I Have A Dream: Game Accessibility For All

I remember when I was younger the joy I used to get when I held a Nintendo controller in my hand for the first time. I remember the colors and the vibrant energy I grasped hold of every Saturday morning as I led Mario to his ultimate victory of saving the princess again and again. The realization though that I’ve come to in the past few years is that for many children, this is not the case. I may have disabilities, but they don’t impair my cognitive skills, nor most of my motor skills. There are plenty of kids out there though that do suffer from physical and mental complications and difficulties that inhibit what games can be enjoyable and playable and which games can’t. This, to me, is a heartbreaking reality, which needs to be fixed. I’ve been in a wheelchair quite a few times in my life, and I can only imagine what it would be like to have lived your whole life confined to one with only limited movement to provide means of entertainment.

Games are not only toys, but they are wonderful means for us all, as human beings, to communicate, connect, and engage in entertainment with one another that we otherwise couldn’t in our real lives. In most games a player can become a hero, or a villain, and impose their wills on the world around them. This gives the player a sense of euphoria and accomplishment, but also a sense of release. I know there are often times when I’m going through back pains or muscle spasms that I’ll sit down and play a game, and all the tension or frustration I was having over my own body attacking me goes away. I become one with the game and I lose myself in a world momentarily for entertainment. There are countless gamers who do just that, or would love to do just that every day, and it is my hope that we can slowly make that become a reality.

PopCap games, an innovator in the causal games market, released a report that stated that “20% of the casual games market” is composed of players who have physical, mental, or developmental challenges. This was additionally impacted with the fact that currently, “15.1% of the American population is disabled in some fashion” by findings in the US Census taken in 2009 [ It’s been 3 years, so I’m sure that’s higher. I’ll do some research and revise this later.] The point is there is a market here. Casual gaming, or simple games, may seem like they have no place in the mainstream market. I constantly hear folks give grief to the motion control peripherals, the sort of cartoonish and childish gameplay of casual games, and much more. The only reason that these comments are being made though, is because mainstream able gamers aren’t aware of the impact that even simple casual games do for disabled individuals.

Feel free to read the article about PopCap’s results if you want more info, but here’s where my heart lies.

PopCap Census:

http://www.marketingvox.com/disabled-gamers-comprise-20-of-casual-videogame-audience-039208/

I’ve had a dream for years, because I grew up doing physical therapy for my spine and I watched as fellow students who were bound to wheelchairs couldn’t truly enjoy recess like the rest of us. It broke my heart and made me wish that I could provide them with a means of enjoyment and fun. I too hated the feeling of being on the sidelines whenever I had a leg surgery and had to be wheelchair bound, and so I know what it’s like to feel like you’re misunderstood and nobody wants to play with you. The gaming world needs to change that though, and I aim to make games to make sure that they do. This demographic is just as important as any other, and giving more options to my fellow disabled gamers will go a long way into the future of game design.

I’m taking notice folks, and I have a dream that one day games will be accessible for all people to enjoy. Does this mean I hope for a world where the controller dies out and it’s all voice recognition and minor body movements to control a game? No. That wouldn’t be fair to those who enjoy the feeling of a controller in their hands to enjoy their immersion. Each gamer has his or her preferences when choosing to play a game and how they wish to go about it. My goal here at Gastrogamer.com is to simply provide folks with information on new technology, new methods of game design, what methods will allow games to become more accessible in the future, and how you as a fellow gamer can help your fellow gamers enjoy the same entertainment you do while sitting at home in front of your consoles or computers.

I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I will enjoy writing it and I look forward to what we can accomplish together through the input and feedback of readers and supporters. I appreciate you all and hopefully our dream gaming universe will come to fruition sooner than later.

– Chad K.

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