The following blog post was written by Huy Phung, a senior program manager at Microsoft, who works on improving accessibility of products and services.
I love video games. During my youth, I spent countless hours on Atari, Nintendo and PC gaming. As a senior program manager, I don’t have as much time for games these days, but I still love playing.
Today, we know video games have many benefits, ranging from supporting education to relieving extreme pain. The aspect I enjoy most is the sense of community, bonding with friends while shooting virtual aliens or cutting the rug with my daughter on Kinect. It hasn’t always been easy for players with disabilities to enjoy this same connection, but accessible technologies can make it easier.
Keith “Aieron” Knight is a talented gamer who has Amyoplasia Arthrogryposis, a form of muscular dystrophy that reduces muscle mass and increases stiffness or fuses joints as he ages. The 26-year-old Canadian college student is making a name for himself in the online gaming world, live streaming his successes and failures playing “League of Legends,” “Guild Wars 2, and other games.
When Keith started playing console games he used his chin to move an analog stick and his nose or lips to push buttons. But console controllers added buttons and complexity, so Keith moved to PC games, such as “Warcraft” and “World of Warcraft.” Today, he uses his cheek or earlobe to control a mouse and types with a pen in his mouth. For some games, he uses Dragon speech recognition software or an external switch next to his elbow or foot.
Keith succeeds in areas where other players walk away. In the world of multiplayer online gaming, for example, players often must solve difficult jumping puzzles that require them to run or jump from one point to another. These challenges are much more difficult than old-school games, such as “Super Mario Brothers,” and sometimes a puzzle is so hard that most non-impaired players skip it. Keith, however, embraces the challenge. In this video you can watch him hop, skip and click to victory. Whether you are a gamer or not, I recommend watching it.
If Kevin can accomplish this with assistive technology, imagine what everyone could accomplish with improved motion capture, speech integration and eye-tracking software.