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Accessibility Within Games; What’s Out There?

It’s no secret that I am a fan of subtitles. I have it on my TV, on YouTube, on games… if there is a way to turn them on, I will do it. I’ve got no real reason to require them; I suffer no hearing problems currently (despite working in loud noise areas for over a decade, my hearing is luckily okay according to latest tests). I just enjoy being able to read the text I’m also listening to… to be able to catch words if I miss them mid-battle or when my attention is distracted.

But what if it was something that I did need in order for me to understand what was going on? What if I did have a hearing impairment or issue which meant that my enjoyment of an entertainment medium was hindered because of the simple exclusion of subtitles?

Previously overlooked in the industry, accessibility in gaming has become bigger and more public. After meeting Special Effect at EGX 2014, I decided to go on a hunt to find out where we currently are in catering to a variety of accessible requirements; and what could change in the future. I’ll come back to Special Effect and the awesome work they are doing very shortly, announcing a fun project we’re going to be taken part in next February!

Assistive Technology

The primary focus for accessibility outside of what the developers can program into it (such as remappable keys, subtitles, volume controls, sensitivity and more which we’re coming to next), is on the physical hardware such as controllers and movement trackers. There is already a huge variety already out there – some of which can particularly help us to enjoy the medium of games. So what is out there?

Mouth sticks enables the user to control input to a device through a stick that is manipulated with their mouth. There are also controllers which work with chin movement as well. Head wands work in a similar function, except in this instance the stick is strapped to the head.

Single switch access is for individuals with very limited mobility – for example, if they can only move one part of their body, such as their head, the switch could be placed on the side of the head to allow the person to click it with head movements. This clicking would then be interpreted cleverly using dedicated software.

There are also oversized trackball mice which contain a rollerball on the top of the mouse rather than underneath. Instead of moving the mouse in a traditional fashion, the user would then only roll the ball on the top, which provides users some greater ease of control. It works well with other devices already mentioned.

Adaptive keyboards are helpful – not in terms of software, where you can remap keys – but in terms of compact, expanded, ergonomic, on-screen, concept, rubber and ABC keyboards.

Eye tracking, which will come up again in the interview with Special Effect, is an incredibly powerful tool used for those with limited or no movement control. These devices help to track the movement of the eyes, such as what individuals are following or looking at and can help the individual to navigate through many menus or even games.

Voice recognition software has been available since I’ve used a PC, when you could open up accessibility options and put in some words and it’d read them out to you. There are however much more refined and specialist programs which are out now, enabling users to cover a whole range of tasks. Some have text entered into them, or can speak into a microphone.

Sticky and Slow keys – another function which has always been present in my experience with PCs in  particular, sticky keys help to ‘stick’ down keys (such as ctrl, alt, etc) for a period of time so that other keys can be accessed without having to hold it. Slow keys are also useful, only registering when a key has been pressed when it has been held down for a period of time.

Without some form of assistive technologies, those with limiting disabilities could find it difficult, if not near impossible to interact with computers. With technology being developed faster than ever, we could see some great opportunities for virtual reality, or even more daunting, could we see the potential for controls based on emotions? There is a great Kickstarter that was recently funded under the name ‘Nevermind‘ which, based on heart rate response and other contributing factors (and when used with the relevant hardware) makes the horror game more difficult as you play along. They key is, if you can manage your fear and remain calm, you can progress through the game.

There is so much potential out there, by so many creative minds that it would be wonderful to see how accessibility and assistive technologies develop in the future. For the meanwhile, let’s look into the companies who are spending every day to train developers and support individuals in having games in their lives!

AbleGamers Charity & Includification

Set up just over 8 years ago, AbleGamers Charity is a non-profit advocate group, providing an online community and resources to help more than 33 million disabled gamers across the US alone (they estimate 1 billion disabled individuals around the globe).

They created Includification – a free-to-download document which contains checklists, ideas and ideal standards to make games more accessible to a wider audience. It is an incredibly thorough document, aimed at providing different levels of accessibility graded as bronze, silver and gold. Written in 2012, the guide provides relatively up-to-date real life examples of where accessibility is included in current triple AAA and other mainstream games. It is well worth the read and I highly recommend even if you’re not developing a game to check it out.

