My latest blog is about an often forgotten and publicly derided branch of the arts – computer gaming. I’ve been a gamer since I was young. One of my earliest gaming memories is of playing Centipede on the Atari that my parents had bought me, my brother and sister one Christmas. I was mesmerised by what were at the time state-of-the-art graphics and sound. As technology developed, so did my love of the art form. One particularly joyful recollection involves a winter trip to a local computer shop, the now defunct Coast Computers, to try and buy a Super Nintendo (SNES), (I played Mario Kart and Super Tennis till my fingers were numb).
When I was gaming my impairment, was, and still is, an irrelevance to me. Although work must continue to improve the degree of inclusivity across the industry, and the preferences of disabled gamers for play must receive further recognition, I consider gaming to be one of the more accessible branches of the arts. As an adult I game for pleasure and relaxation.
The below par effort that is Lego Movie 2 notwithstanding, I’m a big fan of the Lego series of games, and I’m currently enjoying fencing my way through the gorgeous landscapes which are a feature of Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch, one fictional stabbing at a time. The latest consoles like the Nintendo Switch, X-Box One and PS4 come with a range of accessibility measures built-in, features like voice recognition, sound, screen size and font size, are customisable out-of-the-box. The difficulty levels within many games can be adjusted in accordance with whether you consider yourself a pro or are more of an armchair gamer like myself.
My impairment affects my motor skills, and I have always used standard joy sticks or controllers to play games, but there are many disabled people for whom standard, commercially available joysticks and controllers do not meet their gaming requirements. Gaming manufactures have been reticent to recognise the disabled gamers market and produce their own officially licensed equipment.
There are third party companies producing and selling bespoke adaptive equipment, (see for example, Broadened Horizons Dot Com), but as is often the case when the word disability is attached, the disability premium applies, meaning such technology is beyond the financial reach of many disabled gamers.
Microsoft are the first major developer to produce an adaptive controller for their X Box One console, which is competitively priced at £74.99 (BBC, 2019). As adaptive controllers become more readily available and their cost reduces, so too, gaming will become more inclusive and open to many more disabled gamers whatever their impairment. In the US and UK, charities Able Gamers and Special Effect are raising funds, and developing software and equipment which makes it possible for people with a range of impairments to game. In a world were not enough attention is given to the equal participation of disabled people, to our pleasures, our joys and entertainments, work to make equality a reality in the sphere of gaming, is work I wholeheartedly support.
If you would like to know more about accessibility in gaming, please check out this excellent blog by Erin Hawley, aka, The Geeky Gimp.
I wrote this blog because I love gaming, I want gaming to be more inclusive, and I want to raise awareness and increase understanding of and for the disabled gaming community. I am not affiliated with any of the organisations mentioned in this blog.