NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS RISING STARS : concepts or ideas submitted by young talents (aged 30 or less)
gaming>in – Gaming for Inclusion
Full concept/idea title
gaming>in – Inclusion and Accessibility through Participation in Gaming and Creation Practices
gaming>in proposes a human-centered approach to the inclusion of people with Intellectual Disability, by involving them in the game creation process, through active interaction, feedback, and playtesting. This approach aims to provide a recreational and aesthetic experience for pwID, independent of any clinical purposes, as a pathway for new practices that consider their accessibility needs, interests, cultural representations, and expressions, building a shared sense of ownership on gaming.
Where is your concept/idea being developed or intended to be implemented in the EU?
Lusófona University - Campo Grande, 376
II. DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT
Please provide a summary of your concept/ idea
Full accessibility and participation in creative processes have been increasingly seen as a strategy to bridge the digital divide for individuals with specific needs, such as people with Intellectual Disability (pwID). Nevertheless, in the field of games, approaches are mainly framed in medical perspectives, linked to the notion of assistive technology, neglecting a sociocultural and aesthetic view of digital media [1,2]. Changing the paradigm of approaching the relationship between digital media and Intellectual Disability, from therapy to co-creation, can be a very relevant step in the path for media participation and, ultimately, social inclusion of these individuals.
gaming>in aims to develop accessible games for pwID, by involving them in the creation process, through constant and active interaction, feedback, and playtesting, providing a recreational and aesthetic experience, independent of any therapeutic purposes. Considering the interests and perceived needs of pwID, game development students create digital games with specific controllers, to be openly disseminated online. As a multistakeholder approach, institutions in the field and caregivers are also involved in the process of game design and development.
Started in 2020/2021, as an exploratory approach, gaming>in already resulted in the development of ten digital games and controllers, now in finalization phase, but intends to result in a wider art-driven and aesthetic approach to inclusion, that produces tangible products but also validates the relevance of participatory and representative approaches in this field.
The planned actions and the insights from the already developed ones indicate that more than games, the inclusion in the creation process can be the key for empowerment, consolidating a pathway for new practices that consider the accessibility needs of pwID, but also their aesthetic interests, cultural representations, and expressions, to build a shared sense of ownership on gaming.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of sustainability and how these would be met
gaming>in has two pillar goals in terms of sustainability – the contribution of this approach to sustainability at a macro-level, and the project internal sustainability that supports durable impacts.
First, the current highly mediated and digitized world requires its citizens a broad range of so-called 21st-century skills to succeed, both in terms of civic engagement and professional development. Since digital accessibility is still a major issue, pwID seems to have fewer opportunities to develop such skills, which reinforces exclusion and discourages participation. Through games, gaming>in intends to foster digital literacies in an adapted and engaging manner, aiming to contribute to the cognitive, social, and economical development of pwID. Moreover, the developed games will have different co-created themes and narrative framings that can address issues related to sustainability (e.g. one of the games in an early stage of development is about environmental sustainability).
More than creating games, it intends to create a set of principles and practices for inclusion and accessibility in the creative processes that can be adopted in other fields and creative industries, supporting long-term sustainability and impact.
Second, gaming>in intends to develop the proposed approach through an active engagement between academia and civic society. By having university students involved in the creation process, the project also intends to advance their inclusion and accessibility-related skills in the game development process, training more conscious game artists that can multiply the proposed approach in the future.
Sustainability will also be linked to the open online dissemination of the created games (under Creative Commons), as well as the plans for the controllers, that can allow any individual that can access a FabLab to produce them. Thus, the games can serve society in a broader manner and be the base for remixes and creative products of others.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these would be met
The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2020-2024) clearly states that “digital technologies must be human-centered”. Nevertheless, this human-centered approach is frequently planned considering the needs of the end-users, as perceived by the developers, which inherently excludes individual’s aesthetic and experience preferences. To fully comply with this premise, gaming>in intends to propose a human-centered model where the needs and preferences of the end-users are included as perceived by themselves, fostering their self-determination. By considering pwID as agents of change within the game creation process, the games will become a product of their own culture, built upon their aesthetic preferences and accessibility needs.
Moreover, gaming>in also aims to achieve quality of experience in games by having the end-users participating in all the phases of the creation process, alongside the professionals that work in the field of Intellectual Disability, and their caregivers. This will allow the matching between all the stakeholders’ expectations, with an emphasis on the ones from pwID, while addressing and incorporating their cognitive and motor accessibility needs.
Most specifically regarding aesthetics, gaming>in intends to democratize the classical aesthetics of digital games, which are usually simple and engaging (e. g. pixel art and/or arcade), to a population that tends to be only familiarized with assistive technologies, that typically privileges function above fantasy-driven aesthetic.
