MND Australia

Grant success for Game on with MND

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Australia has won funding for "Game on with MND", a new approach to helping improve quality of life: making videogames more fun and easier to play by people with MND.

Growing evidence suggests that many people with MND enjoy playing games on their smartphones, tablets, computers or consoles.1,2 Games like Scrabble, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Monument Valley, Civilisation and others can help with boredom and be a fun escape.3 Games are a great chance to chat or spend time with friends and loved ones, too.

Dr Kirsten Harley, who was diagnosed with MND in 2013, helped MND Australia win the funding for Game on With MND. Dr Harley enjoyed playing games before her MND diagnosis. As Dr Harley told the ALS Association, “I chilled out by playing a variety of puzzle games on my iPad or a computer, and my mum, sisters and I enjoyed connecting by playing online Scrabble.” However, as Dr Harley explained, games became more challenging for her over time.

“As my arms grew weaker, I needed armrests, cradling my arms to use a computer keyboard and found it easier to manipulate an iPad on my lap," said Dr Harley. "With increasing difficulty moving my hands I transitioned to a smaller tablet, and then phone, and abandoned games which required speed.”

In recent years, Xbox, Microsoft, Tobii, Control Bionics and other companies have worked to develop technology for games that make them easier to play with disability. The Xbox Adaptive Controller, Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit, re-mappable buttons in game software and similar advances can remove barriers to games. But there are major problems with hardware and software meeting the changing needs of people with MND. In turn, games become much harder to play.

Research suggests that a person’s changing ability to use their hands due to the progressive nature of MND can make it difficult to press buttons on keyboards and other controllers.1 Challenges with speech limit use of microphones and voice activated software. Finding affordable technology are issues. There is also lack of awareness about what gaming technology helps. Fatigue, and support for carers and loved ones, can be challenging.

Game on With MND will address many of the problems that faced Dr Harley, and other people with MND. A major focus of the project is user driven games development. In this context, user driven means involving people with MND as much as possible in making games easier to play.4 Learning more from people with MND about their preferences for games is critical to the user driven approach.

The Game on With MND project team will then work with participants to co-design an approach for games that are easier to play. Game developers will be involved in participant workshops and to help customize certain kinds of technology for games. Tips sheets, guides and other resources will also be created and shared with the MND community here and overseas.

Dr Ben O’Mara leads the project team. Dr O'Mara is the MND Australia Information Resources Manager. Dr O'Mara is also an Adjunct Fellow at Swinburne University and the University of New South Wales. Dr O'Mara's past research and practice explored community-based approaches to using communication technology, including devices used for games.

Several experts are involved in making games easier to play through Game on With MND. Dr Harley is a MND New South Wales Board Member and Honorary Lecturer in the University of Sydney's Centre for Disability Research and Policy. Dr Matthew Harrison is a Senior Lecturer (Learning Intervention) at the University of Melbourne, and his work focuses on inclusive social environments for people with disability through gaming. Dr Natasha Dwyer is a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University who specialises in trust and technology. Dr Wanda Gregory worked in the game industry for companies including Sierra Online, Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro and Microsoft before lecturing at University of Washington - Bothell and is adjunct faculty Reykjavik University, Iceland. Dr Gregory teaches courses in game and interactive media design and media studies.

If you or someone you know in the MND community would like to participate, the team would love to hear from you. You can contact the team at:

  • 02 8287 4980

Game on With MND was funded by FightMND and through Perpetual Limited.

Learn more: