It's exactly a decade to the month since I started working as a journalist in the games industry. Back in October 2000, PlayStation 2 was still a few weeks away from its launch in Europe, and my only internet access at home was via SEGA's Dreamcast - with its amazing email system that spontaneously deleted messages if you took too long writing them.
The rate of technological change and growth in the popularity and appeal of gaming in the subsequent 10 years is obvious with even the briefest reflection. And yet, as an easy target for a mainstream media hatchet job - a rent-a-villain upon whom almost any social problem can be blamed? Plus ça change.
This was one motivation behind EGTV's documentary series, The Videogames Election, which concluded last Friday. The industry itself has transformed to a remarkable extent to become more socially and professionally responsible – but how many outside of it really understand this?
Watch Episode 3 of the EGTV series, The Videogames Election, "Education, Education, Education", below and read on for more on how the programme came together.
In particular, Episode 3 was written with a view to showing beyond this the people and projects using videogames to make a difference. This includes the charity SpecialEffect, set up by Dr Mick Donegan to help disabled children play and enjoy games through innovative interface design.
I first met Dr Mick in early 2009 and, amazed by what I saw, stayed in touch, helping out a little here and there to raise awareness of the charity's projects.
It was a huge honour to be asked earlier this year to work with the SpecialEffect team in an official capacity to help them to achieve their big ambitions.
I hope if you watch the section in Episode 3 on SpecialEffect (around half an hour in) you'll agree this is a story worth telling and an organisation that shows the games industry at its very best.
The technology used by the charity has no better advocate than its patron, Matt Hampson. Paralysed in a scrum collapse while training with the England Under-21s rugby team, Hampson woke to find himself not only incapable of movement from below the neck but, in the immediate aftermath, unable even to speak.
The shock, the fear - the horror - Hampson must have experienced as the reality of his predicament became clear is something that will, mercifully, remain unimaginable to most of us.
As he told me the first time we met, it was the little things – like not being able to say he had a bead of sweat running down his face, or an itch he could not scratch – that proved a frustration beyond.
After they met at Stoke Mandeville hospital during his recovery, Dr Donegan introduced Matt to technology that would help him reconnect with the world.
Crucially, Matt was able to rely upon astonishing strength of mind and spirit as well as his family and carers; but he understood early, thanks in no small part to technology, that – as he puts it – "of course life's still possible".
Matt's story contrasts with the tragic tale of another young England rugby player, Daniel James, left paralysed after a training accident in 2007. Unlike Hampson, James decided life was no longer worth living and ended his in an assisted-suicide clinic in Switzerland.
Assistive tech and the support and dedication of well-intentioned experts cannot help everyone, but one of the strongest messages I have taken from SpecialEffect's work is that early intervention can make a massive difference.
Just ask Matt. While his playing career was brought to an abrupt halt, he now brings his passion and instinct for the game to bear as a coach and reporter, runs his own business from a computer, and fronts Walk4Matt, a multi-charity annual walk from Rugby to Twickenham.
His body still requires round-the-clock care, but technology has liberated him to pursue these interests with gusto.
If you came to this year's Eurogamer Expo, there's a good chance you may have visited the SpeciaEffect stand and seen – or even tried – its eye-control technology.
The first time feels thrillingly 'sci-fi'. Calibration involves staring at the extremities of a screen while the camera scans eye movement. Once set, your eyes control the mouse pointer on a PC desktop: wherever you look, the pointer moves. Blink hard to click.
This translates to gameplay surprisingly well. In the game demoed at the Expo – Live For Speed – up is accelerate, down decelerate with steering achieved through careful glancing around the centre of the screen.
It takes a good deal of counter-intuitive focus at first – the urge to gawp around is strong – but the mind and the eyes adapt quickly. It really works.
As a cutting-edge gameplay demo it's fantastic. But what really counts for SpecialEffect is that players, whether able-bodied or otherwise, can compete and have a laugh on a level playing field.
That's the sharp (and extremely costly) end of the charity's work. But the philosophy remains the same across all of its projects: helping a disabled child to play videogames with friends shouldn't mean by definition they are patronised in the process. If adapted technology can, even for a brief time, help them to forget their physical limitations and play with others as equals, the boost to self-esteem can be immense.
It's also a salutary reminder of how easy it is for each of us to assume what someone is capable of based on a disability. Earlier this year I played Dale McEown, a young man with arthrogryposis, a condition that has left him with no use of his hands, at FIFA. I used a DualShock pad and my hands. He used a DualShock pad and his mouth. He won 2-0 at a canter. See for yourself in Episode 3.
SpecialEffect is a small charity that has already achieved a great deal with limited help and resources. With technologies like Kinect and Move emerging, what could make a big difference now – as Dan Whitehead wrote about last week – is game makers more fully embracing the aims of outfits like SpecialEffect ensure more games are made more readily accessible to children.
Children who, whatever their favoured method of control, all just want to play games.