Inclusive and Ex-clusive Design

Yet again my lack of experience and knowledge has astounded me! Of all the things I’ve learned about Design, I only very recently came across the concept of Inclusive Design. Inclusive Design is basically a way of approaching design so that the end product can be accessed by different groups. For example League of Legends has a colorblind mode so that colorblind players don’t have trouble distinguishing between the enemy and themselves. This adds to the game play for colorblind players as playing such a hectic game with the added confusion of not being able to visually track yourself is not fun at all.

League Colorblind

Left – Regular Mode, Right – Colorblind Mode (Red Green Mode)

Although an important part of Inclusive Design is the representation of genders, races, religions, orientations and cultures, what really interests me is the ways its used to give people with certain disabilities a way to experience something in the way other people do. Thinking about this has opened a flood-gate of ideas and problems for me to solve. As an aspiring game audio developer I’m suddenly faced with a sad realization and that is that, deaf people will not be able to enjoy the sonic characteristics of music or sound effects that I make. Specifically speaking a deaf person would perceive a horror game completely differently to a normal person, arguably they wouldn’t be able to fully experience the fear, which is the whole point!


Would it be as suspenseful and terrifying if you didn’t hear her footsteps get closer? 

I communicated with a deaf person named Michael Shway and their interpreter, Denise Green, about this topic to try and gain some further insight. What I was told, although not with any scientific measurement is that, at the cinema Michael noticed he could perceive low rumblings. I did some further research and this article by Geoff Leventhall states that deaf people can definitely perceive loud low frequencies (around 100Hz at 90+dB for all those Audio Engineers out there), like the ones you would feel in your chest. This could be something I experiment with, trying to create soundscapes for deaf people.

Drum Beat Blog gives a few examples of ways you can make games more accessible for disabled gamers. He mentions using speech recognition as a means of menu navigation for blind people or careful use of controller vibrations to give deaf people cues. These methods could be used to make games more accessible for people with disabilities, or, some of the concepts could be adapted to make games specifically for people with disabilities, like a video game for blind people where all the game mechanics are audio based and there are no visuals.

I’m inexpressibly glad that the concept of Inclusive Design has been introduced to me and I’m actually really excited to start thinking about Inclusive Design the next time I’m working on a project. Any way I can change something or add something to make it more accessible for other groups will be fully considered in the future!

Inclusive and Ex-clusive Design

The Necessary Evil…

One thing I’ve been extremely passionate about for most of my life, aside from music, is human psychology. I’ve always loved thinking about human behavior and social interaction, even studying it to great lengths in my free time(not to sound like a sociopath/narcissist).
For all the negative things I have to say about the hospitality industry it does a few things right, and one of those things is forcing you to learn people skills and customer service skills. You just wont survive in the industry without them, customers are always going to have problems and learning how to deal with them is absolutely necessary and personally I’ve always found it very rewarding. This is true for the hospitality industry and guess what; it’s true for almost every industry, if you’re not working for people, you’re working with people, if you’re not working with people, people are working for you. No matter how you spin it, you need people skills.

Bartender.jpgFriendly Right?

This week, I wanted to specifically explore the ways in which skills I’ve learned in the hospitality industry can be related to skills I would need in the game audio industry.
Ellen Galinksy from Big Think highlights in this video, 7 skills she feels are essential for life, I’ve listed them below:

  • Focus and Self Control
  • Taking Perspective (Standing in some else’s shoes)
  • Communication
  • Networking
  • Critical Thinking
  • Taking on Challenges
  • Self-Directed Learning

What I found interesting about this is that most of these skills I picked up while working in restaurants, and when you compare them to these articles by Emily Nodine, ABS and Danielle Bertoli you can see that (although said in different ways) I’m not alone. These skills are directly related to nearly all fields of work, especially the creative industries. I feel most people starting out in the creative fields are lacking in a number of these skills and I believe everyone develops them with age, although if you wanted a jump start, I would recommend getting a part-time or casual job at a restaurant. You don’t know effective communication until you’ve managed to give a co-worker a very specific description of a customer who walked away without their cocktail into a see of a thousand people all the while pouring another drink with one hand, taking a reservation on the phone with the other and still managing to somehow take orders over the 120dB noise floor. Not to mention the hundred other things that are in the back of your mind that you’re trying to remember so that customer doesn’t yell at you again. Compare that to a busy Game Studio nearing a deadline, I’d take the studio any day. Keith Gilette explains the importance of these skills within the Game Industry in this presentation.

As always there is room for self improvement and I feel like personally I need to work on a lot of these skills, particularly communication as I have a tendency to ramble or not always say exactly what I mean. But all in all, I think Ellen Galinsky has outlined a fantastic set of essential life skills for everybody to develop, especially if they want to be a part of the ever expanding creative industry.



The Necessary Evil…

Hey That Sounds Like…

Copyright is an interesting topic when thinking about the world in general, however it becomes that much more important when thinking about the creative industries. What’s interesting to me about copyright an creativity is mainly the mystery surrounding originality. In current music culture, the remix is a prominent form of music and it’s literally built out of other peoples songs, somehow this is okay?
As an aspiring composer and sound designer I’m always creating songs and sounds that are in ways similar to works I, or somebody I know, has heard before, and of course I’m interested in the consequences of this. If I hear a song I like and I feel like the way the bass is played would be really good for the piece I’m working on is it wrong for me to copy it? There’s always that fear that I’ll make a great song and then after it’s released someone will come along and sue me because it sounds like someone else’s works or bits of it anyway.

Here you can hear one of DJ Earworms United State of Pop remixes in which he takes parts from all the chart toppers of 2015 and makes an entire song out of these parts. I don’t think the question is whether DJ Earworm is creative as many consider his works to be a fantastic way to review the music culture and trends of a year. Jan O’Brien says in her article here that Earworms mashups remind us that in 2009 music was all about getting back up after getting knocked down and 2010 is all about partying. Earworm makes a point about this in the following video saying he plans the mashups according to a trend, for example the 2015 remix is about addiction and needing more. This is interesting because it shows not only is there value in listening to his arrangements as entertainment but they also have a deeper message which would have taken some thought to implement.

In the same video DJ Earworm remarks that he is constantly “walking on eggshells” as in he doesn’t know when he’s going to get in trouble for creating these works. Tim White in this article explains that Earworm is in fact in violation of a number of different copyright laws, however, as he is purely not-for-profit it is general practice for the actual license holders of the music not to sue. This works well as the world would be a pretty sad place if Earworm could be disadvantaged simple for creating something people enjoy. To sum up, remixing like Earworm has done, from a musical standpoint is considered copying and can’t be sold.

In contrast looking at the song “Last Night” by the Strokes and comparing it to “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers several similarities can be identified, particularly in the rhythm section. However no copyright laws are in breach here and that is because although the musical ideas are similar they are ultimately delivered in a way that allows them to be different.

Because it is not my goal to directly sample and use other people music, like DJ Earworm but instead use similar musical ideas like The Strokes, I feel like I shouldn’t be too worried about getting into trouble with copyright laws. In conclusion it seems like copyright laws are based on common sense and if something sounds the same it’s usually because its been copied.

Hey That Sounds Like…