You hear a steady beeping sound. In the distance, you can hear murmured voices. One of the voices sounds familiar it’s your mother while the other one you don’t recognize. You open your eyes and are immediately blinded by how bright the lights are. There is a sterile smell as you blink and adjust to the light. You try to turn your head and that’s when you realize something isn’t right. You try to lift your arm and nothing happens. You begin to panic not knowing or understanding what has happened. Your eyes dart around frantically trying to gather as much information about your surroundings as you possibly can. They seem to be the only thing left that will listen to you when you tell them to move. That is when your mom appears on the side of the bed with tears in her eyes she tells the doctor she thinks you are awake now. You can see her hand on top of yours you feel nothing the doctor walks over to shine a penlight in your eyes as he watches them. He tells you to follow the light and you do. He tells you to blink once if you can hear his voice and you do. He looks at your mother and that is when they tell you, you’ve had an accident. You try to think back to the last thing that you can remember. It was a normal morning commute to work. You were already going over the first task of the day in your head imagining what AFK RuneScape skill you would be working on your second screen. That’s the last thing you remember. You keep desperately trying to make sounds and talk but nothing will come out. That is when the doctor tells you that you have been in an accident and are completely paralyzed he tells you at this point all they can do is ask you, yes or no questions, you are asked to blink once for yes and twice for no. The only sign of the inner turmoil and panic you’re feeling are the tears that trickle from your eyes. The doctor asks if you’re in any pain and you blink twice. He then goes on to tell you the prognosis is not good, people with these kinds of injuries typically don’t recover their mobility. He tells you all we can do is wait and see, and hope you get better. He tells you the number one priority right now is to find a way to allow you to communicate. The doctor says he has heard about a technology that might be able to help you but the hospital does not have it and it is very expensive. The doctor tells you that he will do everything he can though to try to help you as he turns around and walks out of the room giving you and your mother time together.
As the doctor passes the nurse’s station on the way to the elevator the registered nurse (RN) on duty asks how the patient in room 402 is doing. He tells her, he’s completely paralyzed it doesn’t look very good for his recovery. He’s going to need a lot of care and right now, I have to find a way for him to be able to communicate with us. We are restricted to yes/no questions right now and it’s hard for me to assess his cognitive function. That is when the nurse perks up and the doctor can see she has an idea, she tells the doctor that her daughter is a gamer and is helping a charity raise money for disabled gamers. Of course, the doctor replied with, “What is a gamer?”. The nurse laughs and says it someone that plays video games. The nurse tells the doctor that the special weekend fundraiser it’s called GameBlast and her daughter told her all about it. The charity called SpecialEffect and they modify all kinds of devices to help people play video games again. One of the most interesting technologies her daughter told her about is called Star Gaze. The nurse suggests to the doctor that he contact the charity and see if there is anything they can do to help the patient in room 402. The nurse says the way she understands it, Star Gaze is a project that helps bring eye-tracking technology to people in emergencies. The doctor smiles at the nurse and says what would I do without you I will get a hold of them right away.
The next morning the doctor begins researching SpecialEffect and finds their contact information. He quickly contacts them and is immediately put in touch with a representative. He describes the situation and to his relief, the representative from SpecialEffect believes they can help. The representative tells him they will be heading out as soon as possible and should be there by the next day. The doctor heads straight to room 402 to deliver the good news. Your mother bursts into tears and while there is no sign on your face of your relief and gratitude, everyone shares a smile like it is known.
When the SpecialEffect team arrives, they begin work right away hooking up monitors and fitting the eye-tracking technology over your eye. You begin simply by just trying to move the mouse pointer. Low and behold it works they teach you how to blink to click the mouse and how to move around the screen as easily as possible they bring up a virtual keyboard on the screen and you begin to type ‘thank you’. The team tells you that in the future you will be able to even add a voice that can speak for you and even one day play video games. This is something you never thought you would ever be able to do again; of course, the only game you are interested in at the moment is getting back on RuneScape. Lucky for you the simple point-and-click mechanic of RuneScape makes it a great fit for this kind of technology. Of course, before any of that can happen the doctor comes in with his myriad of questions for you. All and all it has been a truly blessed day. One in which you have been given some of your communication back and some independence.
This may be a fictional story, but it’s all too real for many people around the world that find themselves in that situation. The Star Gaze project helps SpecialEffect bring eye-tracking technology to people in emergencies that need it the most. It can open doors and give people some degree of independence that they would otherwise not have. The experts at SpecialEffect are some of the most knowledgeable people in the field of eye-tracking control. The work that they do changes lives. This is just one-way SpecialEffect helps people. Through their work helping people with physical disabilities have the ability to play video games again, they have been able to provide this technology. The benefits far outreach just the people they’ve helped though. Large companies like Microsoft have also solicited their expert advice in developing more accessible gaming devices. The Microsoft accessible controller is a direct result of Microsoft consulting with SpecialEffect and other experts in the field.
The impact of SpecialEffect on someone’s life is incalculable. I could share with you testimonials from the people that they have helped. I can show you people that suffer from cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and a host of other physical disabilities that they have helped. However, I think is important for all of us to think about what it would be like if we were in this situation. How grateful would we be that an organization like SpecialEffect exists and helped us? I want everyone to take a moment and think about how it would feel if you were in that situation. Now I want everyone to realize the things that are good for disabled gamers are good for everyone, you don’t have to be a gamer to benefit from the Star Gaze project. You don’t have to be a client of SpecialEffect to be able to use Microsoft’s accessible controller. The work they do far exceeds their original mission.
Gameblast 20 Takes place from February 21-23. This is an event where gamers from all over the world come together and raise money for SpecialEffect. This year RSB and B is also getting into the action. I will be hosting a stream on February 22 from 2-5:00 p.m. EST to raise money for SpecialEffect. You can visit our just giving page and you can check out how the team is doing here. The team is called the United Communities of RuneScape and you may even see some familiar faces that have signed up to help! If you know me, you know this cause is close to my heart, I use assistive technology to play RuneScape every day and I cannot imagine my life without it. Please come out and help the RSBandB community raise some money this weekend for a truly deserving cause. I will see you there and of course, Happy RuneScaping.