Someone very close to me swears that playing video games saved their life.
Not really. Imagine being so isolated by depression that the only thread you have to life itself is through a game. But that thread, invisible, delicate, is the only thing that keeps you wanting to function, because you want to see what happens next. They couldn’t cope with real life, so immersed themselves in a fantasy world, the world of cowboys. John Marston and Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption made them want to live.
Now imagine you’re 14 years old and FIFA 16 just came out. You LOVE football, your mates love football and all you want to do is play it on your PS4. But you can’t, all you can do is watch because you have a physical condition that means you can’t hold a controller or press the buttons. So many people have been excluded from gaming by this, and that feeling of being even more distant and different from the able bodied must be tortuous. You want to be like your mates, join in, and score a goal. Now, thanks to SpecialEffect you can.
Founded in 2008, Mick Donegan used specialised technology to enhance access to video games and enable creative self-expression for people with a wide range of disabilities. This took the form of ‘Gaze Control’ which is basically being able to look at a computer screen and wherever your eyes ‘gaze’ enables ‘something’ to happen; for example looking to the right, will move a cursor to the right.
In April 2009, he was involved in SMARTlab’s ground-breaking ‘Duet for Eyes’ performance at the Science Gallery, Dublin, during which two people with complex disabilities performed a musical duet using gaze controlled technology, accompanied by some of Ireland’s leading professional musicians. Here is a video showing a similar exercise of a young lady being able to communicate through her eye movements courtesy of Mick.
Mick has surrounded himself with a team of amazing people including several prestigious and innovative Scientists, therapists, CEO’s of various gaming companies, MP Tom Watson and journalist Kate Russell amongst others. With this team Mick has, quite incredibly, allowed people with very complex physical difficulties to play games, sometimes for the first time in their lives. SpecialEffect provide custom made kits to enable kids and grown-ups to play video games through voice control to eye controlled technology. They also continuously research and develop products and provide consistent support for their clients. Most importantly they enable independence and the ability to wield a massive sword!
I was first made aware or SpecialEffect by my John Marston loving comrade, who on seeing the work they do on Facebook was blown away and instead of having Christmas gifts, insisted on any money to be spent being donated to their fund, a very worthy cause, because anything that can make a kid light up like sticking one in the back of the net, or just feeling NORMAL like your mates is worth so much, it can be a life saver.
If you like games check out their website. It’s full of information and fantastic videos of people who… play, sometimes with just the slightest movement of one finger, or the blink of an eye. It’s emotional stuff, and the look on the kids faces will make you melt.
On the 26th to the 28th February 2016 SpecialEffect are running ‘GameBlast16’ all proceeds to go to little girls like Ceyda in the video below.
Article by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With)