… designed so that everyone can play

Watching E3 for the first time is quite the experience. The enthusiasm surrounding it has reminded me what enticed me into gaming despite the many hurdles it presents and I’m rather more enthusiastic about it than I was forty eight hours ago despite being reticent about the contents of the press conferences so far.

I was disappointed by the Microsoft conference largely devoted to Kinect after a brief introduction of the flagship franchises – Call of Duty, Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Gears of War, Fable. Kinect gaming will be largely useless and inaccessible for gamers like me. It’s great that gaming is taken a step to get the average person off the couch and more active, but if you can’t really get off the couch or out of your wheelchair, it doesn’t help. To be fair, even if I wasn’t disabled, I still would find no appeal in games like Kenictimels, Kinect Adventures, Kinect Sports or Dance Central; I wouldn’t play even if I could. I am not the intended market and that’s fine, if rather disappointing.

As anyone with a disability knows, repurposing is more often than not the name of the game. Would I buy a Kinect to go with my Xbox 360? The answer is probably not. I didn’t buy an Xbox to repurpose it, I bought it for gaming, but if I can use it to make my home media centre more accessible, I will and the technology does lend itself to more interesting uses, eventually. I am currently using a Possum Environmental Controller with a single switch to control my TV/DVD/TV on demand box and my Xbox controller for my Xbox 360 console. Voice commands would be easier, but I would still need my Possum to turn the TV on and off. I would also still need my controller for the games that I choose to play. As such, this function may be useful for some people with disabilities for this purpose, but it wouldn’t replace my current system entirely and so it wouldn’t be that useful to me.

I am excited about the technology. I enjoyed the Your Shape demonstration and I think it can be very useful in rehabilitation and for someone like me who has terrible proprioception and struggle to tell where exactly different body parts are at any given moment. The feedback it provides onscreen would be invaluable and being able to see on screen both what I should be doing and what I am doing is something to get excited about.

I did find it interesting that the buzz phrase for the day seemed to be that this technology is for everyone when, in terms of gaming, it will in reality make games less accessible for a lot of people with disabilities. Clearly, nobody thought of people like me. New technology is always exciting and in the case of Kinect, its potential is obvious, but in it’s current packaging, it’s not something I will find useful or particularly accessible.