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FWD News: The Gift of Gaming

QuasiCon Axis ControllerFor many individuals living with disabilities, getting or improving their access to video games can be a gift that keeps on giving. Just ahead of the 2010 holiday season, our friends at The AbleGamers Foundation announced the delivery of their first Assistive Technology grant through a partnership with Quasimoto Interactive, a specialty gaming cabinet designer and manufacturer.

Together they offered the means to improve access to mainstream gaming to a 13-year old girl from Cincinatti, Ohio, living with cerebral palsy. The foundation fulfilled this young girl’s gaming dream by offering her a QuasiCon Axis controller (PDF), thanks to a warm-hearted donation from Quasimoto. Read More...

“There are not enough word to describe how thankful I am to Quasimoto for making this little girl’s dream come true. She was really happy and her father called [us] almost in tears,” said Mark Barlet, President of the AbleGamers Foundation, to Game Forward. “We hope this is the start of something great.”

In November, Gaming Nexus writer John Yan reported that his four-year old son Kyle, diagnosed with a relatively functional form of Autism, had finally connected with a video game, through Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 motion gaming system. For the first time, Yan saw Kyle dive right into the game—Kinect Adventures—thanks to the intuitive and controller-free nature of the system. The four-year old even succeeded in manoeuvring through the menus, after a few instructions from his father.

“Throughout my hour session with my son by my side, I was constantly impressed by how easy he could figure out each game and play them without getting fed up,” wrote Yan on Gaming Nexus. “For the first time, I was able to play something with my son and not spend any time with him being frustrated on not being to do anything or have a character get stuck on the screen.”

“He had fun with all the games and actually did well with them. The joy in his eyes as he was able to complete the tasks and move around in the menus is something I’ll never forget,” added Yan. This wonderful anecdote offers accessibility experts an exciting outlet to help youth living with Autism find a new way to interact.

With its ongoing commitment to innovation and adaptive gaming, Valve Software—makers of Portal and Half-Life— is increasingly recognized as a leader in accessibility. Mike Ambinder, experimental psychologist with Valve has recently discussed the developer’s interest in including eye-tracking support in its games. Speaking with Gamasutra, Ambinder talked about the potential of eye movements as an input method.

“We're always curious about alternative control devices and are constantly researching and playing around with nontraditional controllers in the hopes of finding an approach that might lead to an interesting gameplay experience,” Ambinder said.

While speaking in hypothetical terms for now, Ambider looks forward to the adaptive uses of eye tracking. “It may be possible in the future to let the eyes act as a proxy for the mouse cursor, letting gamers transmit navigation and targeting inputs via eye movements. If you couple this approach with the use of blinks or other proxies for button presses, you may remove the need for a mouse and keyboard (or gamepad) all together.”