Removing Barriers to Online Gaming
Video games are more than a mere leisure activity. According to The AbleGamers Foundation, “Video games allow individuals with disabilities to experience situations that may be difficult or limited in the real world, provide social networking opportunities to maintain mental and emotional health, and participate in one of the world’s largest pastimes.”
Mark Barlet, founder of The AbleGamers Foundation definitely connects something here: video gaming, while a fun pastime and social equalizer also has benefits in in many fields – robotics, business, sports,
science, and medicine. They are such a popular pastime because they allow players to leave the mundane world behind and assume super powers and identities that they don’t possess.
Imagine, however, that upon buying a new game – a substantial investment! – you start it up only to find that the sensitivity is too great or not enough, or that it won’t run with any other input device than a standard keyboard and mouse, or that there are no ‘save’ points throughout the game. These and many more barriers rear their heads for a segment of the population. Luckily, AbleGamers exists to help gamers with a wide range of abilities.
Their website outlines their mission statement in three points.
AbleGamers Foundation engages in outreach to citizens who require barrier-free gaming, consults with with programmers, companies, and organizations in order to help them meet the criteria of accessibility from the ‘ground up’, and offer grants to individuals and companies that manufacture or modify devices and controllers that make gaming truly accessible for disabled gamers.
As an article in Tom’s Guide points out, when buying an ‘accessible’ controller, there is no guarantee that it will be a good match for the gamer – one’s disability is as individual as the person that it affects. Therefore, the modification and customization of controllers has been terribly expensive, until recently.
Ben Heckendorn, an ordinary citizen with an inquiring mind, has managed to modify an existing PlayStation 4 DualShock controller by using a 3D printer and rewiring the controller. The product gives excellent maneuverability to players that can only use one hand. Ben Heck, as he is known on his YouTube channel, produces the controllers for about $350 USD per piece due to how labor intensive they are to create. Connecting tinkerers like Heckendorn with charities like AbleGaming is a solid way to create and distribute accessible controllers that match the physical criteria of the individual gamer.
As far as AbleGaming is concerned, there exists one reason for their relentless pursuit of accessibility in the gaming world. As founder Mark Barlet says, “I believe that there is nothing more powerful for people with disabilities than the freedom that only videogames can provide. It is an art form that allows us to all run, jump, and be whatever we want to be.”