The A.T.E. Arcade: Accessible Through Emulation
Video games can present many barriers for disabled gamers making play unfairly hard or even impossible.
Barriers include being forced to use unsuitable controls, having no way to adjust the diffculty level
in a meaningful way, game play being too fast and so on. Disabled gamers include:
Children with hands too small to grasp a traditional joypad. An amputee or left-handed player forced
to use uncomfortable control layouts. Sight-impaired people struggling with the small screen of a hand-held
console. People with slowed reaction times due to age, illness, disability and even plain tiredness. The
list goes on and on.
Emulation offers a solution, but what is emulation? Put simply, it's software that makes one computer
behave like another. For instance, using the MAME emulator, a home PC can be made to faithfully replicate
a real arcade game down to the "insert coin" requests. From there, many things are possible.
Using a PC typically gives you access to a huge range of accessible controllers, such as jumbo sized buttons, head-trackers and more. Emulators typically allow you to redefine
and position these controls to best suit the individual and the particular game. There's much more though. Take a look at the video clip of Space Invaders below...
This game is being played using a single large button and nothing else on a standard PC. This is possible
thanks to a combination of MAME, an auto-fire 'cheat' mode and a small utility called 4Noah
Lite. You may also notice that enemy fire has been disabled making things a little easier still.
Let's keep things as simple as possible though for the moment. Take a little time to browse through the Games section and Gaming Utilities area to get a better
idea of what is possible. From there move onto the Emulators page, where I recommend starting with the Atari VCS emulator.
Which ever path you go down, have fun, but prepare for a steep learning curve. Going down this route
is not the easiest, but until game developers start to give more thought to accessibility, it will be
one of few choices for disabled gamers.