Accessible gaming with Special Effect

Playing video games can be difficult for disabled people sometimes. The controllers are not always easy to use, especially for someone with limited hand function like myself. Luckily there is a charity called Special Effect whose mission is to help disabled people play videogames. In this post I’ll explain how they helped me to play my PC and PlayStation games by providing special equipment. But first I’d like to talk about some of the games I love playing when I was younger. Just because I’m a bit of a gaming geek!

My gaming history

When I was younger I used to play video games almost every day. Many moons ago I had a Sega Mega Drive and I loved playing Mega Bomber Man and Urban Strike. Then we got a Nintendo 64 and my favourite games were Goldeneye (fantastic game!), Donkey Kong, 1080 snowboarding, and Fifa to name but a few. I thought the N64 was a brilliant console with some great games, and it was quite a while before I switched over to a PlayStation because I was quite loyal to it.

The Goldeneye multiplayer

But eventually I relented when they stopped making N64 games. I had a PS1, PS2 and now a PS3, which I am still using. On the PS1 I used to play Fifa (again), Driver and Grand Theft Auto amongst others which I have now forgotten. When the PS2 came out I was blown away by the improvement in graphics compared to PS1, particularly on Grand Theft Auto III. I love playing GTA! GTA Vice city and San Andreas in particular were both incredible and groundbreaking games which I never got tired of. I’ve not had a chance to play on GTA V yet for reasons I will now explain.

GTA San Andreas: a thing of beauty

In order to play on games consoles I need something to rest the controller on, as I can’t hold it in my hands. Pretty much every Powerchair I’ve ever had came with a tray that I could rest my arms on, so I was able to use that to rest the controller on, and play on video games reasonably well.

The problem came when I first started college and I got a Powerchair without a tray for the first time. We dropped the tray because it got in the way of a lot of things, but unfortunately it now meant I couldn’t play video games without it. I didn’t play on the games consoles for about six years until recently when I heard of Special Effect.

Special Effect

Special Effect are a charity, based in Oxfordshire, that dedicates themselves to helping disabled people access computer games. They have a vast knowledge of video games and adapted equipment that may help disabled people to play them independently. They visit people all over the UK and assess what adaptations are needed for them to play video games independently. They have loads of adapted controllers and gadgets that they can bring with them for people to try out with pretty much any console. Plus they do it for free, because they are a charity, which is fantastic! Check out the video below to learn more about Special Effect:

A few people visited me from special effect on 14 February because I asked for their help. After a brief chat about what would allow me to play my PS3 independently, they got out some equipment for me to try. I explained that I had trouble reaching the buttons on the PS3 controller with my hands so they suggested that the controller could be placed on a mounting arm which would hold the controller in the air. I can then use my chin or lips to move the joystick on the controller, which I found to be easier.

My carer had started making me a tray out of a board of wood to see if it could help me to play. It did help but it was still a bit difficult to press the buttons. The idea was to create some legs so that the wooden tray could stand on its own but we haven’t got that far yet.

So for now we had to place the wooden board on top of a small table (which I usually eat my breakfast on) and balanced on some books to give it a bit more height. It’s quite a rudimentary and improvised setup at the moment, but it seems to work reasonably well!

My  equipment setup

They also had an adapted box attached to a PS3 controller (as you can see in the photo above at the front of the table), into which jellybean switches could be plugged. The switches correspond to different buttons on the controller, and they are easier for me to press with my hands as they are bigger than normal buttons. I had two of them placed on the tray in front of me, and two strapped on my headrest so I could press them with my head.img_20170225_160405

So, after all the setting up I was ready to go. I played on Little Big Planet and managed to play it easier than I had before. I also had a go on Fifa but I think I need more practice because I lost every single game! Playing on the Sims however was much more successful. I managed to press all of the buttons that I needed to, pretty much.

Special Effect only left me four jellybean switches though, and there are obviously more than four buttons on the PS3 controller. So I had to use the switches for the buttons that I most needed for the specific game that I was playing. I did manage to press quite a few buttons using my nose as well, which helped!

So with a combination of the jellybean switches, the controller being mounted in front of my face so I can move the joystick with my mouth, and pressing buttons with my nose, I can now play the Sims pretty independently. There are still a few buttons that I can’t reach myself but they are not essential to play the game, so I get by. The setup is not perfect right now but I just need to try out a few more games and see what improvements can be made.

Special Effect have loaned me the equipment for a couple of months so that I can try it out and see how I get on. If I need them to come back out to improve things they are willing to do that.  Eventually once we get everything perfect I will send their equipment back and buy my own.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to play some games!


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