Gaming with a Disability
Pac-Man really wants to play his own video game. This is the original Pac-Man, a disk with a slice cut out of him, not the cartoon version with arms and legs. He has no hands to control the stick. How can he avoid the ghosts? He is gonna have to use his face. More importantly his chin.
I have the physical condition called TAR.
My arms are shorter than the average person. I don’t have the radius bone. This is more commonly known as the funny bone. It’s the long bone that makes up your forearm.
When I was seven and eight and started to game on the NES my parents tried a variety of controllers so that I could game with my brother and friends. Unlike most people I use my chin instead of my left hand to press the directional pad or analog stick. Usually I’ll sit on the left side of a couch. This makes it easy for me to prop up my left arm, wedging the controller between my left hand and my chin.
The flat directional pad of the NES controller proved hard for me to press with my chin.
You can imagine I would press up when I meant to go forward. The NES Advantage was the first thing we tried. It resembles what you would find on arcade machine, a large analog stick and big flat A and B buttons. This was an improvement over the smaller standard controller. It was not perfect for my situation. The configurations of buttons were still in a close configuration.
It was a simple piece of hardware that helped a great deal.
An analog stick attached to a frame served as the best solution for me. This frame wrapped around the controller. The analog stick sat directly over the D pad. This was a huge improvement for me. My chin could easily move into any of the four directions and comfortably play NES games.
As of this date the manufacturer or the name of this device escapes me. I no longer have it in my possession. Finding it online has been impossible.
There have been many different types of controllers over the years for many different types of systems. From using the nun chuck for the Wii to using standard controllers found on the PlayStation or the Xbox I’ve found different degrees of success and had to work with the controller to adapt it to my needs.
For me personally, the nun chuck with the Wii controller seemed to work the best.
Because it separates into different parts connected by the wire both hands could rest on either side of my body holding the devices.
For this reason devices like Split Fish work great for me. Split Fish is the more popular of these types of controllers though I use one made by Aimon. This device has made playing twitch based shooters on my computer easier.
People such as Ben Heck modify controllers for accessibility. An example of this would be his one handed controller. It puts an analog stick underneath the controller. The person using this controller can now use his thigh to control movement.
For people with physical disabilities playing outdoor sports and activities such as baseball or even cards are daunting. It all depends on the disability. Having adaptable hardware gives us an even playing field in the virtual space of games.
When I’m in a battlefield for multiplayer match no one knows of the disability.
To be honest they don’t even care. This is fantastic. If we are playing a game of basketball together they might feel obligated to go easy on me. Being online makes the difficulty the same for everyone because of the anonymity.
People with disabilities seek challenge if not physical than mental. This is the same as everyone else. Being part of a generation that grew up on video games has served as a place to find a challenge. The game doesn’t care who you are it will kick your ass just the same.
While I was looking through the great articles I found on Game Shinny I came across "Disability Gaming and How it can transform lives" by Yasmin Curren. It is a great overview of how games transform lives.