Aside from the creation of the Includification guide, the charity continues with it’s goal of providing a better quality of life for those with disabilities via the medium of video games. The charity uses these 3 steps in their actions:

  • Outreach – a community; a place for individuals and families to reach out, to start the conversation, to provide information and advice
  • Consultation – working with developers and games producers in order to improve accessibility
  • Grants – funding an individual’s needs for assistive technology to play video games.

We had a chance to speak to Steve Spohn from the charity about it’s inception, their struggles, the work they do, and where we could move on from here.

You’ve been set up as a not-for-profit for just over 9 years now – how has the industry changed with regards to the attitudes towards accessibility during that time?

We’ve been around for over 10 years, but an official 501(c)(3) for 7. The industry has changed in some amazing ways. When we first started doing this, developers would walk away from us to avoid answering questions about accessibility. Whereas now, developers email us every week asking about accessibility, how to do things better, and how to make sure that everyone they can is included in their games.

Would you say when you started that accessibility was disregarded as part of games development, or did you find a number of techniques were already in place that perhaps just needed improvement or guidance?

I don’t think accessibility was ever disregarded, ignored, or maliciously put off. I think that developers simply don’t think about accessibility. You know, as humans, we don’t often think about the problems that aren’t affecting our lives in some way, whether that be personal or through a contact of ours. There’s a lot of things going on in the world, and sometimes people don’t think. Heck, in one of the interviews I conducted personally, one of the developers working with Blizzard looked extremely puzzled after a question about colorblind options to which he said “Funny thing is, I probably should have thought about that, since I’m colorblind.” We just need to constantly remind developers that there is a huge audience of millions of gamers with disabilities who would like to play these games, and they need attention.

What has been the hardest challenge for AbleGamers so far?

The hardest challenges bringing awareness to the cause, and sharing with people that we don’t want to harm games. AbleGamers is all about options. We want developers to include options in videogames that are there for the people who need them, but don’t affect the people who don’t. Sometimes people get confused I think we want to make games accessible to everyone. We don’t. We want to make as many games AS accessible as they can be to as many different gamers with various disabilities AS they can be, and that’s a huge difference than making every game accessible to everyone– virtually impossible.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your work?

One of my favorite memories and “reasons why I do what I do” is a story from 2012, when we visited the Abilities Expo in Chicago:

One of the conferences we attended in Chicago, Illinois, had approximately 7000 people with disabilities. AbleGamers had a station set up with four different tables, and each held a different gaming set up. We saw a lot of people that weekend.

My boss, the founder and Executive Director of AbleGamers, Mark Barlet, was working the booth with me and a few others when a small child, no more than six years old, rolled up to our booth area with his mother, father, and siblings.

The son was severely disabled with a form of muscular dystrophy that had ravaged his body and left him unable to talk, move, or communicate in any way. His heart monitor beeped on his glass tray as he leaned back staring at the video terminals. I greeted the family and invited them in, but they declined. There was no way that we could help their son, they said.

After a bit of convincing, and pleading, we got them over to our Forza 3 racing station, which was set up with an adroit switchblade– a controller AbleGamers designed with Evil Controllers replicating an Xbox 360 controller with switches instead of buttons.

The situation was bleak. He had little to no movement. Mark and I talked and joked, keeping the family at ease, while looking over all of the possibilities. Eventually, we noticed his foot had some movement. This led to plugging in a foot pedal switch that looks exactly like a gas pedal, and holding the pedal up where he could reach with his foot.

His foot gently pressed down on the pedal and the car took off roaring down the track. He giggled and wailed loudly. Mom was in tears. We help them with the information on how to do is set up like that at home, and they were on their way.

A few hours later, I felt a tap on the shoulder and turned around to see his father, a giant 6’2″ man, towering above me, alone, with tears in his eyes.

“Thank you,” he said. “For giving my son his dream.”

It turned out that his son had always made giggling and squealing noises whenever videogame commercials would come on TV. He knew that his son wanted to play video games, but he thought it was out of reach. An impossibility.

That was when it really hit home that we don’t just help people play videogames, we improve the quality of life for entire families by giving people a piece of independence at things they thought were impossible.

