This Article was contributed by Matthew Carrico, Editorial Intern.
In a recent article by BBC news, it was announced by the British Esports Association that they are calling for special tournaments to be held exclusively for young esports players with disabilities. What spurred this decision was the inclusion of three gamers with disabilities in a recent collegiate tournament.
Taking place at the start of March but having week tournaments run until May, the Association of Colleges’ FIFA Cup sees over 20% of colleges in England engage in friendly matches in the EA published game, FIFA 21. During one of the matches, three players with disabilities were given the opportunity to play against other players in the same competitive format. Of these three players, two of them were highlighted in the article by BBC, Dan, from National Star College in Gloucestershire, and Christopher.
The article mainly features Dan’s perspective but it gives a powerful insight into his and potentially other players with disabilities’ thoughts on the matter. To sum up, Dan’s experience, playing with another person “meant a lot” to him in his own words. Even though Dan did not win the match, he was given a fun experience in playing with another person, and that meant more to him than anything else at that moment.
Dan would later state that if he was given the chance he would have preferred to play with other people with disabilities. This is mainly because playing against real opponents is difficult for him due to his disability and that he has to play a different way than them. He also mentions that playing against others with disabilities who use the same or similar technologies would seem fairer. It was these statements by Dan that seem to have influenced the decision for the BEA to begin the planning out of these tournaments.
BEA representative Tom Dore gave a few statements for the strategy in regards to this tournament. In the article, he states: “We’re hoping that we can take what they’re doing as a pilot.” In other words, the BEA and potentially other esports organizations are hoping to learn from this tournament and use the data in order to give gamers with disabilities a more prominent part in the industry. The BEA looks to partner up with Microsoft in order to organize special pilot tournaments for colleges like National Star and observe the great impact it will have on these gamers as well as the larger field of esports.
The reason for partnering up with Microsoft is due to the fact that they are the ones who manufactured the Xbox Adaptive Controller (developed in 2018) that Dan used in order to play his esports match. Dan has limited mobility, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller is made to use various switches that he could easily control from a chair. The switches on the controller are both customizable and mappable which makes it possible to build different control setups for people with different disabilities in mind.
It is important to highlight technologies such as the adaptive controller as it is an example of how far companies and independent engineers have come in order to give people like Dan and Christopher a chance to be represented. There have been many innovations for both console and PC platforms. A single hand Joy-Con was made by an engineer named Julio Vazquez in order to help his friend who lost the ability to use his right hand. Valve engineer Ben Krasnow created a bum controller that operates by sitting on it and shifting your weight in certain directions. Johns Hopkins University graduate Gyorgy Levay developed a special controller known as the Gear which allows disabled gamers to control games using their feet. Even as far back as the NES, Nintendo developed a hands-free alternative to normal NES controllers that straps to the person’s body and allows them to operate the device with their mouths. There are plenty of other innovations such as Guitar Hero Foot Pedals, A Custom DualShock 4, the Jouse3, etc. For more information on these breakthroughs, check out this list that showcases 13 of these marvels of engineering.
As of now, it is currently unknown when this special tournament will take place. The BEA will continue to partner up with other brands in order to make this tournament a reality. People such as Dan and Christopher deserve the chance to play with others when they can not do so under normal circumstances. The sheer joy that emanated from Dan was enough to influence to spur big organizations like the BEA into planning out these tournaments. Of course, this chain of events all took place in the United Kingdom but its impact can be felt in the United States. The push to bring more representation to gamers with disabilities is an ongoing endeavor. This tournament will look to serve as a foundation and inspiration for similar events going forward in the future. It is great to know the strides that organizations like the BEA will go through in order to bring underrepresented groups into a mainstream light. There are also nonprofit organizations looking to help in this cause. Most notably, the AbleGamers Charity. This organization is dedicated to bringing about more accessibility into the video game industry for people regardless of their disabilities. This event is just one piece of a bigger puzzle that looks to make video games accessible to everyone regardless of what drives them back.