PAX East 2011: Stem Stumper Interview
While I was at PAX, I was approached by a rather tall man carrying an iPhone and large, sound-canceling headphones who pointed out my media badge and asked me if I’d like to try out his game. I said sure and set my pile of swag on the floor to check out Kwasi Mensah’s indie, blind-accessible iPhone title, Stem Stumper. After a few minutes with the game, I was impressed, and we exchanged contact information. I caught up with Kwasi via e-mail after the convention to ask him some follow-up questions about the game and his company, Ananse Productions.
Jes Richards: Why did you decide to do a blind-accessible game?
Kwasi Mensah: I started Ananse Productions to make games for people outside of the normal gamer demographic (18-35 able-bodied straight white male). I knew I wanted the game to be accessible but I was planning to also make a game with a multicultural aspect.. The more research I did into accessibility I realized that accessiblity was going to be big enough to focus on for our first project and it would give us a strong basis for making our other projects. We settled on blind accessibility to give us a focus but we tried to make the game as accessible as possible across all impairments.
JR: How does the VoiceOver integration add to the gameplay?
KM: We’ve made sure our game gives VoiceOver all the information it needs so that you can play the game with it on. But VoiceOver’s just the icing on the cake in terms of accessibility. We’ve made sure the game is as inherently as accessible as possible. We haven’t thought too deeply about adding voice commands to the game. Although it could make it interesting to play on buses and subways!
JR: How long has this game been in production?
KM: Since November. We weren’t an actual company until January.
JR: How big is Ananse Productions’ team?
KM: I work full time and we have three contractors working on Art, Audio and Level Design respectively.
JR: Is there any other information you’d like to share about the game?
KM: The game is meant for everyone to play (not just the blind). All the design choices we’ve made help Stem Stumper’s general usability and people’s ability to pick up and play it right off the bat. You can actually play the game without the sound on. The difficulty of the game is in deciding the order to use our powerups in. While it does take longer to navigate the level when you can’t see, we’ve been focusing on making that as easy as possible.
Stem Stumper will hit the App Store April 12th.