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The new Inclusive GameWerks is making pinball accessible and inclusive for those with disabilities. Their patent pending inclusive controller for pinball machines is helping create accessible game rooms in CO and across the country.
TWIP got a chance to interview the group behind Inclusive GameWerks:
TWIP: Where did the idea come from to create an accessible controller for pinball machines?
[Inclusive GameWerks]: Our team is made of a bunch of friends from the craft beer world. Zack and Alysha, Erin and Joe, and Dean and Cheryl. Zack is in a chair with a form of Muscular Dystrophy. Four of the six founders have pinball machines in our basements. Erin and I routed some machines into local breweries. Zack owns one of those breweries that we had a cabinet in Denver, and he’s our neighbor. The idea came up after some rumbling over some beers one night in our basement. It came to light that it wasn’t so much an issue that Zack couldn’t play Deadpool, he can’t get his hands around the machine; but when we played with his wife and kids he was left alone to do nothing for that time being. It occurred to me about 2:30am with a waking thought that it was possible, and we knew the people that could make it so.
TWIP: How did you go about getting the controller designed and built? Who is involved in the process?
[Inclusive GameWerks]: There are 6 co-founders. We all have design and directional input. We went over lag, button suppression strength, form of the controller and size of the buttons, in several meetings over beer and pinball. We bent plexiglass for a dozen prototypes and may have suffered a small shock here and there. The cool part is that we’re not done yet. In fact we’re working on customization for more than a few people. That’s part of the inclusive nature of our idea. If you’d like to play pinball, we’d like to help. We sought out designers with patent expertise. We created a base model. Then we broke the process up, and went with lawyers that know patents and designers that do just that. The patent application took several months. It took the wind out of our sails, that’s for sure. Having something cool and not being able to share it. Also, we were under a time restraint to spend the grant money within the year. So there was some pressure there. A friend of ours is a designer with the right equipment for us to scale in size through demand. Tom at 5280 Makers. He’s killing it for us.
TWIP: If a location or individual is interested in an accessible game room how do they go about getting that to happen? What options are available to someone with disabilities?
[Inclusive GameWerks]: So far we’ve successfully installed on five different manufacturers, as far back as twenty years. We’re working on opto board driven options as we’ve had several requests, including through Project Pinball. We’ve had immediate and numerous requests for a chin driven joystick which we’re stoked to be close on it and a sip and puff option. All in the works. And who wouldn’t want to play Big Lebowski, World Cup Soccer or a Junkyard? We have our standard model in stock. It can hook into any current EOS. From the controller we can launch the ball, use the flippers and even have an action button. We’re working on a nudge button for a shaker motor too. That will be fun! Just reach out to us so we can start the conversation. We’re realizing for the most part that this is a personal, and one on one discovery versus any standard transaction. From abilities to even colors.
It was also very important for the six of us that this didn’t dominate the machine as an either or option. Our controller clicks in and out through a plug and allows the people using it to be next in line. Recently we had an awesome night playing Maiden with our friend with one hand and Zack was second and our friend that is able bodied and very good at pin playing 3rd, at the same time. As it should be.
TWIP: Tell me more about the grant you have from the state of Colorado and your work with Project Pinball.
[Inclusive GameWerks]: Colorado has an annual grant to improve the quality of disabled peoples. This grant is funded through license plate sales and other avenues. The total amount offered is $50,000. We were fortunate enough to receive $10,000 of it. That money is to be kept in Colorado and we used it to fund setting up four accessible game rooms and two single cabinet locations currently with at least two more game rooms to come before the end of the year. To our knowledge, Colorado will have the largest amount of available accessible pinball machines because of that grant. And currently, we have no repeats. All different machines and themes, and makers. Our first controller was put on Iron Man in Children’s Hospital Colorado. Daniel from Project Pinball happened to be coming to CO anyways and within a couple weeks of contacting him, we were able to install there. And that install told us all we’re on the right track. Heartwarming to say the least.
TWIP: What are your future plans for the controller and creating more accessible game rooms?
[Inclusive GameWerks]: After Zack played Deadpool thirty plus times that Saturday, he told us we need to own this. I think he met Erin and I at first. Thankfully that wouldn’t not have made sense since all six of us are bringing a skill set needed to get it this far and further. Zack and Alshya knew there was a difference that could be made in the community as only someone living in a chair would. We didn’t actually know that. Now we do. We’re riding this current in as many directions as it takes us. From the tech side, we’re on opto driver boards first. Then chin and sip and puff options. Leg options are in the works with family that are metal workers too. And soon, stand up games. We’d like the very same controller to move from a pin to a Pac Man or Galaga. We’re so close we can taste it.
We’d like inclusivity as a constant. It’s a really tall ask. Fighting perception with pinball? Could seem silly. We think it’s just the beginning.
We don’t know what’s next from the human point of view. We’re just stoked for the small ripple effect it’s having. More people are talking about disabled people playing pinball, bringing equity and expanding both communities at the same time. The human part is really big on a personal level and a business level. Some stats say 15% of Americans have a disability that affects mobility. It would stand that manufacturers and game rooms could capitalize on that large of a percentage for sure. But until you have someone in your life that doesn’t frequently have things given back to them, but constantly has things taken from them, you may only feel empathy in moments. We’d like inclusivity as a constant. It’s a really tall ask. Fighting perception with pinball? Could seem silly. We think it’s just the beginning.