Equal opportunity

Imagine a blind person, a deaf one, someone with spasms, another with some limbs missing, and a bunch of other people with non-mental handicaps. What games would the be able to compete fairly on?

To me it seems IF is the ultimate equal opportunity medium. All right, maybe people with locked-in syndrom would still be at a disadvantage, but apart from that?

And what other media would share this characteristic?

(Of course there are some issues, as in that blind or deaf people may lack some ‘common knowledge’ that some games presuppose…)

I believe you have just begged the question, sir.

(And is competing really the point of IF? It’s usually played alone or cooperatively. I’ve known a few occasions where people raced to be the first to finish a large, puzzle-heavy game like Savoir-Faire or Heroine’s Mantle, but that’s not exactly typical, and even those were shaped by a lot of cooperation.)

No, I definitely don’t think it is, but I was coming from the other side (and even then I put it that way to avoid a long explanation). Given one wants to “progress”, for want of a better word, the time-independent measure “number of turns” works for narcoleptics or people with seizures, the computer text medium makes sight or hearing non-necessary, the text imput doesn’t depend on muscle speed, precision, sensitivity or strength, et cetera.

Visual puzzles, crosswords, math problems, and many others don’t provide that without a lot of work.

(And why would limiting the list to non-mental handicaps amount to begging the question? Actually some mental handicaps might have been included - asperger might even help; would that be a negative counterexample? -, but a line needs to be drawn somewhere, unless you want corpses, amoebae or neutrinos to have the same a priori chance of doing well, which would mean only no-input, pure chance games would apply. Or am I misunderstanding you?)

Well, this is your claim:

but this strikes me as a bit like saying ‘soccer is the ultimate equal opportunity game, as long as you don’t count people with physical disabilities.’ It has a definite element of truth to it (you can play soccer without buying a whole lot of equipment) but is only true if you craft the terms of the question so as to guarantee the answer. I’m not disputing that IF is more accessible to some people than other kinds of game, but I don’t think that it’s uniquely favoured in this respect.

And given that more people play soccer than IF, it’s a reasonable prima facie assumption that there are more barriers to enjoying IF than there are to enjoying soccer.

For example, most regular IF players have literacy and tech-literacy skills well above the average. If you have poor reading-comprehension skills, whether because of a learning disability or otherwise, you’re likely to struggle with IF. If you’re not adept at learning the kind of formal syntax that the parser requires, you’re likely to struggle with IF. If you’re not good at spatial reasoning of the kind that IF maps require, you’ll find IF more difficult. These are not uncommon conditions, nor are they so profound as to categorise one alongside corpses, amoebae and neutrinos.

Any level of accessibility achievable with an interactive text is even more achievable with a non-interactive text. So, I would say plain old prose is the ultimate equal opportunity medium. Adding interactivity doesn’t gain you anything in this regard: just the opposite.


But even for people with the disabilities you mention, IF can be difficult to access. So, yeah, if you’ve got someone working toward universal software design, great. But if you don’t, certain design choices can make IF difficult to penetrate (see: games that require sound, games that use the status bar in a way that isn’t accessible to text-to-speech, etc.)

I don’t think “IF is the ultimate equal opportunity medium, except for the people who can’t access it or work with it or understand it, as long as we only consider a limited subsection of IF” is much different than what you could say about any medium.

From a player point of view, IF is rarely competitive. So I’m not sure what “level playing field” here means. You mean competition in IF authorship contests? As far as that goes, I don’t see it as a whole lot different from other writing media: you can have regular fiction contests, poetry contests, essay contests, and a physical handicap would present about the same in any of them.

As for competitive games where the physically handicapped player faces minimal disadvantage, I’d put chess at the top of the list.

I’m pretty sure that Biep’s post wasn’t so much about competing fairly as about participating: having equal access. And I, for one, agree that interactive fiction is certainly more accessible to people with a physical disability than most modern games. More fun too. I love puzzle games. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the responses. Yes, of course, in non-purely-chance games some people will be better than others - that’s more or less what one is measuring. I guess in those terms I am trying to measure a mental quality without physical differences mucking things up. I suppose that is the “equal access” tanga mentions.

As for chess, wouldn’t having sight be an advantage? I know blind chess is possible, but to level the field one would then have all play blind chess - but maybe you meant that. And then there is time, but that also can be eliminated. Now we are getting close to correspondence chess - and closer to IF, actually: text input and text output. If one wants to have equal tests for more than two people, one might want to have them play against the same chess computer. And so forth.

Indeed, IF is often not competitive at all, but if one seeks something competitive with the qualities of the first paragraph, one seems to end up approaching IF anyway.

If you look at purely the absolute number of people who could play a work of IF, even assuming that everyone has access to a computer the number would be relatively low because of the language barrier.

Wikipedia estimates the number of people who know English at around 1.5 to 1.8 billion, and even generously assuming that all of them would be fluent enough to play English IF that would be 25% of the world population at best. Even if you assumed the best case scenario where there would be at least one work of IF for every written language of the world, you’d still exclude people who are illiterate (around 15-20%) and people who don’t speak a language that has a writing system.

In fact purely in terms of potential players I’m pretty sure Call of Duty is much more accessible than Zork.

Yes, there you have a serious rebuttal, it seems. :cry: