Playing games together as a family is a great way to spend time doing something that all ages and abilities can participate in. However, any family with children of different ages knows how frustrating it can be for the younger ones if the controls or controllers don’t work for them. Finding the right games to play and the right controllers can make all the difference.
Disabilities can also make it hard for the whole family to enjoy games together, and make it even more important to discover which games and controllers work best for a particular context. Special Effect is a charity that works with people with disabilities to help them get the most out of games.
Their work not only grants access to the games we all enjoy, but is a great model of how choosing the right technology can make all the difference in the home. A little bit of hands-on expertise with genuine understanding can remove unnecessary barriers — whether that’s from age, skill level or a disability.
Here are a couple of recent stories of the people they have been working with. Firstly, they have helped Ella and Chloe to enjoy games together.
If you view computer games purely as a pastime or, at worst, a distraction, you might want to talk to Ella and Chloe, two young friends from Oxfordshire.
Both girls have motor control problems that make it difficult for them to join in physical activities with their friends. Computer gaming is the one activity that can offer them equal and independent inclusion, but they find it very difficult to use standard handheld controllers without assistance.
That is until now. Ella and Chloe visited our SpecialEffect GamesRoom with their parents to see if we could help. Bill, our technical specialist and Gillian, our occupational therapist, helped the girls with positioning and set up for the Xbox Kinect, which doesn’t require a handheld controller. Just as importantly, we introduced the girls to a selection of games that would be easy enough for them to use by themselves, as well as providing motivation and fun. Games like Fruit Ninja and Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster were instant hits. Julie, Ella’s mum, was overwhelmed. “Thank you so much – it was brilliant,” she said, “Ella was chattering non-stop about it. I actually think it has made her hand/eye coordination better already. We cannot thank SpecialEffect enough for giving Ella this chance”.
We’ve subsequently been able to support both girls and their families by setting up games and equipment in their own homes via our Loan Library. Ella and Chloe are already planning to visit each other’s houses for games parties in which they will be able take on and beat their other friends-and their parents!
Giving Chloe and Ella and the other young people we help the ability to enjoy games alongside everyone else has a major impact on inclusion and their quality of life. And that’s why we don’t just do what we do purely for fun – it’s much more important than that.
Secondly they recently worked with a father and son, to help them play FIFA together by removing some of the control barriers.
We met Reece at a SpecialEffect RoadShow in Coventry where he tried out a controller which enabled him to play independently with his Dad.
Reece and his father visited the GamesRoom in April during the Easter holidays to try out some different Xbox360 controller set-ups, specifically looking at ways he could play football games. Standard controllers are too small for Reece to as he finds it hard to control his fine movements. We tried out controllers with larger joysticks he could grip more easily and larger buttons he could press more accurately.
Reece is currently borrowing a larger controller through the SpecialEffect Loan Library which enables him to have greater control over the players’ movement, kicking, tackling etc. Reece and his Dad visited the GamesRoom again mid-June to try out a more customised layout and that looks like the route we’ll take. We’re going to order some equipment to lend to him. Reece and his Dad will return to our GamesRoom for us to tweak the set-up and look at accessing other games.
The combination of their expertise, and access to games and technology puts them in a unique position of being able to make video games accessible to an audience who may have ruled themselves out of playing.
Families could learn some lessons here, and askaboutgames hopes to play a part in connecting them with the appropriate games and equipment to enjoy them, what ever our level of mobility, skill or age.
Some good places to go to find games to suite particular abilities: