Researchers from the University of Lincoln have called on video game developers to design games that are more accessible to individuals with disabilities. According to their new study, video games have the potential to improve the quality of life for young people with impairments, but more needs to be done to meet their needs in game design.
The gaming industry has often been criticised for its lack of accessibility. However, there has been a renewed effort in recent years to make games more accessible. The emergence of virtual reality, in particular, has created a new path for inclusion. This new technology could provide people with intellectual and physical disabilities a new platform to learn, socialize and experience situations that may not be possible in the real world.
The following blog will explore the latest development in game accessibility.
Movement Based Video Games
A joint initiative between computer scientists from the University of Lincoln, University of Copenhagen and University of Cork has provided new insights into motion-based video game design for young people with mobility impairments. They worked with nine individuals from leading special needs schools to examine what their requirements were as players.
The team developed three video games:
- Speed Slope - a downhill skiing game.
- Rumble Robots - a robot boxing game.
- Rainbow Journey - an experiential adventure game.
In each game, wheelchair movement controlled certain aspects of play. For example, left and right movement translated to slaloming in the skiing game, with forward and back movement changing the pace.
These games are suitable for players with a wide range of cognitive and physical abilities. The basic version of the game will track wheelchair movement through the individual’s body system. But there is also a marker-based version, which tracks movement for players with limited mobility.
The study was also critical of the lack of disabled characters as protagonists in video games. It noted the importance of such characters and themes in these games.
Video games are also being used to help individuals with a variety of other conditions.
In March, researchers from Sapienza University in Rome showed how cognitive games may improve brain connections in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). They assigned 24 patients with an eight week plan that included 30-minute video gaming sessions five days a week.
At the beginning and end of the experiment, the participants were evaluated using MR imaging. The results showed that 12 patients experienced significant increases in connectivity in the areas of the brain involved in cognition.
Arcade Land is a collection of mini-games developed for players with cerebral palsy. The Spanish video game allows players to control the functions of their character using the conventional joystick or by body movements recorded via the PlayStation camera.
The game was developed in collaboration with physiotherapists and doctors to ensure that children with cerebral palsy are able to utilise a larger muscle group than they would normally do due to motor limitations.
The aim of the game is to help reduce the muscle shortening and chronic pain associated with the condition.
A team of computer scientists, psychologists and bioscientists have created a virtual game to complement classic rehabilitation techniques for stroke patients. The experimental approach is currently being tested at the Vall d'Hebron Hospital in Barcelona.
The group of researchers have called it the Rehabilitation Gaming System (RGS). They say the neurorehabilitation technology can assist in the recovery of function after lesions to the brain. Its goal is to teach the brain to control body movements again, and its system optimizes the user’s training by analyzing the patient’s performances.
The advances being made in virtual and augmented reality are creating endless possibilities in the gaming market. For example, Japanese VR company Fove have created a headset that allows individuals to play the piano by tracking eye movements. The user blinks on one of the many panels within the interface to trigger the preferred note, which is then conveyed to the piano.
Accessibility means avoiding unnecessary barriers that prevent people with a range of impairments from accessing or enjoying your output. But this doesn’t always mean serious physical or mental impairments. There are a number of conditions that aren’t registered as disabilities, like red-green colour deficiency or a low reading age, that could affects a user’s gaming experience.
A group of studios, specialists and academics have put together a detailed list of how developers can cater games for individuals with disabilities and other impairments.
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