Sightlence: Haptics for Computer Games

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Games in general and computer games in particular have now become a mainstream activity for young people in the industrialized nations. Sadly, people’s interaction with computer artifacts and games are mainly still limited to the visual and auditive modalities. This constrains the richness of our interaction with those artifacts, it constrains the possibilities of using those artifacts to communicate and build relations with others, and it excludes some people from using them at all.

This thesis answers the questions of whether it’s possible to use haptics as a single modality for conveying information in computer games, if it’s possible to translate the standard interfaces of existing computer games into haptic interfaces, and if it can be accomplished with the technology used in the gamepads of current generation game consoles. It also contains a theoretical foundation for using haptics in game design and a new design method for analyzing the requirements of computer game interface modalities.

A computer game prototype called Sightlence was developed in order to answer these questions. The prototype was developed in four iterative cycles of design, development, and evaluative play sessions. Four groups of people participated in the play sessions: graduate students, and teachers, specializing in games; people who are deafblind; people from the general population; and pupils from a national special needs school in Sweden for children with deafness or impaired hearing combined with severe learning disabilities, or congenital deafblindness. The prototypes were tested with usability techniques for measuring performance and learnability. The usability tests showed that Sightlence can be successfully learned by people from the general population while the pupils with cognitive development disorders from the special needs school would need additional support in the game in order to learn to handle the increased abstraction caused by the haptic interface.

The thesis ends with discussion of the designed and developed artifact Sightlence. The discussion touches on the design process, the usability testing, and possible future research and development relevant for making haptics a fruitful tool and medium for designers and people.

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