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Interview with Mark Jawdoszak Everyone Can Ambassador & Director of Gaslight Games

At Everyone Can, we do some very important work to help disabled people access gaming. But there’s limits on how useful that work is, if people don’t know about it. Ambassadors spread the word about the charity and the issues we care about. Today’s blog post is an interview with Mark Jawdoszak, about his role as an ambassador and accessible gaming…

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve been in the games industry for almost a decade. I founded Gaslight Games, my independent company about eight years ago. I’ve worked in AAA, on things like Guitar Hero Live and  Worms. I’ve worked with indies. I’ve worked with BBC and Wacom on every console and PC, tablets  smartphones. So, huge breadth of knowledge and experience, with tons of devices. It’s things like what Everyone Can does, with the controllers and the inputs, being able to let everybody play games, that’s the side of things I’m a massive fan of. As a games developer, loving this industry, I think everybody should be able to enjoy it as much as I do.

So, how did you hear about Everyone Can?

So I actually went to university with Richard Bull, one of the fundraisers down in London. So we’ve obviously kept in touch after Uni. I knew that he worked for the charity when they were called The Aidis Trust, and then he said they were doing a re-brand. I tweeted out about it, tried to share it a little bit. Then he suggested if I would be interested in being an ambassador.

So what does your ambassador role involve?

So I do a lot of social media: retweeting, Facebook sharing. When there’s various events, like the new one coming up for Christmas on December 19th. I just try and reach out to anybody I know in the industry, particularly those in the area, seeing if they’ve got something they can donate or some time. A little bit of fundraising, that kind of thing. I went to the Develop conference in Brighton, talking about accessibility. One of the major parts of being able to go be there and talk about things, was the association with the charity, as they were looking for more talks about accessibility and how to involve more people in the games industry.

Has doing the role with Everyone Can opened up more opportunities for you as a games developer?

I think it certainly has, yeah. I wouldn’t have been able to go to and speak at Develop, under the accessibility side of thing as it stands, if I wasn’t involved with Everyone Can. So I definitely think it has. I think there are other factors as well. There’s a new Microsoft XBox adaptive controller. I got to meet the people who were creating that, who worked with Microsoft internally, to actually design it and to feedback to the community. That was definitely not something I would have been able to be involved with.

And it’s also enabled me to be able to talk to more people who are accessibility consultants or experts, which is going to roll on and improve my games as well and products that I’ve been involved with. Because of being able to think about things a little bit earlier than a lot of people normally do. That’s opening up more conversations with the right people to be able to market and push my products as well.

Do you at Gaslight Games endeavour to make quite accessible games then?

Honestly, I think we kind of didn’t before. I did everything I could to try to. But being an absolutely tiny team, it was often considered that we just couldn’t afford to. And that was one of the major parts of the talk that I gave in July, in that there are many things that you can do, which I wasn’t aware of five years ago, that you can do early stage to save yourselves a load of money and to be able to add accessibility. But from here on out, and certainly in all of the products I’m that working on, I wish I could talk about some of them, that’s a big part of what I’m trying to push in to the thinking of how people make these kinds of games.

Just being aware of things like colour blindness or those with contrast difficulties. If you just focus on red and green icons and don’t have any way of changing them, you lose, or certainly you can cause problems for,  a very large portion of your gamers. And so it’s things like that, that can help not only the games that I’m working on for other people, but definitely my games and increase their accessibility and the number of people that can play them.

Is there anything else that you haven’t already mentioned, that you’d like to tell us about your ambassador role?

I would say that I am actually very honoured, I certainly love the way that the charity has changed. You don’t realise how important it actually is until you start being involved within it. Hearing things like being described as a TAB, a temporarily able bodied person, because you could get injured, you could get hurt or as you get older. So thinking about accessibility, about people who are disabled or struggling all the time, then has this massive effect of what I could be able to play or continue to play, decades down the line when my body fails me, as it already is because of too many bad sports. It’s things like that that make me immensely proud and humbled to be a part of the charity.

Why do you think it’s important for people to have access to gaming?

I mean, I adore it. There’s being able to move away from what you currently are, enjoying something completely fantastical, or stepping out from what you would ordinarily do. I think the experiences of all media: film, TV, books, is more prominent and powerful in video games. The delivery is obviously far more immersive, is the key that we’re trying to go for. And I think that the more people that can enjoy and appreciate, the more that we can include everybody within what it is that we do, with what we create in these virtual spaces. And I feel that, movie goers love movies, so we’ve got things like closed captions, to be able to start including more people to enjoy those experiences. But I think video games extend beyond that, there’s more than just audiovisual. Because we can do so much more. And I think that by concentrating on being able to deliver that kind of experience, to everybody, it feeds back beyond thinking about those that might have accessibility issues, it fully reverses back to those people who don’t and often times they don’t realise that. I think that there’s this big circle that feeds into simply making better experiences for everyone.

Why should people become an ambassador for Everyone Can?

That’s a good one! I think that more people need to be aware of what it is the charity is doing. Take the new Spiderman game hitting the news because of what Sony, the developers, did with their accessibility options. I remember reading there was a thing  some developers put on their game to support one handed play. And they’d initially put it in as an accessibility option and found that more than eighty percent of the players were actually using that option.

And so if more people were ambassadors for the charity, if more people were aware of what the charity does, they could be more aware of what this whole field is as far as the industry goes. And we can think beyond what accessibility means in video games as well.  How it can affect our lives in general with absolutely everything. I remember having a great conversation with Ian Hamilton, talking about accessibility of traffic lights and just thinking about the rumble strip approach a pedestrian crossing. It’s things like that, if people become more aware of it, they can be more conscious of how this affects our everyday life.

Thanks to Mark for taking the time to tell us all about his role. You can find Gas Light Games at: www.gaslightgames.co.uk

If you would be interested in becoming an ambassador email contact@everyonecan.org.uk to find out how you can get involved!

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