I was lucky enough to go to EGX, one of the UK’s biggest gaming conferences, at the end of September on behalf of Exeposé Games and while I was there I saw some pretty awesome stuff. I got hands-on previews of upcoming triple-A games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Just Cause 3 and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, as well as a chance to check out a whole plethora of great new indie titles, from Monocles and Monsters to Knee Deep. However, the stand-out for me wasn’t a particular game, or a brand new piece of equipment. Instead, for me, the highlight of EGX was a charity.
Stationed amongst the crowds of hundreds (most were probably waiting to play Star Wars: Battlefront), Special Effect stood humbly, waiting for people to come over and find out what they do and why we should care. Three laptops sat on two tables, each one with some strange peripheral attached and a person manning them, I obviously inquired and was introduced to a lovely man called Matt who explained what I was looking at. He explained to me that Special Effect was a UK charity designed to bring entertainment through video games and technology to those with disabilities and that they were here at EGX showcasing three of the ways that video games can bring happiness to someone who struggles with a disability.
For a lot of the people who Special Effect help, they don’t have the ability to go out and play with friends in the park, kick a football or just go for a stroll around despite having extended periods of ‘downtime’. Added to this, in the modern world, a lot of people play video games and even not being able to do this can sometimes cause a rift between you and your peers. While at EGX, Special Effect were showcasing three pieces of technology with a game: chin-controlled Mario Kart, eye-controlled Virtual Reality and eye-controlled Minecraft.
As Matt sat me down, he told me I would be playing eye-controlled Minecraft and that I had to stare intently at a small camera attached to the laptop. “Stare at it like your life depends on it” he tells me, “Currently, the computer is figuring out where your pupils are and converting them into mouse movements on the screen.” Already, I was overwhelmed and, if I’m honest, quite confused about how any of it worked, but I did as I was told. After about half a minute, I was told I had been “calibrated” and could begin to play.
Funnily enough, eye-controlled Minecraft is rather similar to normal Minecraft. Wherever I looked, my character walked, winking my left eye destroyed blocks and winking my right eye placed them. Jumping? As simple as blinking.
These three pieces of technology may already sound amazing to you, but it is so hard to explain not only how these devices worked and felt, but also the all-encompassing feeling of warmth and joy coming from this small stand. I don’t want to get all soppy on you, but it was remarkable. The ability for me to play classic games with nothing but the head on my shoulders (literally) was truly an incredible experience.
Special Effect is truly doing special things, for thousands of UK residents who suffer from disabilities
Special Effect is truly doing special things, for thousands of UK residents who suffer from disabilities regardless of age and I feel honoured to have been able to try out some of the technology they have to offer for myself. I suppose my experience at EGX can be summed up simply: I saw the best of games, I saw the worst of games, but at the end of the day, it was a charity that stole my heart.
To find out more about Special Effect and the work they do go to their website.