Ubisoft and UTC work together to add a new dimension to video games

Students are adding a new dimension to video games playing for people with physical impairments through an interactive project with a leading international developer.

Learners at the new North East Futures University Technical College (UTC) in Newcastle, thought up solutions to support people who struggle to play electronic games.

They were briefed about developing playing aids for gamers who may have sight defects, hand mobility limitations, or other similar issues.

Around 140 students worked alongside experts from Ubisoft, a French-based video games developer which has a games development studio and the EMEA Consumer Relationship Centre in Newcastle.

Ubisoft is one of the core partners of NE Futures, which opened last September to deliver digital technology and health science skills to 14 to 19-year-olds.

The college aims to boost future workforce skills in the two sectors, which are seen as being vitally important to the region’s future economic success.

Sarah Hughes, Business Liaison Manager at NE Futures, which is based behind the Central Station, said: “This was a terrific project for our students to be part of.

“We do a lot of project based learning which steps outside of our set curriculum and allows students to take on many new and exciting learning challenges.

“Through this project, we were able to combine both the health science and digital technology elements of our provision.

“These are areas of increasing importance to the economic future of the North East – there are skills gaps which we are working to erase.

“Our students greatly benefited from having experts from Ubisoft on hand to support them throughout the project.

“It is just possible that one or two of the ideas they thought up for better accessibility for gaming, may be suited to future development.”

Darryn Robson, of Ubisoft, said: “Teams around Ubisoft have been considering different areas of accessibility for a few years now, it’s a priority that our games are accessible for everyone in the world.

“The students of the North East Futures UTC made judging this project incredibly hard for us. There was such a wide range of innovative ideas and high standard of work throughout.”

The four session Ubisoft Accessible Entertainment Core Project saw students divided into 26 teams and tasked with researching a specific area of interest around accessibility.

They spent the development sessions working with their tutors and gaining further guidance from Ubisoft’s experts.

Each then delivered a three-minute pitch about their initiative, with a final four teams selected from which a winner was picked.

First place went to team Iso Paizo, comprising Kate Milne, Nazarene Brightly, Daniel Cairns, Bianca Stoica and Sammi Miah.

The students designed a wearable bracelet or anklet, suitable during play, which sends vibrations to the player, signalling which body part they should move and in which direction.

Movement is primarily suggested by audio on the television or other output device.

Second place was team Able, consisting of Ryan Arbon, Rhys Hussey, Alishba Ulhaq, Charles Laverick, Peter Millett and Jade Fraser.

The team designed a multi-style controller which gives people the ability and opportunity to game no matter what their impairment.

Joint third place went to team Thunder Ducks, made up of Alexa Tait, Jack Liddle, Courtney Borland and Phoebe Ridley, and team Plus, comprising Sam Orton, Joseph Fell and Jack Thompson.

Team Thunder Ducks’ designed a fully personalised simple software application that allows people with muteness to communicate with other fully abled players, while team Plus made an app and online website designed to poll the users on the accessibility ratings for different video games for people with a range of disabilities.

A Special Contribution award went to team Colour Switched, made up of Carmen French, Collette Rimmer, Luke Scott and Daniel Holmes.

They developed software that can be built into the setting of any game to alter the colours so that people with colour deficiencies can enjoy gaming.