Are there any particular challenges that we need to overcome which are still relatively prevalent? Such as, the provision of technology and the funding for it to those who require it? Or perhaps more accessibility for particular disabilities which are not as well known main stream?

The stigma of disability. Far too many people are still turned off by disability. Either people want to watch it because of the “freak show” mentality, or what some call “cripple porn” and all of that is just disheartening. I want people to accept each other as who they are, not what diseases are inside them. That’s where gamers really shine. Most gamers really don’t care about things like if someone is missing a finger or uses a wheelchair. Can you kick ass on their team? if so, welcome aboard. I think that’s how real life should be. 

How have you found the popularity of websites and streaming services such as Twitch for spreading the word about the charity and increasing awareness of accessibility within video games?

Amazing. The Twitch community has been crucial for our fundraisers. They are welcoming with very little trolling. And for the most part they police themselves. 

Are there any projects you are currently working on – such as streaming events – that you would like to mention?

We always have things going on. It takes a lot of money to grant one person the assistive technology they need to get back in the gaming. It costs anywhere from $300 – $5000 depending on the complexities of the individual, what they would like to play, and what abilities may change in the future. So we constantly got fundraisers going on and we are very proud of our numbers. 96c out of every dollar goes directly to helping gamers with disabilities. If you would like to find out more, please visit www.AbleGamers.com/donate or check us out on Twitter or Facebook as AbleGamers.

A huge thank you to Steve Spohn for taking the time during their very busy season to respond to our questions! Please do check out their website links above and help support.

Special Effect & GamesBlast 2015

We were really excited to meet Special Effect at EGX 2014 and try out some of their unique controllers from their loan library. With the aim of providing assistive technologies to individuals who need it to enjoy gaming, Special Effect fundraising has meant many disabled individuals have had a chance to play the games they’ve always watched, or used to play.

Every year, Special Effect put on a ‘gaming challenge’ event in order to raise money and awareness of the charity and those it helps. From the 20th – 22nd February 2015, GamesBlast 2015 will see a community of gamers stream for either as long as possible (long after each other people – toilet breaks are a fantastic idea) with any donations going towards the project.

We’re really excited to say that I (Emz) have signed up to do the challenge on Twitch – you’ll find me at my Twitch Channel Here and on Twitter Here. Some updates will go live on TGD Twitter as well, which if you aren’t already following, you need to do so – Here. We’re only little, hoping to raise £1,000 for the charity. Stay tuned and we’ll advertise more of the charity stream as and when we get closer to the date! If you want to get involved, please do check out the Special Effect GamesBlast official page Here! The more of us involved, the more amazing work we could do to spread the love and enjoyment of video games. Especially after our last post, We Heart ❤.

We were very lucky to speak to Mark Saville about the charity, its inception, their struggles, what they’re working on and what we can look forward to in the future.

As you are not in the ‘mainsteam’ of known charities, how hard do you find it to gather support?

We’ve been humbled over the last few years by the number of people in the gaming community and the local area to us who’ve really understood what we’re trying to do. I think the fact that we’re really focusing on doing the best we can to help each individual, rather than trying to play the numbers game, has been very helpful. It’s enabled us to inspire people through stories about the people we’ve helped. 

What has been the hardest challenge so far with building the charity up and gaining fundraising?

As with many smaller charities, the main challenge has been building awareness of the impact that our work can have. We’re a charity that targets something which often gets overlooked – people with physical disabilities have lives beyond simply ‘being disabled’ and want to enjoy themselves. There are many wonderful charities that deal with life and death issues, and they are deservedly supported, so a charity that appears merely to help people enjoy themselves can be low on the list of funding priorities. But the impact of what we do goes beyond the individual we’re helping. It gives the paretns and carers some much-needed free time, it brings families and friends together, it brings a work/life balance to disabled people in employment, and it brings fun and enjoyment into therapy. These are just a few – it’s all about raising quality of life. 

We also don’t sell anything, and all our help and support is provided free! We feel that we should focus purely on helping people to the best of their and our abilities, and as soon as you start charging people, you’re putting a barrier in the way (and also having to divert their funds and effort into administering a charging system!). We’d be doing the wrong thing. 

What would you say has been the charity’s biggest challenge with regards to sourcing equipment?

