Racketboy Podcast #26 – The Able Gamers


Mark Barlet, Dr. Ben Hertz, and Steve Spohn of the Able Gamers


The Able Gamers have been working since 2004 to make a wider variety of games accessible to a wider variety of gamers. They do fascinating work, bringing together the gaming industry and gamers with disabilities, their families and friends, and an active and passionate community. In the interview they talk about their past, present, and future, share many interesting stories about how gamers with disabilities create innovative methods for enjoying modern and retro games, and shed light on how their mission has been received by various developers and publishers over the years. The Able Gamers operate as a non for profit advocacy group, and happily accept financial donations as well as contributions of time and other resources.

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Elvis says:

I’m not a disabled gamer, but I certainly relate with the comments about having a baby in the house and not being able to play loud games.

As a father of three, there was a 5+ year period where I simply couldn’t play video games. Either I was looking after awake babies, or I was tiptoeing around a house with sleeping babies.

Games that didn’t require audio cues to play were the only ones I could play. Likewise games that didn’t allow me to save at any time were not played, as at any time I had to get up and look after children and/or my wife during that period.

Games designed for people to be played loud and for long sessions (and when you have kids, a “long gaming session” can be 15 minutes some days) without saving were lost on me, and I simply didn’t buy them.

Other than that, the work Able Gamers are doing is amazing. Keep nagging the big studios guys, and bring the plight of less able gamers to the game devs of the world!

dsheinem says:

Thanks for the great feedback, Elvis! I agree what this group does is quite important and their work so far has been phenomenal. Interviewing them was an honor.

P.W.Royce says:

An excellent podcast on a subject that gets little airtime, and one that has grown increasingly near and dear to me. Like most mid 30s males, I grew up with console gaming, and play video games to this day. In my late 20s I developed a rare form of arthritis and began loosing the full use of my fingers. Needless to say this had a major impact on my gaming habits. I lost interest in FPS type games. I began to dislike games that didn’t let me remap the controls to easy to reach buttons. And I cursed the Sony employee that designed the dual-shock type controller.

For me, playing video games has always been akin to reading a book or watching a movie. Entertaining for sure, but requiring more manual dexterity. Try as I might I just couldn’t cut video games out of my diet entirely. As one’s physical abilities change, so goes ones taste in video games. The unlikely upshot of all this was my increased interest in older, simpler, video games.

Call it Retro-ADA-gaming therapy. Although as a shmups fan, my arthritic fingers still hurt like hell. Oh well.

These days I find that exploring sites like Raketboy as much fun as actually playing old games. So keep up the fine work on the great site, great pod casts, oh, and +1 for using the Zillion theme at the end of the episode. That really takes me back.

enwearz says:

Really great show Dave, this may be one of the best pieces you have ever done and that is saying something.

Great work on not only a great interview, but on bringing such a great cause to my attention.

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