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Control Method

SpecialEffect's mission to get disabled kids gaming.

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.

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About the Author
Johnny Minkley avatar

Johnny Minkley


Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.