The pace of the evolution of technology, both gaming and otherwise! So much wonderful stuff appears on the market all the time, and the challenge is to keep pace with it so that our loan library has the right tech. 

I’ve been looking into the eye gaze technology and it is incredible, considering how long it has been available. How easy has it been to set individuals up on the system? 

The big breakthrough came a few years ago when the systems evolved properly to cope with a degree of head movement. This opened up to a huge range of disabilities, such as cerebral palsy. But setting up a system properly for an individual still takes time, patience and skill. Each eye gaze system has its own strengths and weaknesses, and we have to be able to recognise and compensate for that. There’s also the user as well. Droopy eyelids, long eyelashes, glasses, contact lenses, nystagmus and restricted movement of the eyes all bring with them their own challenges which need to be adjusted for if possible. Then there’s the software – some people may only have enough eye control to look at two distinct areas on the screen, others have really fine precision. Sometimes it takes us many visits to get the set up and software right. 

How were their experiences with it? 

I think this feedback from the daughter of someone with MND that we helped says a lot. This was someone we helped through our StarGaze project: 

“Having the EyeGaze gave my mum the ability to do what she did before her illness disabled her. Having the capability of using social media, reading a book, using Skype independently made living with MND more bearable for both my mum and us. Mum also felt much more involved in life again, she felt more connected with the digital world that she was forced to leave because of her illness. It brought her a lot of joy to be able to autonomously help research for my wedding and do online shopping as she felt she was contributing in the ‘Mother of the Bride’ way! Additionally, having the EyeGaze was a godsend for my parents’ relationship as it gave them a break from each other, re-establishing a more ‘normal’ relationship. When every minute of your life means so much, filling it with enjoyable things becomes vital and the EyeGaze provided many hours of enjoyment during a very difficult time.” 

I couldn’t see very much about technologies for games for those with sight impairments – is this a common request? 

Not really. You won’t be surprised to hear that the vast majority of requests are from people wanting to play the popular gaming titles like FIFA, Call of Duty or GTA!

Have you had any opportunities to discuss with game developers regarding accessibility requirements within a video game (such as subtitles, brightness/colour controls, etc)? 

Yes and we’ve already worked with companies like Splash Damage. We’re more than happy to work in an advisory capacity with any game developers who’d like advice about accessibility at any level. We are not in the business of hitting the games industry over the head with a big accessibility stick – everyone has tough budgets and timelines – so instead we’re aiming to inspire change through our videos and explaining the benefits of better accessibility. 

I’ve recently been reading articles about how colour blindlness can change a game in it’s entirety. Do you get many colour blindness queries? 

Again, not really. People tend to associate us more with physical disabilities.

Is there any technology on the market right now that you are looking to obtain, but haven’t yet? 

We’re really looking forward to the potential of VR [Virtual Reality] 🙂

Where do you see accessibility in games heading in the future?

Difficult one. Games and their controllers are getting more complex in response to the gamer’s calls for harder and tougher challenges. And think of all the controller and/or key combos needed for special moves. But (for the people that we help) as long as the developers have posted out or provided keyboard equivalents, etc for commands, then there’s a foothold. Of course, it’s not all about physical disability – ‘accessibility’ covers a huge range of issues in games including gameplay speed and complexity, language, captioning, visual complexity and the cognitive abilities required to complete every aspect of a particular game. It’s why it’s a challenge to produce an ‘accessibility classification’ system for games. Every single person has different abilities which change over time. You couldn’t classify a game as ‘playable by someone with MND’ for example. 

What has been your best moment so far working with the charity?

Many fantastic moments, and they’re all because of the team here. I’ve never worked with such a bunch of fantastic and committed people (and I’m not just trotting out the party line here, they really are a smashing bunch). It all comes from the top – our founder and CEO Dr Mick Donegan. There’s a small sign above his desk that kept him going through the tough early days of the charity, and it still drives our ethics:

nicemoral

And it has to be asked; what is your favourite game?

Many, many on the shortlist (even Rage Racer, if you can remember that!) but the game I’ve been left completely, utterly wowed by more than any other is Journey. 

