Xbox and Special Olympics hold first ‘Gaming for Inclusion’ esports

Gaming in general is moving towards accessibility, but not so in esports, which are as competitive as other sports and are somewhat exclusive in nature. Xbox and Special Olympics are working together on a new program that combines competition with inclusion, and it’s underway right now.

This week, the Special Olympics will compete against each other in the Athlete’s Tournament rocket leaguehandjob madden nfl 22, And Forza Motorsports 7. In addition to awards, prestige, and glory, playing alongside one of Special Olympics’ celebrity supporters: “NBA Superstar Jason Tatum, NFL Legend Jamal Charles, and WWE Superstar.”

“This tournament is a meaningful and important step in making esports more accessible and empowering Special Olympics athletes in a new way to compete,” said Jen Pantoni, head of Xbox Social Impact. “Xbox has invested in a number of accessibility features and products, such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller and features like CoPilot or Text to Speech. The purpose of all this ongoing work is to ensure that players feel welcome and that they are on the Xbox platform.

The tournaments are being recorded now, and will be broadcast over the rest of the week, with a “Celebrity Showcase” coming Saturday with recaps. You can see a schedule at the bottom of this post, but generally just keep an eye on the Xbox Twitch channel and the Special Olympics YouTube channel.

I like to highlight these developments because accessibility has been on the back burner in the gaming world for so long, and we’re now seeing big steps by developers, publishers, and partners to make things better. Microsoft’s XAC is a great example, as is the plethora of visual, audio, and difficulty options in the latest. Ratchet and Clank Play. Esports is certainly one of the areas where more diversity is needed, and the participating players were happy to participate. I asked Special Olympics Jose Moreno and Colton Rice for their thoughts on the matter.

Do you think competitive gaming is becoming more accessible?

RiceCompetitive gaming is definitely getting more accessible. Not only are sports becoming more accessible, accessibility allows people with disabilities to become more competitive players. People with intellectual disabilities always try to compete for their best performance. We want to do what everyone else is doing, and sometimes just a little help is needed to make it happen.

moreno: I think competitive gaming is getting more accessible as Microsoft starts to bring out video game controllers that are accessible to people with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities – accessible to everyone. I’m a lifelong gamer, and accessibility has been game-changing in esports. Accessible gaming was not available when I was growing up. Today, it’s a lot of fun to play when you can play with friends of all abilities and everyone can participate.

Special Olympics athletes Colton Rice, left, and Jose Moreno.

How are you experiencing that change?

moreno: In my opinion, the more people with intellectual disabilities are involved in the video game industry, the better the video game community will know about how we, like everyone else, enjoy playing video games. And through events like Gaming for Inclusion, I’m not just able to compete — I’m included as part of a community of gamers where I’m welcomed and included.

Rice: People with intellectual disabilities have skills and attention to details; When we set our mind to something, we practice until we get the best, especially when we enjoy doing it – and that includes gaming. People with disabilities need more time to learn, but when you’re dedicated to something you’re passionate about, you won’t stop until you succeed.

What else would you like to see from developers, publishers, etc.?

moreno: I would like to see more from developers or manufacturers or publishers of video games or computer games to include more people with intellectual disabilities in the video game workforce. People with intellectual disabilities can play a variety of roles and offer unique perspectives on how to improve the gaming experience. Publishers and developers may have different perspectives from people with disabilities; Whether it is the people with intellectual disabilities depicted in their story or they are being seen in the games themselves. We look forward to being a part of this process, and there are many passionate gamers with intellectual disabilities who want to participate in focus groups or real jobs as creators within the industry.

Rice: The companies that make these games are trying to make high quality games that are enjoyable for everyone. There is still a lot that can be done to make games more accessible. For example, it can be frustrating when gamers with intellectual disabilities are learning a new game with instructions that are difficult to read. It can take hours to learn how to play a new version of a game you’ve played for years. This doesn’t mean that people with intellectual disabilities aren’t able to play or compete – it just means that we need better accessibility tools to help us learn.

If gaming companies want to make accessible, inclusive games, they can create or test “easy-to-read” or beginner instructions or find ways to help ease navigation between different levels of a game by intellectually disabled gamers in the creative process. may benefit from inclusion. Gaming can build a community and reach people who feel lonely. Accessibility allows everyone to have fun.

This competition and other events in online gaming are essential to keeping the Special Olympics community connected and active over a difficult two years.

“Special Olympics has a long-standing partnership with Microsoft that has been incredibly valuable to the athletes and families of the Special Olympics movement,” said Priyanka Nandy, the organization’s chief information and technology officer. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, our main concern is the safety and health of our athletes, who are among the most vulnerable populations to an adverse or disastrous outcome from the virus. This has led to the cancellation and postponement of thousands of annual individual events and competitions – meaning our athletes have missed out on connections and opportunities to experience the joys of being with their teammates, coaches and friends. At this time, our goals are to raise awareness of the Special Olympics movement and the achievements, hopes and dreams of our incredible athletes, and to change attitudes towards people with intellectual disabilities within the gaming community, all while remembering that gaming is fun. and inclusive for all. “

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