I’ve been using Atlas Games’s Once Upon a Time in my speech-language therapy for years.

Once Upon a Time, the card game

Every player is dealt cards with story elements (see also, Burke’s Dramatistic Pentad for an arrangement of these cards by story function), as well as an ending card. Players narrate a story that is constrained by the cards that were randomly dealt to their hand, and win the game by playing their ending (which has to make sense in the context of what has come before).

It would be easy, except that players take turns constructing the story and everyone has different endings they are trying to achieve.

I love this game for a number of reasons. It’s great for teaching story grammar (obviously), but there is also a strong executive function element to it in that you have to plan your moves ahead if your ending is going to make sense. Lately, one of my students has been using it to elicit connected speech from a young client who is working on generalizing speech artic. therapy into conversation. You have to talk a lot to play this game.

Here are some other game-based therapy activities:

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Hans Smith

January 30, 2011

Kotaku reports on Hans Smith, the virtual athlete who is responsible for the Disabled Virtual Athlete Mode in MLB 11 The Show.

Hans Smith

Hans Smith, virtual athlete

Accessible Video Games

January 29, 2011

I’m so happy that some game developers are thinking about making their controls and gameplay modes customizable, because this is what is needed in order to adapt controllers for gamers with disabilities.

Hardcore gamers also frequently ask for customizable controls (hardcore gamers are a notoriously difficult demographic to please). You can accommodate disabled gamers by doing the very thing that the most abled gamers want anyway! It’s a win across the board.

What makes the games in this post exceptional is that they are both console games, not PC games. Video game consoles are traditionally very limited in their flexibility, and unlike a PC, cannot run the user’s custom software to assist with accessibility.

MLB 11 custom Dualshock controller

Two examples listed below.

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A spot on Attack of the Show about designing game controllers for people with disabilities brought the Wii Assist team at University of Delaware to my attention.


University of Delawarehttp://vimeo.com/6365551

Games make a difference

August 2, 2010

Jane McGonigal has created a game called SuperBetter, which turns the rehabilitation process into a game.

SuperBetter covers an area on the play graph straddling pretend play and games with rules, with a similar footprint to Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft except a little to the left (the pretend setting is self-directed), and larger footprint vertically (the gameplay is highly emergent from real-world experiences, pushing it lower, and it’s goals exist in the real-world and are quite serious, pushing its upper border upwards).

Note to self, perhaps I need a better vocabulary for talking about this.

Anyway, here is Jane talking about the origins of SuperBetter briefly:

and a longer video of her TED talk on the origin and purpose of her “serious” games.

Types of Play

March 24, 2010

Lazzaro’s 4 Types of Fun corresponds well to the constructivists’ theories of development (Piaget; Bruner) as well as the literature on play development (Singer & Singer; Garvey; Fein). The Y-axis here owes a lot to cognitive psychologist Robbie Case.

Model for the types of play based on two factors: symbolism and goals


Can we teach computers to co-construct in the way that people do? MIT Media Lab think so.

Playstation 3 controller

November 11, 2008

This is the sort of thing that exemplifies why I started a blog.

Kotaku reported on a homebrew PS3 controller for a gamer who has a disability.

Here is the inventor/user’s (KitsuneNoYume) post on the Playstation forums. KitsuneNoYume uses 16 switches simultaneously. These are all wired to a circuit board culled from a Playstation controller.

The device was designed by KitsuneNoYume himself and assembled by Mark Felling of GimpGear.

This rig runs a Playstation 3

This rig runs a Playstation 3

The whole rig in use

The whole rig in use

Adapted controllers for video games. That’s new, right?

Not really, check out this 1989 ad for a controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

NES Hands Free Controller

NES Hands Free Controller

Chin joystick with sip and puff for A, B, Select, and Start. I’ve seen one of these in real life used by probably the most hardcore Tetris player I’ve ever met.

Funny that Nintendo hasn’t used their new-found interest in unconventional controllers to make the Wii more accessible.

Blurry lines 3

October 10, 2008



Are these children playing football, or pretending to play football?

Nicole Lazzaro is a game designer and founder/CEO of XEODesign. This is a research firm that tests video games (electronic interactive entertainment is the term they use) for player experience.

Unfortunately, her research isn’t published anywhere. And while I appreciate that there is much better money to be made in mercenary science than in academic publishing, it sounds like she is working on the same sorts of things that I’ve been thinking about with play design so I wish I could read it. (I also wonder if she’s hiring.)

Specifically, she has a conceptual model for “4 Types of Fun” and a way of categorizing games more precisely than Piaget. Read on for the model…

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