A new video game from a University of Minnesota Duluth alum is joining the ranks of video games that offer accessible-friendly features.
The goal of HyperDot is to dodge everything. Although players can use nearly any platform they wish, creator Charles McGregor made it compatible with eye-tracking software — allowing people with limited mobility to play. The game launched in late January.
The fast-moving game has a simple concept: avoid the shapes. Shapes such as triangles and squares move across the screen, and the user — who is playing as a small circle — must dodge them while staying inside a designated arena.
Although there’s plenty of movement, the game is billed as minimalist, McGregor said. The enemies are simple shapes, and the user can move only up, down, left and right. No other controls or actions are required.
“That … manifests in being able to convey a ton of information without cluttering and complicating the screen,” McGregor said.
It’s a customizable game. Users can change how fast the shapes move or their size. The arena can be altered, as well. There are arenas where a user can’t stop moving, and one where visibility is limited, he said.
The flexible and minimal design of the game allows people to play on numerous controllers, such as an Xbox or Nintendo Switch. It also can be played using the Tobii Eye Tracker, a device that is attached to a computer monitor. In HyperDot, the user avoids the shapes by not looking at them when using Tobii. Glancing at a shape will end the game.
“Typically if … you're playing on a controller, like a Xbox controller or something, you would look at an enemy and say, ‘I don't want to go over there.’ And then you would move away,” McGregor said.
What initially started as a novel experience quickly turned into an opportunity to enable people with motor disabilities to join the game, he said.
“I was encouraged by a lot of people to move forward … to help make the game more accessible and more blessed, less intimidating, more accommodating to various different players,” he said.
McGregor said he was surprised by the number of video games that include features for people with disabilities. Those that get the most attention have added features for accommodations. But not all games support all types of disabilities.
“The industry has been making a lot of progress in terms of being able to do that,” McGregor said, but it is difficult.
HyperDot's accessible features have been noticed. In a review page on the gaming website Steam, several reviewers mention its eye-tracking capabilities. The Washington Post also took notice of the game’s “ultra inclusive offering.”
“I didn’t want to stop indulging,” its reporter wrote.
McGregor graduated from UMD with a computer science degree and art minor. He has operated under the name Tribe Games since college and registered it as an official business in recent years. The game-development company has released several other games, including Fingeance and Meet Evva: The Game.
HyperDot has been in development for nearly four years, McGregor said. It began when he procrastinated a college assignment and decided to make a video game instead.
“(I) was playing it for 15 minutes, and then I realized … wait, hold on, … I need to actually finish this,” he said.