Videogaming is escapism for millions of people but for the disabled it is a vital social link – and an opportunity to compete as an equal.
George Dowell is no stranger to competing, having played football semi-professionally before a car accident in Arundel Road, in 2010, left him paralysed from the chest down aged 17.
He did not let it stop him achieving his dreams, buying his beloved Worthing Football Club and seeing them promoted to the Bostik Premier League under his tenure as chairman.
And now, thanks to the 25-year-old’s advice, a new disabled-friendly handset has been released by Microsoft.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller has larger buttons which can be programmed to suit the player’s needs, and the capacity to plug in their own joysticks and triggers.
George said: “I can’t play football anymore but the next best thing is to beat my friends at Fifa. It gave me a reason to be competitive again after my accident.”
After staying at Salisbury Hospital’s spinal unit for ten months, where he was rehabilitated for a broken neck and spinal cord, George wanted to get back into gaming.
Able to move his arms and wrists, but not his hands, he approached the SpecialEffect charity, which builds modified controls, to make a modified arcade stick which he could plug buttons into.
Through the charity, George was chosen to trial Microsoft’s new controller, with the team visiting his house, in Cote Street, High Salvington, and setting up the prototypes.
He said: “They have thought of everything. They even showed me packaging ideas so a disabled person could open the box without any help. It is brilliant they are making it possible for more people to game.”
He said gaming ‘takes you into a world where you can compete on a level playing field’.
He said: “As long as you are good at the game, they will give you their respect.”