A huge thank you to Mark Saville for his time and responses – if you’re interested at anything to do with Special Effects or want to participate in Games Blast 2015, check out the following links! 

http://www.specialeffect.org.uk 

http://www.specialeffect.org.uk/gamesblast-about

Independent Accessible Games

Whilst there are many games out on the market that add accessibility within the development of their games, it is intriguing to note a few games we came across which are unique and specifically designed around specific disabilities.

For All To Play has a name which ‘does what it says on the tin’. They produce unique accessible games for those with visual impairments or blindness, including the awesome Grail To The Thief audio adventure. The game is currently in Green Light on Steam, but has been successful with donations on Kickstarter. Be part of a movement towards interesting and innovative games for the visually impaired and give it a vote!

Audio Defence: Zombie Arena is also a unique take on your standard 3D shooter, where you have to use your ears instead of your eyes to locate and take down your enemies. The use of certain sounds helps the player to identify if the shot was on target… I recommend giving this a go!

AccessAble Games have developed a number of games with accessible players in mind.

One game aims to help and provide entertainment to children with cystic fibrosis, called My Carnival. It didn’t quite make the fundraising target, but hopefully will be reviewed and put back out on the market soon.

They also created Slalom, The Videogame, a game I’ve been playing all morning on my laptop! It’s a sports simulator which is named ‘wheelchair slalom’ and is usually practised by individuals with cerebral palsy. It’s to provide an insight into the rules, types of tests and circuits for those who may want to practise the sport, as well as being great fun! In regards to puzzle games, they’ve released a game called Attractor where you use your mouse to guide balls into the right holes with invisible forces of attractors and repellers.

The list goes on for AccessAble Games – they’ve got Iredia, Atram’s Secret – a puzzle platformer which focuses on the use of hearing to complete levels. They’ve got Attractor, where you use your mouse to guide balls into the right holes using invisible forces of attractors and repellers.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

iSequences is also a great game app for iOS which acts as an educational tool as well as loads of fun, for children with autism and asperger’s syndrome. It enables the child to practise 100 different sequences in everyday situations, such as brushing their teeth, going to bed, going to the movies, going to the doctors, emotions, etc. It’s currently available on iTunes!

Your Own Stories

We wanted to give gamers a chance to talk about their accessibility experiences, negative or positive. We’re so happy with all these lovely folks who’ve provided their stories. Please do take the time to read their stories and if they’ve provided a link to any of their gaming activities, please do click on it! We love to support TGD friends ❤

Crazy Dane Gaming 

Before my surgeries I was deaf on my left ear, so I couldn’t hear everything in school, so classmates made fun of me, teachers gave me detention or I had to go to the principals office for being cocky and talk back (Because I said “Sorry, could you repeat that?”) and the Doctor we went to even said I was faking it (Even with the blood and other fluids coming out of my ear) so my Family said I was the problem. 

This made me anti-social, dealing with Things myself, as no one understood me, and I didn’t even know what was going on with me, so my defense to the other kids bullying me was violence, I ended up in fights a lot from first grade up until 6th-7th grade. In second grade I was expelled and sent to a “Special” School, and was branded an outsider and a retarded kid which didn’t help my temper at all, and I gt blamed for things I never did. Eventually after a few years my dad had enough and we went to a different doctor WHO said I had to get surgery within 2-3 months because there was a bacteria inside my head that “Dissolves” tissue and bones, and now I’ve got prostethics in my ear enabling me to hear better – And that’s why the doctors didn’t read much into my headaches the first year or 2 after the surgery, because itwas probably because I could hear things much more now, but this isn’t the case as I now know.

Throughout these years I had no friends, and I didn’t feel love nor support from my Family – Which to this day means I’m mostly by myself. I DO love my Family and I know they’re always supporting me, but I’m not as dependant and close to them as they are to each other. In the end what kept me going even though it was lonely was games! I was social in games, having fun with other people enjoying a common interest without any past ruining this as I could be myself 100% World of Warcraft was a huge social refuge for me, and it tought me English.

With my migraine most of my energy goes toward dealing with the pain, leaving very little energy left to deal with drama, fights with people, being social and I have to use energy to smile as well and sound less negative (as it sometimes leads to misunderstandings then arguements and fights).

