The Queen of Code campaign is currently under way Creative England have partnered with Crowdfunder to give female game developers the opportunity to raise funds.
Jessika Wiper intends to develop games for people with disabilities. Her current focus is to design a game that’s accessible to people with Cerebral Palsy and the funding she hopes to raise via her Queen of Code campaign will go towards play testing equipment. We caught up with Jessika to find out more…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in developing games…
Game design allows me to take all the different things I love and combine them into one big, fuzzy ball of creative goodness! I’ve always wanted to do something that involves art and English language as these have always been my strongest subjects. I’m constantly scribbling down short stories of my experiences or taking photos of things that inspire me for environment designs. Games are expressive, and designing a work of art with all of the things that I love in life seems to be the right place for my choice in career.
Your Queen of Code project game is very unique, how would you describe it?
My project was mainly inspired by my sister, Joe (Below Left), who has Cerebral Palsy. As I grew up, playing on consoles and games was always a challenge for her as her condition affects her left arm which is completely immobile. I have experienced the challenges faced for people with disabilities in the complicated realms of computer games first hand. It is heartbreaking to see someone you love feel restricted by their physical movement; even worse for them to not be able to enjoy what is considered an entertaining pastime that many of us take for granted. This is what inspired me to want to create a game for people with disabilities, so that my sister can see what she is capable of with the right design elements and technology.
How difficult has it been to develop a game for people with disabilities?
It’s very easy to make games accessible, as long as these features are implemented early and tested throughout development. Simplistic user Interface design, re-mappable keys, adjustable difficulty settings and game assists can make a huge difference to people with disabilities. Controls are also a very important aspect to test and study to make sure the game is balanced for both audiences, so that there are no advantages for a player who might have access to more of these keys/controls in comparison to somebody who may not be able to reach those keys due to a physical condition. There are a lot of games that implement settings that can be adjusted for people who need them without the features being noticeable to those who don’t need them, but rewarding for the people who do.
You’re conducting research as well as developing games. What do you hope to learn from this research?
I mainly want to make a difference to the people who might have never played a game properly before – to me, the idea is mad! I love games and wish to share this love with other people, so that they can be entertained by something I have created. From this research, I will be able to determine what features will make my game accessible and learn more about the issues that people with disabilities encounter during gaming. I will work at solving and overcoming these issues in my development in the aim to build a game which will be playable by everybody.
What do you hope to achieve with the funding you raise?
The funding will pay for equipment I need for individuals who have agreed to play test with me in January. Play testing is a vital and valuable piece of research to determine successful results in achieving the highest possible usability, which creates an easily playable game for all audiences. I am also currently looking at the benefits of virtual reality and wish to get a hold of an Oculus Rift – it will be interesting to see where these advances in technology will go, and how well they will adapt to the wider audiences of people with disabilities.
What are your thoughts on the current games market and what it offers people with disabilities? Do you feel more needs to be done?
New releases such as Farcry 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition have brilliant accessibility features so I think this is something that continues to be tackled. Innovative ideas are always emerging that really make a difference to the less-abled player – I especially love how you can slide down mountains in Farcry 4 instead of falling to your death. That design element applies to everyone and it’s amazing that such a simple tweak to the terrain suddenly transforms it into this incredibly fun environment, and it’s a lot less frustrating too. Innovative ideas like that are what keep this industry moving.
What made you want to apply for our Queen of Code programme?
Queen of Code came around at just the right time for me, I had been battling with pushing the subject through Ethics at University and acquiring equipment for testing had turned out to be incredibly tough. The idea at first was a little unnerving as I’m an individual and a lot of the people who applied are involved are in teams, but so far I’ve received a huge amount of support and it’s driven a lot of feedback from people. It’s so nice to know that people support this project and have pledged a donation towards it! I like what Queen of Code is doing too, the idea of raising awareness of female games developers is very appealing, I feel honoured to have been part of it all!
Where would you like to see your game in 12 months time?
Technology is always adapting and evolving – breakthroughs in the world of virtual reality have dramatically changed the direction that game designers will go. I think it would be interesting to see the benefits that these immersive environments will have on people, and would love to design something in that element with the same questions applied – How can we make this more accessible and enjoyable to somebody with a severe disability? Wherever my game development goes, I hope to see it inspire others to reach out to this wider audience of people through the power and magic of design!
And finally, why should people contribute to your Crowdfunder campaign?
Even just the smallest pledges will make all the difference in this. All of the money raised will go towards equipment and technology for somebody with a disability to be able to play computer games. As a lot of this is specially adapted to fit their needs, much of it is expensive and out of my budget. With the equipment available today, the possibilities are endless, I hope that this project also raises awareness and encourages more designers to design with disabilities in mind.
Support Designing with disabilities in mind by pledging on their #QueenofCode campaign: