/UM students design games for the physically disabled

UM students design games for the physically disabled

While gamers were furiously playing the latest installment of Grand Theft Auto, a group of UM students were brainstorming ideas for the most important part of the console—the controller.

GameCareerGuide.com announced their biweekly Game Design Challenge on Sept. 4: create a game that is completely hands-free. Contestants had two weeks to prepare and submit their entries. The best featured the gamer using either their feet, nose, voice, body or head to control the game. Out of the six entries that were chosen, four were from students at Montevallo.

Garrett Roth, Holden Chase Moss, Shaunie Groover and Amy George are in the Game Studies and Design program and introduced new solutions not requiring the use of hands.

George’s entry “Home” follows a lost pollen mote through busy cities trying to avoid cars and pests in a quest to return to the seaside flowers where it resides. “I knew initially that I wanted to make a game based in nature and fantasy, and I started thinking about natural movement in nature and how that could be replicated with the body,” said George.

The controller consists of a sensor pad that doubles as a chair which uses body movement to control the game. Leaning forward helps the pollen puff move faster while leaning back slows it down. The pad is designed to be able to work with multiple games.

Garrett Roth's Design for Hands-Free GameCareerGuide.com

A foot controller, with a similar layout to the conventional controller, was Roth’s design for his favorite genre—fighting games. The Footstick is designed to be a retail item similar to the fight stick Madcatz currently sells.

“I saw a few players using Dr. Doom, a Marvel Comics character from the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise, using an attack called “Foot Dive,” and the idea just sort of came to me,” said Roth.

The pad is large enough for the player to set his or her feet on and is controlled by a series of buttons left, right and center to the unit. It is designed for amputees and features characters Shoto and Boxer who share similar features to other fight-based games.

With technology innovations such as Siri on iPhone, voice control is evolving. Moss followed the trend and came up with War Commander. This allows the player to control an army of their own and converts all gaming functions into verbal commands.

This method poses a more lifelike interaction with the players and the battlefield by allowing the player to speak to individual troops. The game would only require proper software and a headset for the voice control function.

Groover took a more unique approach by using the nose as the key. “Nose Knows!” is a word game which allows the player to smell different items that refer to words. For instance, if the mystery word is “beach,” the player will smell the ocean, fish and suntan lotion. It is operated with a set of foot pedals to navigate the screen and allows for a multiplayer function as well. Beginner, intermediate, hard and scramble modes are available for the player to choose from.

“I wanted something to really set it apart, and I had just watched a Ted Talk about pheromones and scents. And that is how it all came together to be Nose Knows!,” said Groover.

With so few options available for disabled gamers, Montevallo game designers could be leading a new revolution.

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