Sometimes nothing beats meeting in person!

Monday, October 9th, 2023

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Over the past 16 years, SpecialEffect has built up a network of supporters and collaborators across the global games industry, who are all committed to helping make the world of video games more accessible for people with disabilities. From indies and start-ups to some of the biggest names in the business, we’re always happy to share our knowledge and solutions, share new ideas and hear about the latest innovations others are developing to overcome some of the challenges facing players with additional control challenges.

Much of this work takes place online, through email, video-calls and sharing resources like our accessibility DevKit. However, sometimes nothing beats meeting in person, which is why at the end of August this year, Dr Mick, Nick, Tom and Liz packed their bags and jetted-off for a whistle-stop tour of some of our games industry friends in the USA and Canada.

Four people in an airport holding SpecialEffect, US and Canadian flags

Above: Tom, Liz, Nick and Dr Mick at Heathrow ahead of departure

The first part of the trip was focussed on the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Seattle. Here the team were given the opportunity to update SpecialEffect VP Aaron Greenburg and the Xbox global marketing team on the amazing support shown by partner studios and individual staff over the past 12 months, through events and activations like British Racing Greats, One Big Game and One Special Day. We also had time to demo our EyeMine interface, much to the amazement of staff who’d never played Minecraft using their eyes before!

Seven smiling people holding a SpecialEffect flag

Above: Jenn Panattoni and Aaron Greenburg pictured with the team, following the Marketing Huddle presentation and Eyemine demo at Xbox.

Our next visit was to Turn 10 Studios, where we were fortunate enough to catch up with SpecialEffect VP Alan Hartman, along with members of their accessibility dev team, for a demo and discussion of the brilliant new features players with disabilities can look forward to in Forza Motorsport 8. The final stop on this leg of the journey was to the Inclusive Tech Lab, who we’d previously collaborated with on the Xbox Adaptive Controller, for a knowledge sharing session with Bryce Johnson and his team. SpecialEffect ambassador Jenn Panattoni also deserves a special mention for being a brilliant host while we were in town!

Four smiling people holding a flag in front of a racing car.

Above: SpecialEffect VP Alan Hartman pictured with the team (and his Ford GT) at Turn 10 Studios

Dr Mick and Liz then headed back to the UK, while Tom and Nick boarded a train and headed-up to Vancouver for the XDS Conference. XDS have championed the work of SpecialEffect for several years now, so it was fantastic to finally attend the event in real life! We made the most of the chance to call in on some new friends of the charity, including a couple of great ‘get to know you’ meetings with Timbre Games and The Coalition Studio. It was also the perfect opportunity to make a return to EA Sports for the first time since 2018 and enjoy some of the ‘pre-match’ excitement ahead of the launch of EA FC!

Two images of three people holding a flag in a sports and office environment

Above left: Tom and Nick pictured with Wendell Harlow, Community Relations Manager, and (above right) David Jackson, VP of Brand, during their visit to EA Sports

All in all it was an intense, but very productive, week away: reconnecting with so many important friends of the charity whilst also forging new relationships which will hopefully lead to great things in the future. Huge thanks to everyone who hosted us for being so generous with their time and continuing to support our work!