Learning to play computer games

So I grew up with a Vic 20, C64 and Amiga. If you’re around 40 you’ll know that this meant repetitive strain injury waggling the joystick like crazy to make Daley Thompson run for gold.  Several joysticks later ….

Back in those days, you used a few basic keyboard buttons or a simple joystick (up, down, left, right and ‘fire’).

I had a go at Gameboy games in my teens – a whole 6 buttons to control and played the odd game on the original Nintendo – which was around 8ish? That’s where my experiences ended. I went to Uni and games were pretty much not on my todo list.

 

Recently I started playing games again. Sims3 interested me so I played a lot of that – point and click, I could cope with that.  20 years later I look into it in more detail to see what I might like to play and OH MY GOODNESS. What the hell do all these buttons do? The screens gone all 3D, everything is trying to kill me, I don’t know which way I’m facing or which direction to go.  Oh and now I’m dead. Start again.

I’m playing games on Steam, watching lots of Ginx TV and YouTube. I haven’t a clue what I’m doing but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played so far. I feel accomplished just loading a game (nothing changes in that respect if you’ve experienced tape loading before).

I like survival games and crafting – oh yes I didn’t really know what crafting was, in fact, none of the ‘types of games’ meant anything. I had to learn what ‘Sandbox’ mode was and ‘Open World’ games. Some of the games had so many menus just to start them! In my day you just hit the space bar and away you went. Now you’ve got to memorise 20 keyboard commands, programme a games controller and learn a whole load of abbreviations.

It took me 4 hours to work out what RMB was. Right Mouse Button apparently. It’s a whole new language.

So, now I’ve bought my first controller. I’ve gone for the Steam one because it is very programmable – and I will need that because I can’t use my fingers enough to press certain buttons. With this one I can just programme the buttons I can reach. I’m hoping it will be quite accessible.

This thing has about 22 buttons and a track pad. WHAT was I thinking! So far I managed to launch a game with it … but couldn’t figure out how to programme in my killer moves and ended up closing it before I even took  a step forward. I need to do a lot of reading and fiddling to get the hang of this. On the plus side, I can press the buttons in most places and it looks cool on my desk. Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

Blue badge parking abuse complaint gets a response!

Tesco Express.

 

I stopped off for petrol at the Tesco Express on the Tonbridge Road – and low and behold a skip and other stuff appeared to be in the only blue badge parking bay.

So, I took a photo and sent it via Twitter to Tesco straight away (and the blue badge name and shame Twitter account). Despite telling them where the store was and providing geo location they said they couldn’t find it. So I went to Google and typed in Tesco Express, Tonbridge Road, Maidstone and up it popped in their own store locator lol. So I sent them details of their store and they apologised for the bay abuse and would look into it – the store has now had a phone call apparently to point out the problem.

Hurrah – maybe something will get done – time will tell!

Twitter is great for this sort of thing as a BBC article today also points out!

More abuse

The bay abuse didn’t stop there because whilst trying to get back to my car at Fremlin Walk Car Park, a stupid woman pulled up in a 4×4 vehicle, swung round into a blue badge bay in front of us – parking at an angle, half in the bay and the other half completely covering the safe pedestrian walkway. Not knowing what she was doing, my PA had to help me navigate round the car, into oncoming car park traffic. All because the woman couldn’t be bothered to walk to the pay booth. Ignorant selfish *&(@£.

 

 

 

Deserts, rain forests and a broken wheelchair

Tropical plants

Last Saturday it was a hot and sunny day in Richmond, Surrey – and perfect weather for visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

Ignoring the terrible M25 queue (trying hard not to turn this whole blog into a pun), we had a brilliant afternoon. Kew is super accessible and quite straight forward to get to. We had planned to park in the car park but couldn’t access it because of road diversions. Eventually we decided on to park on a quiet side street on Kew Road (which is also the coach drop of point). There are lots of ‘parking permit only’ signs but these seem to be odd times and not applicable when we were there so we chanced it. Incidentally, if you are lucky to get one of the 300 parking spaces in their carpark it will cost you £6.50! Kew has a vast array of transport and parking information on their web-site which is worth a look.

So, parking done, time to head towards the gate. Oh my goodness. You know those drills they dig up roads with that vibrate the brains out of the operators …. that is how my head felt after driving along the most bumpiest pavement I’ve ever been on. If you use a chair – DO NOT use the pavement alongside the wall of Kew on Kew Road. It is horrific (take a look at it on street view to see how bad it is).

