Twitch – A New Move For Disabled Gamers
I’ve heard of Twitch before, but never actually knew that disabled gamers could use it and that it was disability accessible. I’ve seen in the news that Amazon is buying it and thought I’d get the scoop on it myself.
What is Twitch?
If you’re new to the world of online gaming, and, like me until a few weeks ago, have only just heard of Twitch, then you’re probably wondering what exactly it is. Twitch is essentially like YouTube but live videos of people playing computer games. Users of Twitch broadcast gameplay and gaming tips, stream parts of games, and you can of course stream yourself playing games on consoles for others to watch through Twitch. I’ve had a little look at Twitch myself and I have to say it does look great – I might have to go on it and see if I can get some tips on playing as Link in The Legend of Zelda! You can also simply watch people play games which appeals to me a lot – I love watching my friends battle it out with different characters, and the streaming idea sounds great too.
A demonstration of Twitch’s power was when Twitch conducted a revolutionary social experiment called ‘Twitch Plays Pokémon.’ This consisted of Twitch users essentially trying to beat the number of gaming hours clocked up on Pokémon by GameBoy users, which succeeded. Users of the game-streaming site played the game by typing in commands (up, down, a, b) into the chat box and the game would respond accordingly. At the experiment’s peak, the website crashed as over 1.1 million users tried to log on, and 10,000 users at a time were inputting commands into their chat windows simultaneously. This clearly shows the momentum which Twitch ahs gathered over the years, and while it has since died down, there are still tens of thousands of users logging on to the game-streaming/sharing website every day.
Why Are Amazon Buying It?
Amazon are reportedly buying Twitch after Google’s deal to buy it was more or less signed – until that deal went down the drain! As Twitch has a massive customer base already, mostly consisting of younger users, it seems like a logical solution – Twitchers love gaming, Amazon happens to sell games – it’s pretty much a win /win situation. This is echoed in ‘5 Reasons Amazon Are Buying Twitch‘ via trsutedreviews.com. Another reason which they have mentioned which I had not necessarily thought of is that it is also a social networking platform, in that watching people play games is a relatively new idea but that it can also be a way of online socialising. Add to this the fact that the site has a messaging feature like Facebook, and Amazon is expanding its platform to incorporate elements of social media as well. It even has text alerts to let viewers know when channels are going live, which sounds like a brilliant feature.
What’s In It For Gamers With Disabilities?
So, the news about Twitch is all well and good – I welcome Amazon buying it, but whatever your view on that, the brilliant thing about it is that the site is also disability accessible. There’s a really brilliant interview with a gamer called Aieron, who uses Twitch and happens to have a disability. He’s 27 years old, in his fourth year of a Business degree, and also volunteers for Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Aieron explains that he was born with Amyoplasia Arthrogrypos. This is when your body muscle mass is less than other people’s and as you get older, your muscles essentially stiffen. This means that Aieron has very little movement in his limbs. He uses his computer by typing with a pen in his mouth and the mouse with his cheek and earlobe. Whilst Aieron does say that he uses a Razer mouse and keyboard (a specialist type of mouse and keyboard for gaming), it is fantastic to see a disabled gamer acknowledging that he can access Twitch and games so easily, in different ways, and educating others about how he does this. I think it’s awesome that Aieron has his own blogs and streams videos of how he plays to everyone – this not only educates but also makes people realise that disabled gamers exist! Aieron is now focusing on raising money for charity and getting his ‘foot in the door’ of the professional gaming arena industry.
Another gamer who uses Twitch was also brought to my attention. Ken Worall spends his spare time playing World of Warcraft, Diablo and StarCraft on the game-streaming website. In a video, he explains how much his use of Twitch has transformed his life, after an accident twenty years ago left him Tetraplegic and as a result, often reliant on others. He used to play games with his family or around family commitments and he didn’t realise that he could continue this until he was shown specialist gaming equipment such as a suck puff switch which allowed him to write and to gain back control of his computer. From there, he began to make use of Twitch and come across others with the same interests as him and who supported him. Ken also began to upload videos of himself playing to show other people and to raise awareness of his condition and how he adapts gaming to meet his needs. Even better, he was interacting online via Twitch with another man who is Tetraplegic too and as a result of this, managed to get him gaming again when he thought that he couldn’t. Helping someone else in a similar situation to him, Ken says ‘gave me a purpose.’ This is a very uplifting story and a brilliant example of how Twitch can be used with accessible software and equipment put in place, which is wonderful to see.
What Do I Think of Twitch?
I think that Twitch is a brilliant resource for new and experienced gamers alike, and those with and without disabilities. Aieron is showing that Twitch can be and is accessible and accepting of gamers of all abilities which is great. As for Amazon buying Twitch, you can judge that for yourself – but I think it’s a pretty wise move by the company, although it’s massive as it is so maybe they could given another company a chance (ahem, Google?!) Regardless of that, Twitch is great and the messaging function is really cool – it’s a hybrid of YouTube, Steam and Facebook that is gathering momentum, and with the way it is handling inclusive gaming, soon everyone will be Twitching away!
What do you think of Twitch? Have you ever used it and if so how do you access it? Tell us in the comments below and join in the conversation!
Tags: Accessible gaming
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