Lending a Helping Hand - Indies Doing Good
As able-bodied gamers, we sometimes forget how easy we have it when it comes to playing games. Controllers designed to fit snugly in our hands, ergonomic keyboards and mice, even left-handed gamers are catered for. We are really excited to get to see Jane McGonigal, creator of SuperBetter, speak this month at #G4C14 about Games for Change in the year 2024. SuperBetter is an inspiring game helping people stay “curious, optimistic and motivated” even in the face of a challenging illness or injury. It is a great support while individuals recover, but what about those players who are struggling with permanent disabilities? Countless people are suffering from life-limiting conditions that exclude them from the joys of playing games.
One organization that is doing their best to make gaming more inclusive is SpecialEffect. This registered charity was founded in 2007 after identifying the need for help and advice when it comes to disabled gamers. Gaming has increased in popularity thanks to newer consoles, digital distribution services such as Steam, and the wealth of talented Indie studios that have popped up. Unfortunately, disabled gamers have found themselves on the sidelines, able to watch, but never participate as their able-bodied peers enjoyed this leisure activity.
The focus of SpecialEffect is not only to educate people through their website, but also to interact with gamers and assessing how they can help. When we think of disabled gamers, it is usually people who have lost limbs in accidents that spring to mind, but there also gamers with congenital and progressive conditions, as well as stroke patients. Apart from the obvious physical improvements, these gamers also benefit from inclusion. For example, by customizing the headrest of her wheelchair, the SpecialEffect team was able to give ten year old Holly the ability to play Playstation games with her brother. For a little girl with cerebral palsy, who has had to watch her brother play games while she could only watch longingly, this is an amazing experience.
The organization does not charge for their help or loans, which means that they have to rely on the kind donations of others to do their work. We find it very inspiring that not only does charities like SpecialEffect exist, but able-bodied gamers are generous enough to assist them through donations. Of course, it is not just SpecialEffect that is trying to make gaming more inclusive. Other charities such as the AbleGamers Foundation actively attempt to make games more accessible to those with special needs. This includes providing consultation for big and Indie studios on how to make games more accessible. Then there is Child’s Play, which provides hospitals and therapy facilities with games and consoles to help young patients during their recovery.
As developer we know that small things, such as including subtitles for gamers who are hearing impaired, or a color blind mode for gamers that suffer from this condition can already make a game more inclusive. Gamers can support these charities by doing what they do best, buying games from organizations such as Humble Bundle, and allocating a portion of the funds to a gaming related charity.
Just because someone suffers from a disability, it doesn’t’ have to mean that they can never experience the thrills of a video or computer game again. Games are designed to give us the freedom to do, and experience things that may not be possible in real-life, and this should include disabled gamers.