I do a lot of joking around, also to keep my mind off the pain, but with a migraine I sound harsh and I forget to smile sometimes, causing more misunderstandings – But with games, I replenish my energy through awesome moments, funny moments and when I dive completely into the gameplay/storyline of a game!

I’ve always played the First-person-shooter franchise, as my Family is more or less military, and I always wanted to be a Sniper within the military, but I can’t with the Migraine, so I play the Sniper Class in most games to satisfy that old dream – I started out in Counter-Strike 1.6 but the maps were to small and COD had the same problem, but with the Battlefield franchise I could truly have those 1 kilometer distance headshots, which to this day is still some of the most satisfying thing for me to do in FPS games.

Currently my favourite games are Battlefield 4  for multiplayer, Assassin’s Creed: Unity (As I’m a huge fan of Ninjas, stealth gameplay, parkour and assassination games and open world) and Far Cry 3-4 for Single player, as I’ve got my own choice and I can make funny momens happen along with awesome moments in a game. And I’m looking forward to any future Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield (Hardline as well) game to come out, as each one has exceeded my expectations delivered by the previous title.

I’ve ALWAYS wanted to edit videos and upload to youtube, but I never really got around to do it, but aproximately 3 months ago I went all out, designed my intro and autro, artwork to channel, made FB, Twitter account and so on for the Youtube channel. This is a new way to deal with my migraine, as I really enjoy editing, working with music, coming up with ideas, leave Little “Easter Eggs” in most of my videos, doing funny things/themes (As my Gadget Adventures) where I use some basic stuff in different ways for my own amusement, and then share it with others. I’ve even thought about streaming, with encouragement from you as well, but ATM I haven’t got the money nor good enough PC to pull this off. 

Today I woke up with a migraine, it’s still there, but it wasn’t that bad a day because I spent it solely on a video with the new Phantom Bow in Battlefield 4 and I had fun doing so, and most of the time during the editing process I end up smiling and forgetting the pain while also being occupied, and the finished product makes me proud and smile as well!

So when I feel down or haven’t got a lot of energy, games help me replenish that energy and cheer me up. This way I can also exhaust some of my frustration without raging over small things in the everyday life that really doesn’t matter that much, and it helps me deal with things as they come and not worry to much.

Check out Crazy Dane Gaming on YouTube!

Liam Rider

Video games have always been a safe haven for those of us who are more introverted than extroverted. 

I have Asperger Syndrome, which is often referred to as a “hidden disability”, given that there are no obvious visual cues which make the presence of the syndrome immediately apparent.

For those of you reading who aren’t aware, Aspergers Syndrome is a condition on the Autistic Spectrum, and can vary widely from person to person. 

A few of the most common character traits can include:

  • Good language skills, but difficulty distinguishing when another person is being serious or joking
  • Narrow and seemingly obsessive interests
  • Difficulty in reading body language and understanding others’ emotions
  • Going into long-winded conversations about their interests without realising that the other person is bored or trying to escape the conversation

Video games have always been a great comfort to me – as I’m sure they also have to many others with Aspergers – as it can be an incredibly social activity, whilst also taking away a lot of the troublesome and stressful aspects of interacting with others. Gaming creates a middle ground which is accessible to people from all walks of life, regardless of colour, creed, age, gender, sexuality or disability. In that moment, my constant and intimidating thought processes of having to try and understand another person’s body language, how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking of me – all vanish. There’s just a reciprocal connection: no judgement, no criticism and no condemnation of each other. Just two human beings enjoying spending time in each other’s company, working together or competing against each other, in the name of fun.

For me, online gaming has proven to be especially beneficial. There’s absolutely no fear of misinterpreting someone’s body language, whilst co-operative or team-based gameplay and conversation over headsets have helped develop my social skills and understanding of people in general. I’ve forged some great friendships with people from all over the world, simply through a mutual love for gaming.

I’ve also found myself able to relate to some video game characters a lot more easily than with real people – which has had a beneficial effect on my understanding of other peoples’ emotions, how to approach people and hold conversation, etc. These may seem like rather insignificant things to ‘normal’ people, but to someone with Aspergers, improvement in these aspects of their social life can mean the world.  