The development of controllers adapted to each game follows both an experience and an aesthetic purpose. It addresses very specific motor and cognitive needs that frequently appear in the target audience (like in individuals with cerebral palsy) but also develops a tangible component of games, which transcend the barriers of the created digital world and allow aesthetic coherence with the material world.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of inclusion and how these would be been met
gaming>in aims to bridge the digital divide and foster the inclusion of pwID, giving this population a voice in the creative process, through the co-creation of accessible digital games. To achieve such goal, the project arises from a collective consciousness that games are also inclusion vehicles and a form of activism, while critically approaches them also as potential forms of exclusion. This consciousness enables a participatory model to the inclusion of pwID as rightful members of the gaming community, with specific motor and cognitive accessibility needs, but also aesthetic preferences and cultural expressions. gaming>in intends to pursue a set of goals, aligned with the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Therefore, it mainly intends to foster the reduction of inequalities, through empowerment (Goal 10), but also can be seen as supporting responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making processes (Goal 16), in a crucial field for an increasingly digital world.
The idea that the voices of pwID must be heard also in the field of media production and creative industries reflects the general principles of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Most specifically, regarding autonomy, self-determination, and the right of pwID to decide about every aspect of their own life (princ. a); full inclusion and participation in society (princ. c); and the right to accessibility (princ. f). Moreover, gaming>in is built upon an intersectional foundation, being developed with the notion that discrimination can be multiplied, generating several layers of exclusion. Thus, it also aims to create games that, beyond accessibility, represent different bodies, lives, and realities, distinct but equally rightful of inclusion in creative processes. The developed games intend to be engaging and aesthetically appealing not only for pwID but for everyone, with the advantage of being representative and accessible.
Please explain the innovative character of your concept/ idea
Digital games communicate differently than other forms of media because they can stimulate direct experience and participation, being effective vehicles of meanings and values. In the last few years, these characteristics have supported the consolidation of the role of games in the achievement of clinical or educational outcomes.
Considering this, for people with more specific needs, as pwID in this case, game practices are mainly framed in a therapeutic picture of “care” and “assistance” – a remediative view frequently labeled as assistive technologies and “serious” games. Although it is important to acknowledge this type of role for media and technology, specifically for games, it is also crucial to develop a more inclusive view that critically approaches the right of such populations to also access their aesthetic and cultural elements.
Therefore, gaming>in offers an inclusive, innovative, integrated, sustainable, and participative model to approach game development, through a human-centered framework that challenges the current mainstream industry practices, making games accessible for pwID as a digital technology, and mainly as a cultural and aesthetic practice. Consequently, the project intends to foster an art-driven and participation-driven framework for games accessibility, that supports an approach to the digital divide that goes beyond the traditional non-participatory and medical models of assistive technologies.
This approach is seen as an important contribution to a New European Bauhaus, since it empowers a community with very specific needs, through the mobilization of a set of cultural, artistic, and technological processes that usually are inaccessible for them. By effectively achieving this, gaming and game creation practices can become less restricted to neurotypical individuals, and more co-constructed by everyone, through inclusive and equalitarian frameworks.
Please detail the plans you have for the further development, promotion and/or implementation of your concept/idea, with a particular attention to the initiatives to be taken before May 2022
gaming>in is developed with the support of the bachelor’s degree in Videogames of Lusófona University and CICANT – Centre for Research in Applied Communication, Culture, and New Technologies. Through these institutions, the project established a partnership with Humanitas (https://humanitas.org.pt/) – a NGO that associates more than 40 institutions in the field, representing around 6000 pwID. Other partnerships in the field of pwID include CERCITOP (http://www.cercitop.org/) and APADP (http://apadp.pt/).
In the next year, gaming>in intends to launch online around 16 digital games to be accessed by pwID, professionals, caregivers, or anyone interested in playing. To achieve this, the project will follow the below plan/activities:
- 03/2021 -.01/2022: Development and co-creation of the 2nd set of games.
- 06/2021 - 12/2021: Final playtesting and adjustments of the 1st set of games.
- 09/2021 - 12/2021: Development and launching of gaming>in website.
- 12/2021 - 01/2022: Online launching of the 1st set of games.
- 01/2022 - 03/2022: Final playtesting and adjustments of the 2nd set of games.
- 04/2022 - 05/2022: Online launching of the 2nd set of games.
The project intends to repeat the creative cycle every school year. All the activities and the overall involvement of pwID will be supported by this partners. Training and dissemination will be promoted in partnership with Humanitas, to foster the use of the games in the daily lives of pwID. In terms of dissemination, this concept already resulted in a publication in International Journal of Film and Media Arts, and will be presented in the next International Association for Media and Communication Research.
 Sousa, C. (2020). Empowerment and ownership in intellectual disability gaming. International Journal of Film and Media Arts, 5(1), 14-23.
 Wästerfors, D. & Hansson, K. (2017). Taking ownership of gaming and disability. Journal of Youth Studies, 20(9), 1143-1160.
III. UPLOAD PICTURES
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that the proposed concept/idea has not been proposed for the New European Bauhaus Rising Stars Awards more than once in the same category.
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