There are 1 billion people (15% of the world’s population) who live with some form of a disability. Steven Spohn is the COO of The AbleGamers Charity. A charity that strives to improve the lives of all gamers with disabilities. Spohn is also one of the one billion people in the world who live with a disability, as he suffers from muscular dystrophy.
A genetic disease that occurs when one of the genes involved with the making of proteins that protect muscle fibers becomes defective. Causing the affected person’s muscles to weaken over time, leading to them needing the assistance of a wheelchair. If video games are a way to escape, the controller is the gateway. “I think the controller itself is important because when you’re disabled, sometimes you’re in a hospital, or a VA, and really video games are your escape, and controllers allow you to get to them,” said Spohn in a video published in 2010.
While I was born without the lower half of my right arm, I can still play video games with a regular controller. Some, like Johns Hopkins Graduate Gyorgy Levay have to create their own controllers. Levay lost both of his hands to a meningitis infection, and afterwards he created The GEAR. A foot-based controller that uses sensors to simulate multiple button combinations.
For years, gamer’s like Gyorgy, Steven, and many others have had to find makeshift ways to enjoy the activity they loved. With the only other option being giving up playing video games because of their inability to properly use a regular controller. But that was all changed last week. After three years of development, Microsoft has launched the Xbox Adaptive Controller for gamer’s with limited mobility.
The back of the controller is lined with inputs where users can attach assistive switches via 3.5mm jacks, to mimic buttons. To distinguish what ports are for which buttons, the back has grooves to allow users to properly find and connect the switches to the desired button. Buttons can also be reconfigured with the Xbox Accessories app. The controller also has two USB ports to support joysticks.
But to me the biggest thing is the controller can be attached to a wide variety of mounts. The controller is specifically designed not only for gamers with disabilities, but its ensures each setup is fully customizable and fits to their specific needs. I may be biased but this is the biggest thing to ever happen to video games and the video game industry. As a one-armed man who grew up playing video games and whose job it is to cover them, I never thought this day would come.
I never even thought of the day itself because I never saw any major gaming company make any effort to make games accessible for people within my demographic. To be honest until now it never felt like disabled people really mattered to gaming companies. Until now I’ve never walked into a video game store or an electronics store in general and saw a section of controllers designed for people with disabilities.
My only hope now is Microsoft allows companies like Sony and Nintendo to create their own Adaptive Controllers. My hope is companies like Sony and Nintendo want to create their own Adaptive Controllers. The truth is people with disabilities want to own God of War and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild too. Microsoft you have given people with disabilities a more proper and easier to play video games, now give us the choice to choose the games we want to play.
The only negative thing I will say about Microsoft’s adaptive controller is its $100 price tag. I know Microsoft is giving a lot, but people who live with disabilities already deal with high expenses. Regular Xbox One controllers sell in store for $29.99. Why not lower the price to that or if that’s too low then how about $50?
Whether they lower the price or not I just want to say this. Thank you so much Microsoft. Thank you, Phil Spencer and everyone involved in making this controller. I never thought seeing a controller being used would make me cry, but it did.
You have given so many people an escape they either couldn’t partake in, or was stripped from them. There may be more important articles I write than this one, but there will never be one that made me pause more due to me having to emotionally collect myself than this one. As the tears drip down my face like rain on the windshield of a Warthog, I again want to say thank you, thank you, thank you.