Cyberchase: Railway Hero

Sudden Industries helps WNET, PBS KIDS, and Bridge Multimedia pioneer universal design in their first HTML5 game built from the ground up with accessibility in mind for kids with physical and cognitive impairments, including vision and hearing disabilities.

The Story

Cyberchase is the long-running, Emmy Award winning PBS KIDS series produced by THIRTEEN/WNET New York. Starring the voice over talents of Gilbert Gottfried and Christopher Lloyd, Cyberchase is an animated TV series focused on teaching math to kids ages 6-9. Working together with Bridge Multimedia (an accessibility company dedicated to supporting all facets of universal access) and PBS KIDS, WNET asked Sudden to help design and develop their first online game for kids with visual impairments (color blindness, complete blindness), hearing impairments (partial deafness, deaf) and cognitive disabilities (autism, attention disorders), while still appealing to PBS KIDS larger general audience.

Client

WNET Thirteen

PBS Kids

Bridge Multimedia

Services

Accessible HTML5 Game Design, User Experience and Interaction Design, Art Direction, Web Design, Animation

Recognition

2019 - Best Educational Interactive Application - Internet Advertising Competition
2019 - Best Game, Family & Kids - Webby Awards Honoree
2019 - Best Game, User Experience - Webby Award Honoree


The Challenge

  • Providing appropriate and easy to understand user experiences for audiences with sight and hearing disabilities
  • Developing a game concept that would work well when supported by key commands and audio descriptions for blind users
  • Designing appropriate and easy to understand user interfaces that would allow all players to customize and personalize their game experience based on their preferences, ensuring that even players with disabilities felt like they were getting the full game experience
  • Designing and implementing a keyboard-based navigation experience that mimicked best-practices of screen-readers for blind users
  • Facilitating a leveled approach to math learning for all students that is fun and engaging
  • Managing an extended team of creative, technology, storytelling, pedagogy, research and accessibility experts all with different viewpoints and agendas, while keeping the project in budget and on schedule


Our Solution

  • Sudden created Railway Hero, a fun game that challenges players to fix gaps in the "Information Super Railway" by using math skills of whole number addition, counting, and spatial reasoning to correctly arrange pieces of track to fill the gaps.
  • Sudden created a fun, entertaining "settings dashboard" to allow players to personalize and customize their in-game experience, making it an integral part of game play rather than a separate settings page that is accessed only after a problem is encountered.
  • Sudden worked closely with accessibility experts to develop an extended audio description engine that seamlessly provides additional descriptive information regarding what is on screen and what the available options are.
  • Sudden developed multiple contrast and color settings for each element on a page, ensuring that every pixel of informational content could be deciphered by those users with color blindness.
  • For players with cognitive disabilities, Sudden allowed for multiple problem solving strategies, natural pause points, and appropriate praise and nays throughout the game.
  • To keep the game challenging for all players, Sudden added fun game play elements like track switches, wormholes, and wheelhouses to make the increased level of math more engaging and extend the storytelling of the characters.

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The Results

  • Initial user testing with target audiences with disabilities has been extremely positive.
    • "I really like that you can be blind and still play the game!"
      Student, Kentucky School for the Blind, Louisville, KY
    • "I wish I could have this game at home."
      Student, NY Institute for Special Education, Bronx, NY.
  • Blind players can play the entire game from beginning to end – including completion of all of the math challenges involved in filling track spaces.
  • Players with color blindness have reported being able to see everything clearly and having no trouble focusing on and understanding the important elements of the game
  • Players without disabilities enjoy the gameplay as well, not realizing that many of the features they are interacting with are built with universal accessibility in mind.
  • Teachers are amazed at some of the math and computer skills their students demonstrated that they had not seen before or did not see typically, such as identifying own math errors and self-correcting, and using a mouse independently
  • Best Educational Interactive Application, 2019 Internet Advertising Competition
  • Best Game, Family & Kids, 2019 Webby Awards Honoree
  • Best Game, User Experience, 2019 Webby Award Honoree


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