Meet Nigel Robb, an ASSISTID Fellow who is researching “Inclusive gaming for children with ID to increase positive attitudes”. Nigel, who has a background in Software Development and Philosophy from Queen’s University in Belfast, is developing an online gaming environment for a shared experience between typical children and children with mild, moderate and severe ID, with the involvement of children from all groups in the design process. Nigel will be based in the SMARTlab in University College Dublin where he will collaborate with Professor Lizbeth Goodman and her interdisciplinary inclusive design team, with a secondment at Michigan State University. We asked Nigel a few questions about his research.
1) Can you tell us simply, in 3 sentences what your research is about?
My research is about video games and social inclusion. By working with children with intellectual disabilities, I will create adaptive multiplayer games where children with ID and typically developing children can play together. The aims are to promote diversity in gaming and to change people’s attitudes towards disability.
2) Why should we be interested in this issue?
We should be interested in this because gaming is so popular – most children want to play video games. But unfortunately, video games are not often designed to accommodate people with intellectual disabilities, particularly moderate and severe ID. This means that children with ID are missing out on something that their peers take for granted.
3) What does it mean to your research career to be an ASSISTID Marie Curie Fellow?
It means so much, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity. The ASSISTID fellowships are, I think, unique in the way they encourage researchers to transcend individual disciplines. This means that they are perfect for someone like me, with a background in game design, philosophy, software engineering and illustration. I think this multi-disciplinary approach is very important, especially in the field of assistive technology, and the opportunity to build networks across disciplines is invaluable.
4) What do you hope the impact of your work will be?
I hope that my work will demonstrate that video games can be designed in a way that makes them universal, so that everyone can play together. I also hope to show how the stories we tell through games can influence people’s attitudes and potentially lead to real social change.
5) What is the most frequently asked question which people ask you about your work?
‘But aren’t video games bad for you?’ The truth is that there is increasing evidence that games are actually very good for you; they’re cognitively demanding, social experiences, and the best games embody excellent learning principles. Of course, there are some games with unpleasant content, but the same is true of films and literature, yet we don’t condemn all films or books on the basis of a few bad ones.
6) Tell us something which might surprise us?
I used to be a postman, but then decided to go to university as a mature student to study philosophy.