Gaming With A Cause: Where’s My Water?

Hey there folks. Now I know today I just released an opening statement to the mass internet populous about being an advocate for the disabled gaming community, and I am wholeheartedly, and it’s not often when a game comes along that I find would be an excellent casual game for physically challenged folks, while also helping raise money for an entirely different charity at the same time. Neat huh? Now sure you’ve probably seen by now my links to sites that deal with getting more information on medical conditions, or other disabled gamer websites which you are free to check out and enjoy if you’re curious. This, however, is my first game to be reviewed on the premise of accessibility – so I hope I do well! [ If I don’t and you feel there are points I may have missed, please feel free to let me know! I love feedback from fellow gamers and it really helps me grow as a writer and developer.]

So, what game are we talking about well it’s called “Where’s My Water?” designed by Disney Mobile.

Now you’re probably thinking to yourself – “Oh come on Chad! A Disney game? I’m all grown up – what do I need with a Disney game?” – well, there’s a special reason behind this game that I think most folks will enjoy, and it’s highly accessible to all types of groups.

In “Where’s My Water?” we’re introduced to this lovely and adorable looking – alligator named Swampy. The essential scheme of the game is that Swampy is an alligator who loves water, and thus, loves taking baths. The game uses physics and your mouse dragging to guide the water through puzzles that ultimately have to end up getting into the pipes so Swampy can be clean. So why is this important at all? Well, I’m glad you’re concerned. The ladies and gents over at Disney Mobile have started a movement that I am in total support of. They have teamed up with Conservation International to help raise money for helping conserve ecosystems and fresh drinking water for families all over the world.

How does this relate to the game? Well, “EVERY DUCK COUNTS” is their slogan. Every good alligator needs a rubber ducky to accompany him to the bath. In the game as you try to get the water to Swampy and his many other bathing pals throughout the game, if you let water hit the ducks you gain extra points for every duck you gain. For every duck collected it goes towards the total donation amount that Disney and Conservation International are able to provide. So, now on to the important part: How is it an accessible game, and for whom is it accessible? Well, I can only provide my first hand experience, but I’ll give my take on the gameplay to the best of my ability.

The gameplay is smooth and it really is a click and drag, almost one-button input technology. You really don’t have to do much more than dig a path for the water to go or press a valve to make water spray from it. This is great for patients who lack major muscle movement and can only move one hand. The puzzles, while easy at first, do get rather difficult as you go on – so gamers with cognitive impairments may have trouble playing the game in later stages, but overall the game looks and sounds great. The sound isn’t a requirement to play the game either, which gives deaf app users the ability to play the game flawlessly. Sadly the game really isn’t set up for blind players, as it requires you to be able to see the pathways of the water to make sure you gain success, but overall the game functions incredibly well for a wide audience of players – and it’s helping out a wonderful cause. What more could you ask for?

The game is available in the iPhone App store for FREE, and you can play for FREE online here. I do believe that it’s available on the Android market too, but I’ll check and get back to you folks.┬áHere’s a link to the game, please enjoy and get to duck huntin’ – that water’s not going to move itself!

http://disney.go.com/wheresmywater/game.html

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.