Rome Nardin, age 12, is a student at Navigator Academy of Leadership in Valrico who was born with severe hearing loss and fitted with hearing aids since the age of 2. However, his hearing loss hasn’t stopped him from integrating into mainstream schools since kindergarten and working hard every day on his speech and language processing.
When he heard that his school would be having a science fair, Rome immediately knew what he wanted to present. His experiences and love for video games inspired him to make one, titled Please Listen, for blind and visually impaired kids.
“I know what it is like to sometimes feel left out and have a harder time doing what many people can do every day. I wanted blind kids to have a video game that was fun for them to play,” said Rome.
The goal of the game is to find a missing dog by following its barks while overcoming obstacles along the way. With two months to develop it, Rome did the coding and sound design for the game himself, with some help on the voices from his father.
Rome had researched what games were available for the blind and visually impaired, but he found that, while interesting, there was no humor in them, so he made sure his game had funny commentary while players progressed through it, along with sounds to let players know when they reached a certain level.
“There are sounds as you’re going through the level that let you know if you jump correctly or hit the wall, but Rome always has the commentary going on with it, which is like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’” said Amy Nardin, Rome’s mother.
His friend, 12-year-old Ian, enjoyed playing the game, saying, “It’s silly. I liked it.”
While the game is very short, Rome said he could see the challenges of video game design. Moreover, he said he might develop Please Listen further later on, such as adding more levels and making it more interesting.
“It takes a lot of work to develop a good game. But I hope to do more in the future,” he said.
Rome did so well in creating his project that he can enter it in the SDHC Regional Science Fair in 2020, and he also has a chance of entering the Florida state science fair.
For more information on Navigator Academy of Leadership, visit http://navigatoracademyvalrico.com/.