Gamers with disabilities face off with Burnaby game makers

EA employees also spent time building assistive switches and buttons

Video gamers – like most of society - take for granted having full use of their hands to ply their trade.

Some gamers in Burnaby were reminded of this on Thursday during a special event at Electronics Arts’ local facility.

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Gamers with disabilities were pitched against EA gamemakers, with both participants using the adapted technology—putting all players on a level playing field. In one of many friendly matchups,

Aaron McHardy, executive producer, EA SPORTS FIFA, was pitted against Milad Hajihassan, a local gamer with a disability.

“I’ve been producing EA SPORTS FIFA for 13 years, so I’ve played thousands of hours using standard controllers. I’ve never experienced the game like this before and I met my match today in Milad while I used the adaptive controller,” said McHardy. “This buildathon reminds me how important it is to make games that everyone can play.”

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EA employees volunteered their time to build assistive technology switches and buttons, soldering electronics to 3D printed pieces to make gaming more accessible to people with disabilities. Neil Squire Society photo

Neil Squire Society and its Makers Making Change initiative, as well as local gamers with disabilities, hosted a gaming “buildathon” at Electronic Arts in Burnaby. An estimated 150 EA employees volunteered their time to build assistive technology switches and buttons, soldering electronics to 3D printed pieces to make gaming more accessible to people with disabilities. The accessible gaming event was the largest of its kind that has been run in Canada.

During the event, hundreds of open-source switches and buttons were made using 3D printed components, costing a fraction of commercially available equivalents. Switches with a variety of sizes and types were built, enabling gamers to use devices that best match their body shape, strength, dexterity, and overall abilities.

“This buildathon is an example of the amazing change we can create when people come together,” said Chad Leaman, director of innovation for the society. “All devices built today go to gamers and rehabilitation centres across North America for free through EA’s generous support.”

There are an estimated two million Canadian gamers living with a disability and 10 million in the U.S., said the society.

 

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