We’re designing a diversity of things so everyone finds a way to participate and a sense of belonging. – Kris Woolery, Xbox
With another Super Bowl come and gone, it was Xbox who stole the show with their commercial about children with various disabilities and their love of video games. Showing off their new adaptive controller, Microsoft’s Gaming for Everyone initiative touched the hearts of millions, especially mine.
As someone who is physically disabled and fighting autoimmune disorders, I use video games as an outlet, a way to escape pain without prescriptions for awhile. When my illness flares up, my hands swell and stiffen, much like arthritis, and it makes it difficult to play. I have found particular issues with the PlayStation 4 controller so when I am having a “bad day” I stick with my beloved Xbox One. I have custom controllers from different companies, but find the Xbox One Elite to be the easiest for me due to paddle placement and weight. Though I may not be as limited as others, I have become an advocate for disabled gaming and making sure everyone regardless of age, gender, illness, or disability has the opportunity to enjoy the magic of video games.“He’s not different when he plays.” – father of 9-year-old Owen
The commercial shows elementary aged children with conditions that reduce the use of their hands, and they discuss how much they love playing regardless. One of them, a boy named Ian, is shown using a traditional Xbox controller despite only having one hand. He says, “I never thought it was unfair. I just thought, ‘Hey, this is the way it is and it’s not going to change.’” It is clear that each of these kids have accepted their limitations and do what they can to work around it, while their parents admit that they know that their children cannot play to the level or extent that they know they are capable. Then comes the Adaptive Controller, the newest innovation from Microsoft that released last year and retail starts at $99.
While there are companies who make custom controllers for disabled gamers, they can be very expensive and have long waiting lists. Microsoft has provided an easy and affordable alternative that allows absolutely everyone to enjoy video games and their therapeutic benefits. Inclusion is a major stepping stone for the gaming industry, because for so long the disabled have been forgotten. I noticed this myself in the fall of 2017, when I attended a PAX event and realized I was not the only gamer using a wheelchair, and there was a lack of attention to special needs, aside from a few small booths in a side corridor away from the fun and games. This is also where I learned about Gaming for Everyone.
The Xbox One Adaptive Controller has a multitude of accessories available including chair mounts, joysticks, foot pedals, switches, and is even compatible with the QuadStick controller for paraplegic players, a true game changer. To make their products available to even more people Microsoft is partnered with The AbleGamers Charity, Special Effect, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and Warfighter Engaged, which provides controllers to our wounded warriors.
While I was already teary eyed at these strong, resilient kids, what broke me was the changes they showed after receiving the Adaptive Controller. Young Owen states “No matter how your body is, or how fast you are, you can play.” I know Microsoft is selling me on a product, but I love this statement as it demonstrates that this products brings freedom. Fully customizable and mappable to meet the needs of its user, seeing the Adaptive Controller makes me think that Microsoft cares. Everyone should care. Gaming brings people together, it reduces stress and pain, and it allows us to belong. The fact that this aired during the Super Bowl, for millions to see at once, is incredibly beautiful. I hope that it touched some hearts as it did mine, and gave hope to those who need it because when everyone plays, we all win.