Three Monkeys Is A Game Made Entirely For The Blind - And It's Part Of A Burgeoning Genre

Games are a visual experience more than anything else, right? I mean, you could easily play a game without sound - I've done it myself on one occasion. You could even play a game without an interface, through gesture control. You cannot, however, play without a picture.

It simply isn't possible to play a video game if you can't see what's going on...is it? 

You'd be surprised, actually. See, human beings are remarkably adaptable. When we lose access to one sense, we tend to focus more on the other senses to compensate. In this case, it's audio cues. 

"Fighting games are a perfect example," explained accessibility specialist Ian Hamilton, speaking to The Guardian. "By learning the audio cues for each move, vision-impaired players can master them."  Because of this, we've seen blind gamers accomplish some pretty impressive feats - one fellow by the name of Brice Mellen even beat the creator of Mortal Kombat.

Of course, none of these games are actually made for the blind - the visual element is still a key component of game design. That intelligent and innovative gamers were able to adapt doesn't change that fact. Perhaps this is why we've started to see the rise of an entirely new genre of gaming - the audio game. 

No, I'm not talking about Audacity or Karmaflow. These games were designed from the ground-up for the visually impaired, either reducing the visual elements or removing them altogether. In other words, they're designed to be played entirely by ear.

This genre isn't exactly new, says long-time gamer Kevin Satizabal, blind since birth. It's actually been around for more than a decade, though it's only started to gain public exposure recently. The main reason for this is that it's made its way onto mobile. 

The Papa Sangre series and The Nightjar are both created by developer Somethin' Else, and played using either touch controls or the gyroscope. In both games, players navigate towards sounds that represent goals, and away from sounds that represent monsters. They're...actually kind of terrifying.

Satizabal says this is par for the course with audio games - many of them expliot our fear of being blind, which he sees as a problem. 

"Horror has its place," Satizabal says, "but it can be a little bit cliched. And also, visual impairment already has enough negative associations without it being brought out in the gaming world."

Satizabal is himself a consultant for Incus Games, which seeks to take things in a slightly different direction. In its upcoming PC adventure game Three Monkeys, players control Tobar, a blind protagonist who makes the jump to hero when the world is thrown into darkness. Producer and composer Stephen Willey says that he wanted to create a world where being unable to see was a great strength, rather than a weakness.

Together with Satizabal and his team, he's ultimately hoping that he can craft a game that appeals not just to the blind, but to the sighted, as well - something that can be shared as a common experience. An admirable pursuit if ever I heard one.