One of the most enlightening aspects of visiting the EGX Rezzed convention this year was meeting the people behind SpecialEffect, a charity that aims to do ‘whatever it takes to help people with disabilities to enjoy games.’
They describe themselves as so:
SpecialEffect are putting fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with disabilities by helping them to play video games. By using technology ranging from modified games controllers to eye-control, they’re finding a way for people to play to the very best of their abilities. But they’re not just doing it for fun. By levelling the playing field, they’re bringing families and friends together and having a profoundly positive impact on therapy, confidence and rehabilitation.
I had the pleasure of talking to Bill Donegan at Rezzed, who is the Projects Manager at SpecialEffect. As we spoke I also got to see some of the technology they have created in action, with gamers of all ages and abilities trying out adaptive technology, such as the ability to control a racing game with just eye movement or through the use of one large, accessible button.
The game they had on show at Rezzed this year, however, was developed by British studio Codemasters (known for their Dirt racing games, and entitled ‘Soap’.
From observing those playing the game, it looked to be a terrific success. Though players were initially jerking and twitching their hands in anticipation, you could see the delight dawn on them when they realised the emancipatory capabilities of the hardware.
To be able to grant those currently unable to interact with virtual worlds the ability to lose themselves in the infinite possibilities of videogames and supplement their imaginations with interactive experiences is a wonderful goal and responsibility.
The game was developed by Codemasters during one of their bi-annual GameJam – wherein members of their team are given five days to create games based on new technical developments. As one of the game designers, Darren Hayward, explained: “As well as being a fun game to play, one of the key ideas behind Soap is to support several different types of Physiotherapy. This might be for someone rebuilding muscle after a physical injury or a patient trying to regain use of a limb after a stroke.”
SpecialEffect are currently wholly funded by donations, and offer their services to families free of charge. Check out their official site here, or visit their Just Giving page here and leave a donation.