Matt's game for visually impaired individuals highlights a novel approach to accessibility in game development
Video games have grown from a novelty of entertainment into one of the largest media industries in the world. During the social distancing phase of the pandemic, gaming became an important aspect of art, entertainment, and mental stimulation in people’s lives.
Matt Mrazik, who recently earned his BS degree in computer science with a minor in computer game design at the College of Engineering, says he’s always been interested in games. “Growing up I wanted to know what went into creating them. I was also always interested in math and computer science so it was a natural fit for me to be interested in game development as a career option.”
As part of a research project guided by Firas Khatib, associate professor of Computer and Information Science at the College of Engineering, Matt developed a new game titled Feel the Rhythm, which opens some possibilities for the future state of accessibility in the gaming industry.
Accessibility options have entered a mainstream role in the gaming industry. But, for blind players or players with significant visual impairment, the benefits that video games can bring are largely out of reach. “While audio-based games are available, these are far from mainstream,” Matt says.
“Feel the Rhythm introduces a novel accessibility-driven game development process and presents this new game in the rhythm genre developed using this process to implement blind-accessible features,” he says. “It may also serve as a blueprint for how a higher budgeted game could implement similar accessibility options if developed using a similar method.”
Since developing the game, Matt has shared it with the online visually impaired gaming community. “It’s a prototype and still needs work if I want to actually release it. But those with visual impairments who have tested it have largely given me very encouraging feedback.” Matt is currently working at WB Games Boston as a Games Systems Engineer. He is also completing his master's degree in computer science at UMassD.