Gaming for All
We’re big on computer games in our house. Actually that was an understatement, we’re crazy about computer games. Both my husband and myself love to chill out and spend time playing them. From World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Zelda, Call of Duty, Minecraft – I could just go on and on and on. They’ve been a huge part of my life growing up and I’ve always hoped my kids would love playing games too. But what do you do when one of your children has barely any fine motor skills?
My eldest son Chase shares our love of computer games. One small teeny tiny problem though, Chase has a severe form of Cerebral Palsy which means he can’t hold a controller properly . He finds it near impossible to accurately push a button, or use the tiny joystick. Trying to do both of those actions together at the same time is even harder. Just how do you make gaming accessible to everyone?!
Being the geeks that we are years ago a few years back husband and I went used to attend the EuroGamer Expo in London. I loved visiting their expos getting to play a demos of new Final Fantasy or Call of Duty games. But one year I found something even better there ! One year at the expo we found a stand from a charity called Special Effect.
Special Effect are an amazing charity that helps individuals with physical disabilities find modified or special tech that allows absolutely anyone to game. I was beyond excited to see this as I had previously thought that Chase wouldn’t get the opportunity to game or be severely limited to one push button switch games on the PC. Dr Mick Donegan the founder of Special Effect was there and I was able to discuss what Special Effect could do for Chase to access gaming. I left the expo that day ridiculously happy that my son was going to be able to be a gamer.
Why accessible gaming is so important
Gaming brings a huge number of opportunities, and for Chase I knew ultimately it would be an activity that he could do independently. Imagine not being able to ever drive a car or get the experience of swinging a gold club – all of those are possible within the world of a computer game using accessible technology. It’s also a very social activity in our house and something that everyone can enjoy together .
At the time of discovering Special Effect Chase was only 2 years old which at the time I felt was a little bit too young to be introducing full-blown video games when we had so much else on our plate with physio and speech and language therapies. When Chase was 5 we decided it was time to get the ball rolling! We got ourselves an appointment and headed up to the amazing games room in Oxfordshire. Whilst we were there Chase got to try out a huge amount of different tech until we found some that seemed to work best for him.
He struggled quite a bit using an adapted controller as it was still too small and fiddly for his fine motor skills. Next up was a full joystick, Chase was already an electric wheelchair driver so he mastered using the basic joystick control really well. Chase had such fun trying out all the new equipment as well as discovering loads of computer games that he enjoyed playing. At the end of the day in the games room we signed a loan agreement and it was agreed we could borrow some equipment to try out at home!
Chase got on really well with his equipment and got so excited every opportunity he had to play a game at home. After a few months we made the decision to go ahead and purchase a set of equipment for ourselves. The final set up that worked best for Chase was a joystick and 2 large switch buttons, as well as an additional 2 smaller switch buttons that can be strapped to his headrest so he can easily access 4 buttons whilst playing. The equipment being specialised meant it costs a tad more than a regular gaming controller but I could not put a price on how much fun and enjoyment gaming was bringing to Chase.
A gamer is born
Chase now regularly games at the weekends, his absolute favourite type of game turns out to be racing or driving games. He loves to get the cars to go as fast as possible and has few games were the goal is to crash the cars and cause as much damage as possible! (I’m thinking of you Burnout). His game of choice at the moment though is Skylanders Super Chargers. Skylanders Super Chargers is allowing him to build on his already great driving skills into platform game skills and he’s getting better and better at mastering jumping and running around whilst taking care of those pesky mobs! You can check him out showing off his skylanders driving skills below!
Special thanks to special effect
I’d like to add a massive thanks to Special Effect for providing the most amazing service, making gaming accessible for everyone. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to try such a vast amount of equipment and find exactly what works for him. You can read more about who they’ve helped or find out how to get involved at their website. They regularly run events such as GameBlast – which is the UK’s biggest gaming marathon weekend. One year we’re hoping that we can join in to help raise money and give something back to them.
If you’re interested to know more about the tech that Chase currently uses then why not subscribe to my blog? I’ll be adding a more in-depth post about the individual bits of equipment and how it all works with various games for him soon. I’d love to know what computer games you fondly remember from you childhood, comment below and let me know!
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2017
We’ve just launched or dedicated inclusive gaming channel, called Everybody’s Gaming! Find out more here and check out our introduction video!