experiences. As a couple, the pair enjoy hiking, traveling and discussing technology.
They also like to play games. Unfortunately, Jana’s blindness prevented them from enjoying the same games together. Jana lost her sight to juvenile idiopathic arthritis during her teenage years. Although they both love to play, their physical abilities have taken them down different paths of play.
Jana tends to play basic blind accessible games such as Blind Drive, Sonar Islands, Mousekick and Accessible 2048 on mobile. Meanwhile, Milos focuses on PC first-person shooters such as DOOM and Wolfenstein.
One afternoon, Jana cuddled up on her living room couch playing her favorite game (Mousekick) only to discover that an iOS update had made the game inaccessible. It was the last straw for Milos. He was tired of seeing his wife being denied dynamic gaming experiences. Milos quit his job as a database software developer to form Kikiriki Games. The company’s mission was to bridge the gap between blind and sighted gamers. Milos wanted to create a game that would allow both types of players to compete on equal footing. Additionally, he wanted to highlight the abilities of the blind community through his protagonist. More importantly, he wanted to share his love of first-person shooters with his wife.
A year later, Kikiriki Games released their first game titled To the Dragon Cave. To the Dragon Cave is a first-person shooter that flips the script on a typical fairy tale story. The protagonist of the game is a princess who has been kidnapped by an evil dragon. In his cruelty, the dragon blinded the princess with his dragon fire. A failed rescue attempt leads to the princess’ fiancé, Prince Harold, being dragged into the dragon’s lair. Undaunted by her situation, the princess escapes from her prison tower, battles the enemies, and saves the day. The game is a lesson for players not to underestimate someone’s abilities based on their often misinformed preconceived ideas about the person’s abilities.
‘o the Dragon cave is proof that game developers are capable of creating rewarding games accessible to blind and sighted gamers. This accomplishment was achievable because Kikiriki Games made accessibility a main pillar of the game development process. To create a truly accessible game, the game developer must consider accessibility from the start of the project. To the Dragon Cave has been downloaded by thousands of blind and sighted gamers. In forums, comment sections, and in person, these two groups discuss the merits and challenges of a common experience. The game’s leaderboards are populated by blind and sighted players. Ultimately, Kikiriki Games achieved its goal of bridging the gaming gap between blind and sighted gamers.
With the success of To the Dragon Cave, Milos and Jana are inspired to deliver more gaming experiences that connect blind and sighted gamers. They expect their next version to be more complex and dynamic. As they develop new games, the pair will continue to employ blind and sighted developers to create the most inclusive gaming experiences. Thanks to Kikiriki Games, Milos and Jana can now add games to their list of shared experiences.
To the Dragon Cave is available now on the App Store.