Recently, I’ve become a little disillusioned with the world of gaming, as I’ve lost contact with the few friends I had which I used to play online games with. Constantly playing multiplayer games on my own has drained a lot of the fun out of gaming for me. 

As well as this, I haven’t seen many new game releases which have interested me in recent years, or at least not enough to warrant the initial £40 cost of retail purchase upon release. Though I feel this is about to change, as today I picked up Shadow of Mordor for my Xbox 360, and I’ve pre-ordered Super Smash Bros for WiiU which is due to arrive in the posttomorrow

Super Smash Bros is one of my favourite game franchises of all time. I spent hundreds of hours playing Smash Bros. Melee back on the GameCube and Brawl on the Wii whilst growing up, many of which were played alongside friends or family members. This new iteration of the franchise will no doubt bring back a lot of great memories. As silly as it may sound, Aspergers has hindered my interactions even with those who are closest to me – my family and I bonded a lot over the time spent playing that game.

For myself and many others, gaming has always been a great, less intimidating way of meeting many new and like-minded people. At the very least, it’s an entertaining way to pass some spare time or combat boredom; and at its very best, gaming has helped many learn how to forge and maintain rewarding friendships. 

Trevor Viggo

I have been a dedicated gamer since I could hold a controller. As much as I’ve loved playing them, I’ve always sucked at them. While I’m sure 95% of my  “noobness” is my own coordination, I take pride knowing there’s at least a 5% influence of the fact I can’t easily maneuver my controller. I have Cerebral Palsy on the right side of my body, which makes my right hand cramp, restraining my execution of button mashing.

On November 13 I asked Xbox if it had any third-party custom controller manufacturers they recommend, which they didn’t. I have been looking to build a xbox one controller that has the normal right side of the controller switched; that is move the joystick to where the A, B, X, Y, buttons are, and swap the buttons normal spot to where the joystick normally is. Also potentially moving the RB and RT buttons to the back-left side of the controller. If anyone has any suggestions on where I can buy a custom modded xbox controller please contact me at zombiebatman88@gmail.com

I have done lots of exploring and the options for accessibility for disabled people is limited. For example a “one-handed controller” can go for $300. I understand the craftsmanship skill needed to create this item is rare, so this fee is probably spot on. I also wouldn’t blame a gamer for spending this much on a controller (even though it almost doubles the price of a gaming system) because video games hold a special place in our culture. Also if mobility is impaired activities which are fun and are not physically tasking can be just more influential than other art forms and athletic activities. Not having access to the video game community is an even sadder consequence of disenfranchising disabled gamers, when considering how impactful they can be for anyone with low mobility. I remember being stuck in the hospital and duck hunt being the only engaging medicine.

It’s really unfortunate companies don’t consider disabled people when creating their products. If companies don’t have their own accessible products (controllers) they should fraternize with companies that could provide an effective, reasonably priced substitute product. Doing this ensures companies like Xbox, Nintendo, and PlayStation can include all potential consumers.

Video game designers can also try to ensure disabled participation in their games by letting gamers change button controls as needed. If you can’t reach the right trigger when an enemy comes around the corner you’re screwed. Coincidentally I got really good at throwing grenades (left trigger). Packages should contain a label of accessible button option. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stoked to play a new game, only to find it too difficult to get past most story plot lines because it required a sophisticated sequence of mashing I couldn’t execute. This label could help others confirm their purchase will comply with their abilities.

I truthfully believe the government should encourage companies offer accessible products.  Video games should be enforced by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), somewhere between commercial facility (III)-telecommunication (title IV), but video games like most electronics, are not covered in the ADA. Technology has helped drive independence for people with disabilities. However the alienation from the virtual world can be just as authentic as the real world sometimes. Having a separate and unequal education was declared in 1955 as unjust, its 2014 and we still haven’t figured how to include everyone.

I hope my suggestions can encourage Xbox, Nintendo, and PlayStation to lead the way in including consumers with disabilities, as well as start the conversations as to what other modifications can be made to make video games more inclusive.

To support Trevor’s suggestions, you can vote them up on the Xbox Feedback Website. The direct link is HERE. Trevor also runs an awesome blog called Left Is Normal – head over and take a look!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who has been involved in this article, we are very happy to work with you and to support such lovely causes. 

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About Emz OLV

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