Let’s face it, Mario has played a part in pretty much every gamer’s life one way or another and there’s nothing like the adrenalin rush of hurtling past a friend, sibling or sworn enemy on the finish line for a fist-pumping Mario Kart victory.
This week we’re featuring three fantastic children with cerebral palsy who are now enjoying that same buzz after our specialist assessment team unlocked ways for them to play Mario Kart independently on the Nintendo Switch for the very first time. Arlo, Tomás and Alyssa are all racing with adapted gaming controller setups that include a joystick and two button switches but, as we’ll discover, there’s far more involved in the selection of the equipment than meets the eye.
Arlo leads with his left
Arlo’s smile says it all in this picture! His mum got in touch with us earlier this year as she knew her son might benefit from enjoying the fun of video games, but his cerebral palsy was limiting his ability to use a standard games controller.
Our therapists Nomi and Jacob spoke to his parents via a video call assessment and together they explored which combination of accessible gaming equipment might best match his abilities. The team suggested that a large joystick could be the best way to make the most of the extra voluntary movement he has in his left arm and hand, leaving his right hand free to hit two carefully positioned button switches. He was better at pressing switches than holding them, so our team recommended using the auto-accelerate function to make gaming as easy as possible.
The setup, along with connection equipment and a suitable mounting tray, was sent as a loan to the family and it absolutely made our week when we received this message from his mum a few days later:
“I need to show you Arlo’s face when he tried the equipment for the first time. He literally just grabbed it and knew what to do straight away. He’s so happy, we can’t thank you enough. We are very emotional at how happy he is. Thank you for making this possible.”
Tomás uses his head
Tomás’s cerebral palsy affects his co-ordination and although he does have some control of his arms, he has good voluntary head movement. Our team brought this into play with a loan following an online assessment and remote support at the end of last year.
Now he’s able to fight hard for pole position in Mario Kart using two head-operated switches for accelerating and throwing items, along with a chin-controlled joystick for steering. It’s a setup that’s currently maximising his physical abilities – absolutely essential for Tomás as the sibling racing rivalry is intense!
That competitiveness has recently been notched up another level. Our lifetime support means we’ve been able to loan Tomás an alternative adaptor system for his setup that enables him to play FIFA with his brothers on the PS5 they were gifted at Christmas, so the gaming pressure is piling on!
Below: Tomás battles with his brothers. His chin joystick and his blue and yellow head-operated switches are circled.
Alyssa’s joystick match
Like Arlo and Tomás, Alyssa has cerebral palsy and finds the controls on the Nintendo Switch joycon too difficult to use. Her dad had set up autosteering in Mario Kart but she wasn’t able to accelerate on her own or use a button to throw items.
Our team talked with Alyssa and her family via a video call assessment and discovered that she uses a certain shape of joystick to control her powered wheelchair. They chose a gaming joystick from our extensive loan library that replicated it as closely as possible to form the basis of an adapted setup and suggested she used her other hand to hit the two large button switches, which were mapped to throw items and accelerate.
It’s a loan setup that’s working out really well, and we’re so pleased to hear that our considered choice of joystick has helped Alyssa make such a smooth driving transition from wheelchair to kart, minimising the risk of frustration at the very beginning of her independent gaming. The joystick, like every element of every setup that our team recommend, was chosen with care and experience to give Alyssa the greatest opportunity to bring out the very best in herself.
Below: It’s the detail that counts: Alyssa and Arlo’s setups may appear similar, but the choice of each component is based on their very specific individual abilities.
Recently there’s been even more fun and adventure in Alyssa’s gaming mix. After speaking to her parents about potential ways that might widen her gaming experience, we’ve added the loan of a Titan-connected Switch controller for co-pilot gaming. Now she’s getting involved in games she could previously only watch her brother play! Go Alyssa!
Celebrating the differences
It’s been a joy to welcome Arlo, Tomás and Alyssa to the world of independent and inclusive gaming through games like Mario Kart, and we’re already hearing about how they’re all exploring other titles that can be used with their controller setups. Because of our help, the three gamers use very different techniques to master their joystick and two buttons, highlighting the importance of our commitment to finding the very best way for the abilities of each of them to shine through as brightly as possible. And what’s more, like so many of us, they’ll now be able to say, “Yeah, I started out by playing Mario…”