My brain now feeling like a blancmange that has gone through a tea strainer and my contact lenses still whirling round my eyeballs, we were in. We don’t know why but we were both given free entry (normally, carers/assistants go free and disabled people get a concession).

Really, I should have been paying full price because my experience was no different to people who walked in. The 300 acre grounds are all very accessible, smooth paths and gentle slopes. I could see nearly everything and they get a pat on the back for having a CP toilet.

Here is a sample of some of the different paths/terrain.

Paths at kew gardens

Kew is huge and you can easily spend an afternoon in one glass house. Currently the Evolution and Temperate House are closed for major works that will last many years. However, give me a tropical house and a huge conservatory with ten climatic zones any day. One minute you are amongst the plants of Madagascar and then next you are sitting with Cacti of central America. Did I mention I like succulents…. and rain-forests of orchids…. and bananas and mangos…. lets just say I was dragged out of there.

Kew plants

Tropical plants require tropical climates – just perfect for me. So with my husband and mother-in-law, Molly, wilting, I reluctantly came out the other end. I guess I’ll have to save the other side of the Prince of Wales Conservatory for next time.

We were rather out of season for the grass gardens and some of the floral displays but had a gentle meander through the rock garden and pools.

Next stop was a wander towards the Palm House. Within seconds of entering Kevin and Molly shot straight back out the opposite door! If you think the desert is hot – try this on a scorching summer day. Kevin did the gallant thing and came back in just in case I passed out or something. This glass building has 16,00 window panes to channel that summer sun like a death laser onto your hot and sticky body. Hard to believe the whole thing was dismantled and replanted in 1988. The glass is now toughened safety glass and the frame is stainless steel.

Here is a fact, inside this building is the Mexican Yam – used to develop the contraceptive pill! You can find plant facts and touchy feely boxes all around kew – it can be a very tactile experience! All the main tropical fruit trees and huge palms can be seen.

With the humidity in the extremities of the building it must have been over 100 degrees. After ten minutes I melted and went out. If you can walk down steps into the basement there is a modern aquarium display of 4 marine environments so I just read about it on the Net.

Pineapple

Bit of a breakdown….

There is only one ramped entrance but a few stepped exits – and it was on my way around the outside building that my chair started making a loud whirring noise… then it went putt-putt, jumped around … and stopped. My right motor failed and got extremely hot. Eventually it cooled down and I could move on snail speed. I don’t think it was the heat directly but the tropical house probably hastened its death.

I limped around the water-lilly house and we wandered through the wood area towards the lake. It was late afternoon and the treetop walk had closed. Kevin was quite up for it … until he saw how high it was (18 Metres high) and that you walk on mesh looking straight through to the ground! The walkway has a lift but does not permit mobility scooters (I guess electric chairs are ok?). Either way, some people were still going up despite signs that it was closed. We gave it a miss.

We also missed the Stag Beetle habitat, the Bonsai House, bee garden, aquatic garden and Lily Pond, museum, Kew Palace … so many areas that you really need a 2-3 days (and of course different seasons if you want spring bulbs or cherry blossom).

and for the tech geeks….

I had the Kew App (which you can download at the gate on free wifi) and with that you get a whole encyclopaedia of plant information. You can scan QR codes or hold up your phone to scan the area. As you hold up your phone on camera mode, it highlights the names of trees and plants you are looking at, which are clickable. You can then find out about the tree, what the wood is used for, where it comes from and all the technical information a hardy botanist might need.

Playing Ticket To Ride

Yesterday the sky was dark and throwing down lots of wet stuff. A good day for a Kevin and Louise day – a day doing something together.

Yesterday was board games and pizza.

First off was The Logo Board Game. Kevin thinks it should be called the “how well do you know sweets and biscuits” board game. Lets just say I won that one.

Next was Ticket To Ride.

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The game play takes a few goes to understand but this Days of Wonder game is my favourite. Firstly it’s about railway journeys (good start) and second you can play on different maps.

We played the European map today.

To play a turn you aim to put down a specific number of train carriages (each player has lots of these playing pieces) between two places, next to each other.

So to claim the route London to Edinburgh, below, requires you to put down four carriages.

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So what about the colours for this route? This is where collecting coloured cards comes into it. On your turn you can choose to pick up 2 coloured cards from a random selection.

This 4 carriage route is orange or black so you would have to collect (and give away) either 4 orange or 4 black cards to play this route.

