I have a lot of friends who play video games. One of these friends started talking to me a while back about an audio-based game they were playing, and said it would be accessible to the visually impaired. I started doing some research into audio games and stumbled across Audio Game Hub, which had several different audio games for not only people who are blind, but also people with low vision. Here is my review of the Audio Game Hub app, from someone who rarely plays video games but was entertained for hours with this app.
What are audio games?
Audio games are electronic games that use primarily auditory and tactile feedback, which makes them accessible to vision impaired gamers. One of the primary technologies used in audio games is binaural recording, also known as 3D audio, which allows gamers to figure out the placement of an object by determining if the audio comes from the left, right, or center channel. Most audio games are played on PC, but over the years there has been an increase in the amount of audio games available on mobile platforms.
What is Audio Game Hub?
Audio Game Hub is a mobile games app for iOS and Android. There are 11 different audio games, including casino-style games, archery, bomb disarmer, and others. The games are designed to be played by people with various levels of usable vision. The app download is free, but there are in-app purchases to unlock the full functionality of the app, including all of the games- I chose to do the lifetime unlock of the app for $23.
About my devices
I tested this app using a 5th generation iPad with a 9.7 inch screen, as well as a Google Pixel 2 Android phone. I did not have VoiceOver or TalkBack enabled while testing the app- the developer recommends disabling these settings, since the game has a built in screen reader.
Audio Game Hub has a high-contrast interface that features a black background, large white text and simple colors. The app uses a familiar gesture based interface for navigation- things like swiping, pinch to zoom, and dragging. The app can also be configured to have an inverted display, or have the display turned completely off, which is beneficial for users with no usable vision or simply those that prefer the “blindness mode.”
The developers really thought of everything when it comes to accessibility. Audio Game Hub’s three display modes mean that people with all levels of sight can be included. There are no strobe or flashing lights either. Information from the screen is read out loud by a natural sounding voice with a New Zealand accent. This is helpful for people who don’t like the robot-sounding tones of other screen readers.
My favorite game to play on the app is archery, because I find the use of 3D audio fascinating, and it’s probably one of the few times I will ever be able to hit a bull’s eye on a target on the first try. The blackjack game is also really fun, and I avoid having to buy more coins by only betting one coin per game- coins are also an in-app purchase, but aren’t used for anything except the card games.
Playing with sighted friends
I tested this app with two sighted friends who were asking me about how blind people play video games. We used both the normal high contrast mode and the blindness mode. My friends found it easier to use the high contrast mode, since they wanted to use their eyes. They found the 3D audio feature to be “super cool.” I noticed they mostly relied on the tactile feedback in order to play the different games. I mostly relied on the audio, so this was interesting to me.
This app is a lot of fun to play with and I really enjoy using it, though it is expensive. I could see this app being useful for people recovering from eye surgery, for kids who like technology, or families that have more than one visually impaired person, which would help to justify the cost. Even then, I recommend this app for people interested in audio games or accessibility of video games in general.