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Disability Gaming with Aidis and Trafford Disability Network

ecg laptop and oculus

A couple of weeks ago, I attended Aidis’ pilot of its first disability gaming day EVER! The event was hosted at Trafford Disability Activity Network. This was a really exciting opportunity, not only for me but also for the game testers. I thought I’d go along and write a diary about my day working with everyone. Mission: Accepted! 

10.30am 

We’d set up the room with laptops, controllers and the Oculus Rift (an augmented reality headset), as well as the steering wheel and projector screen for racing games. There were also a number of adaptive devices and controllers specifically designed for those with disabilities.  Now it was time to unleash the gamers! I was a little shy of talking to everyone at first but I’ve found that gaming can be a great way to interact and socialise through what is happening on (or off!) screen. 

All of the people participating in the gaming day had different types of learning disabilities, and one of them was wheelchair user as well. The charity works with people with a wide range of disabilities and has an ‘open door’ policy, which is lovely. 

First, I was sitting with Max, who was playing a Star Wars game on the Oculus Rift, with an XBox controller plugged into the laptop as well. I was particularly impressed by the graphics in this game – there were loads of gorgeous blue and purple stars all over the screen, as well as some great sound effects. Max said: ‘I’m really enjoying it…This is the first time I’ve played Star Wars.’ I loved watching Max play, but the highlight for me was when he saw the generator and said: ‘If this is the generator please let it be destroyed!’. Hilarious! 

11am 

Max hadn’t finished with the Oculus Rift just yet – or maybe it hadn’t finished with him! He wanted to try another game called Shadows of Isolation, where you  essentially explore a world that is ‘other’ than ours – more of an experience as opposed to an actual game. It’s a bit darker and less intergalactic than Star Wars and not quite as pretty graphically, but still good fun. Max said: ‘This is so cool! I feel like I’m exploring a planet! I actually like these kinds of games.’ 

We moved in to a similar game called Sightline, where as you move your head around (wearing the Oculus), everything changes. From watching the graphics and hearing the sound onscreen, this one has to be one of my personal favourites. Max described it as ‘very artistic’ and ‘more of an experience than a game.’ He said that he preferred it to Shadows of Isolation as it was more ‘psychedelic’ and that it was a lot like a surreal movie. I thought it was like a darker version of Alice in Wonderland, especially in the woodland scenes with birds and butterflies – according to Max, there was no rabbit hole though! 

ECG gaming girl11.30am 

Next, I met Narinder who was playing on one of the driving games called Dirt 3. When I tried this one out in the Aidis office a few weeks ago, I found it very tricky, so it was interesting for me to see how Narinder got on. She said: ‘I enjoyed it, it got easier towards the end.’ I found this too, because as you get used to the tactile feedback from the steering wheel and the pressure you need to use for the steering wheel, the accelerator, etc., it does get a lot easier to play. Narinder enjoyed this, but not as much as what we had in store for her next! 

I told Narinder about the Oculus Rift and my experience with it, and she said she wanted to give it a go. She decided to play Rift Coaster, a roller coaster simulator. I’d loved this when I’d played it in the Aidis office so I wanted to see what Narinder thought too. As the roller coaster started climbing up, Narinder said: ‘Oh my days!’ as though she was on a real ride! As the roller coaster continued, Narinder said: ‘It feels like you’re really in it! I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t know about being on it for real!’ I completely agree – as much as I love Rift Coaster, I’m not sure I could manage them at the funfair! 

Some people love Rift Coaster – and others not so much, just like real roller coasters themselves. I also met Narinder’s friend Lindsay, who tried out Rift Coaster on the Oculus Rift and didn’t like it too much. She said: ‘I’m not a fan of big roller coasters and this feels a bit too real!’

12pm 

Narinder hadn’t quite finished with the fear factor yet! She wanted to play a game called Don’t Let Go. You put your fingers onto two keys on the keyboard, put the Oculus Rift on, and whatever happens, you can’t let go! I played it and was terrified so I wanted to see how Narinder found it. Throughout the game, Narinder kept saying: ‘It feels dead real! I’m so scared!’ Watching someone else play this one was loads of fun as I got to see where Narinder wasn’t phased, and where she jumped out of her seat! She got to the end though, and is braver than me. Well done Narinder! 

1.30pm 

After a quick sandwich for lunch, we got back onto gaming again. I had a go on the Oculus Rift myself so that I could remember what it felt like, and then sat back to watch everyone else. I met Darren, who had played on both the Oculus Rift and the driving simulator. He said that he preferred the Oculus Rift because the games available on it were closer to the video games he’d played before. Although Darren said he did have fun with the driving game, like me, he said he also found it difficult, at least to begin with. 

The favourite game of the day for lots of people had to be Sightline. I watched quite a few different people play it and the varied responses as people looked around the surreal world were very entertaining to watch – and listen to! As an explosion appeared on the screen, Max said: ‘This is cool…but I didn’t cause that explosion I promise!’ I loved the fact that it looked and sounded a bit like Alice in Wonderland, but a neon-coloured, weirder version! A lot of people loved the butterflies that flew right around your head on the Oculus which I have to say, if I’d have played it, would no doubt have been a highlight for me! 

2.35pm 

I said goodbye to everyone and left to get the train back to University. I’d had a lovely day, met some great people and watched them play some great games. I’m definitely going to come back for the next Aidis gaming day. Mission: Accomplished! 

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