So the game is about collecting cards of specific colours, to lay down train carriages and complete routes.

How do you win the game?

Every time you play a route from one station to the next, you score points for it. You can complete whole journeys for even more points like laying carriages all the way from France to Russia. You will need a lot of different coloured cards and lots of turns to go all this way from station to station!

Of course, other players can try to guess where you are going and steal your route! Once that bit of track has gone it’s gone!

Each player also has some destination cards – these are journeys you must complete before the end of the game. If you don’t you forfeit points!

There are a few other parts to the game but that’s the basic idea.

Accessibility

The game requires you to pick up cards, read place names and handle small playing pieces – reaching across the board. It is possible to play using a card holder and someone laying down your playing pieces. This is how I play. There is no dice needed.

The game uses colours but also has symbols for those who can’t differentiate colours. It would translate well into a tactile board but I have not seen a version for those who have a visual impairment.

Touch versions exist to play using a smart phone or iPad which are excellent and a great way to play. You can also play online via the web or buying the game for PC/Mac. I also have all electronic versions as I like it so much.

I lost yesterday … maybe next time!

I hate mushy FB posts that come into my timeline!

This was the ending of a LONG FB post (in an open group) from someone with the same impairment as me. It was 40 lines long!

Some other people I know, including my mother, ‘liked’ it so it popped up on my timeline and I just wanted to throw up.

I really can’t stand people who use FB as a personal confessional or positive thinking pulpit – and leave you with an ending like the one I read which went:

” Life is a journey. It’s not all roses. Everyday, we must fight the good fight. One day may be bad, but tomorrow can always be good. We must take it one day at a time and not be so hard on ourselves or our caregivers. We’re all imperfect, but we’re all going to be okay. Yes, attitude is almost everything. “Two men looked out from prison bars,.. One saw the mud, the other saw the stars”. Keep your eyes on the stars. We’re all going to be okay. xoxoxo”

I’m all for people trying to be positive but really – 40 lines of it? Hurrah for Twitter is all I say.

Radar key rip off

Since purchasing an iPhone I’ve been hoovering up toilet apps. Accessible toilets are my nemesis – no toilet and I can’t go out. In other countries, there are free Apps to tell people where they can find public toilets including accessible ones. The Radar Key Scheme in the UK means that thousands of accessible toilets can be accessed only by purchasing a RADAR key.

To my utter shock, they are charging £4.99 for this iPhone app! That’s a premium price I won’t be paying. Ok so the App sales have a limited market and it probably cost a good bit to have made – but even so. None disabled people can find toilets for free – so why should I have to pay for the privilege!

Crips in computer games: perhaps not?

Really interesting forum chat about disabled characters in computer/video games by game developers. Gamedev link

I’m pretty much a casual game player (All game genres on my iPhone, Sims3, Facebook). I’ve also done some Beta testing for games and had some success getting a Face book game to include aspects of disability within it (see my formal blog for that story). The latter was really good because it was about making game players consider equality to progress with the game.

The forum chat very clearly highlights some of the pros and cons of whether to include disabled characters in games including a lead role. You have to ignore their language (like labelling Forest Gump as brain crippled) because the points they make are very insightful.

I particularly liked their grasp of some ‘Social Model’ type thinking. That characters who start of without power inducing swords, magic clothing or unable to understand a puzzle are significantly disabled in there kingdoms. In fact the quests and puzzles to solve involve interacting with the game environment and characters to come up with solutions and progress. We perhaps don’t need Sword fighting wheelchair Ninja Warriors just for the sake of inclusivity?

Games set in mythical lands or other realities are one thing. However, take something like Sims3 where people play out life that is more similar to our own. I find it turns my stomach to see the game award mean interactions, bullying, vandalism, crime and anti-social behaviour. You can even deliberately torture and kill a Sim or their pet.

On one hand I’d like to see Sims with impairments be included into the mix and who wouldn’t love a dog with wheels for legs (*cough). However, with so much disability hatred amidst the population, how long would it be before we become victims of hate in both our virtual and real worlds?

BBC News – Toilet gaming technology targets urinal boredom

British company Captive Media thinks it has developed a product that fills a gap in the market – a urinal mounted, urine-controlled games console for men

via BBC News – Toilet gaming technology targets urinal boredom.

Please no, the last thing I want in my Twitter timeline are scores posted from gamers boasting of their peeing power… you know who you are. On the other hand – it might teach them not to pee on the floor?