Disability Gaming And How It Can Transform Lives
To some people, games are just another form of entertainment. However, to many others, games mean a whole lot more than that; they give us a chance to escape from the stresses of every day life, create bonds with people from around the world, feel part of a passionate community, learn educational topics in a fresh and fun way, and overall keep the magic in our lives even when we become 'too old to have imaginary friends'. Chances are that you're reading this because you are the latter of these people.
So how would you feel if this was all taken away from you because of something beyond your control? Many children and adults alike miss out on the benefits of gaming because of a disability. How can you kick ass in Tekken without the simple function of being able to bash buttons?
Luckily, dedicated and kind people are realising how much games can really change the lives of others and are using technology to their full advantage to make sure that games can really become universal!
SpecialEffect charity is a prime example. I first came across them at an indie games conference, ExPlay, where I first experienced what it would feel like to play a game without using my hands, or any limb for that matter. Using a small gaze tracker I was able to sit back, relax, and race in Gran Turismo using only my eye movement! It was pretty surreal, but of course I wasn't able to appreciate this as much as the people who really need it. Playing games has become a part of everyday life and, especially for a child, having to watch others enjoy this while being unable to become a part of it must be heart-breaking. Charities like these give those with disabilities a chance to enjoy what everyone else can.
If watching that hasn't got you sobbing, check out their website for one-on-one interviews with the people whose lives they have changed for the better. Warning, it's not for the weak of heart!
I'm happy to see that it's not only organizations who are getting involved, even some game developers are toying with ways that they can make games for all sorts of people to enjoy. I recently stumbled across Blindside, a game made by indie developers Michael T. Astolfi and Aaron Rasmussen. Their idea was genius: a horror game based solely on audio, forcing the player to listen hard to the environment around them in order to survive. This concept created a fun game for both blind and non-blind people. Without visual gameplay, players were forced out of their comfort zones - no peeking around corners or checking behind you - which made the gameplay very unnerving and atmospheric. Overall this was an experience that could be shared equally by those with and without eyesight, which I think is truly wonderful and unique!
It's amazing how the simple pleasure of gaming can really influence people's lives; helping them feel more involved and giving them the freedom to explore new worlds while feeling part of a wider community, especially for those whose situations make it difficult for them to do so within the physical world.
These are only a couple of organizations and developers who are thinking outside the box in relation to bringing gaming to a wider audience, and I personally am looking forward to a future where technical boundaries are stripped away completely! Everyone should be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of playing a game.