Last Thursday, I had an unfortunate incident on my bicycle which resulted in a strapped up broken finger and the misfortune of needing to wear a sling for a few days. Naturally, this caused me some problems – I could only type using one hand making updating this Train2Game blog and the Train2Game Twitter account a slow affair, cooking became a pain, and worst of all I was extremely limited to what video games were available to keep me entertained over the weekend.
With only one functioning hand, it was impossible to hold a console controller which meant continuing my ride through the American west with Red Dead Redemption was out of the question. It also meant that I couldn’t get my usual fix of Team Fortress 2 on the PC, after all a person needs to move by pushing keys with the left hand and look around by using the mouse in the right. (Or indeed, doing this the other way around if you’re left handed) Thankfully, I managed to keep myself from going crazy in a temporarily game free world thanks to the point and click interface of Dragon Age: Origins which kept me happy for hours on end.
Thankfully I’m out of the sling now and though I still can’t hold a PlayStation controller due to my fingers remaining strapped together, I’m back to happily fragging my clan mates on Team Fortress 2 online servers.
Luckily for me, not being able to play any video game I want is a temporary issue. Unfortunately for the significant minority of people who have disabilities, not being able to play a wide variety of different games is a permanent problem.
However, slowly but surely this tide seems to be turning, with small groups of Games Designers, Games Developers and Games Artist & Animators working with scientists to provide research into – and create – video games for those with disabilities.
Last year, Duke University in North Carolina conducted research into modifying Guitar Hero that allowed it to be played by man with an amputated arm. BBC News reporter Flora Graham explains how it works better than I ever could.
“To play the game, users wear electrodes on their residual muscles, such as those found on their chest and shoulder. The system translates the signals from the electrodes as if they were coming from the game controller, allowing players to strum along, despite not having any hands.”
The researchers also realised that the movements in the game were similar to those required when learning how to use a prosthetic limb, essentially meaning Guitar Hero could in theory be used to teach people how to use their new arms.
In May this year, a video game project called VI Fit was revealed that allows blind gamers to keep in shape. Researchers at the University of Nevada modified a Nintendo Wii for the project which according to Gamesradar;
“Features two games – VI Bowling and VI Tennis – and both can be downloaded for free at vifit.org. The game utilizes Wii remote controllers and a Windows PC with Bluetooth support. Players are instructed throughout the game with the use of both audio and vibrotactile cues”
EA have even got involved with developing games for the disabled, by helping VTree LLC, create a Madden powered title called My Football Game for players such as injured war veterans with physical difficulties. These are just a handful of a variety of projects that aim to develop games for those with disabilities, there are plenty more of them out there too!
There is a significant audience of disabled people– and according to Popcap, they make up 20% of ‘casual’ gamers – who just want to enjoy their hobby in the same way that the rest of us do. It raises an important issue for Train2Game students, be they Games Designer, Games Developer or even Games Artist & Animator – Do you consider the needs of disabled gamers when you create your games? Or would you like to work on a game designed to be played especially by those with disabilities?
I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this once, so as usual, leave your comments here or on the Train2Game forum.