Reviewed By John M. Williams- Assistive Technology News
Whenever I have writer's block, or I am mentally fatigued, I stop writing and play video games for at least 20 minutes. Free Cell, Spiderman Solitaire, Internet checkers and chess are my favorites. They test my vision, hand/eye coordination and challenge my intellect a little. With computer games, I am always looking for increased manual, cognitive and visual challenges. I discovered such challenges in My Football Game by Vtree, LLC.
My Football Game is one of the most challenging computer games that I have ever played. It is also the easiest game that I have ever installed. I started by closing all open programs and then placing in the DVD-ROM drive and closing it. Once Install appears, you are several clicks from the game being installed. Installation took about 8 minutes.
The game has three levels. Each level gives players an opportunity to earn credit toward a championship ring. The first level is an exercise, mini-camp, training level with eight activities for rookies. Some of these activities are Clutch Kicking, Ground Attack, Corner Put and Precision Passing.
The second level deals with defense, passing and rushing. You need to become adept at handling these two levels before playing the actual game. Each exercise in levels 1 and 2 lasts 60 seconds. You can repeat each 60 second exercise as often as you want and at adjustable speeds. I started out at a lower speed, went to a higher speed and then to 80% speed. I am still at 80%. A set of simple instructions precedes each exercise.
The multiple movements on all three levels challenge me visually, manually and cognitively. My adrenalin was really moving as I sought to master, to the best of my ability, the activities in each level. I have a ways to go to reach my goal. It will be an exciting achievement when I can play at 1005 speed
The third level is the game. There are four-five minute quarters with opposing teams. The clock runs only when there is a play. therefore sometimes simulating real football. You are given your choice of three defensive plays and some offensive plays before each play starts. You pick the plays by pushing one of these letters S, D or F. Offensive plays include passing, running, punting, field goals and kicking a point after a touchdown. There are more defensive plays than offensive. It is fun picking the plays and playing with a second player.The graphics and voice quality in the game are exceptional.
My Football Game is for children and adults. My 10-year-old son played it for two hours by himself before challenging me to a game. Before the game, we played level 2's rushing game. He exhibited great delight in ferociously tackling the runner.
On level 3, we played two 5-minute quarters, and he beat me 13-to-3. His moves were faster than mine, and he expressed immense joy in beating me. We had fun playing the game, and I acknowledged his superior, lightning manual and visual skills. We are scheduling a re-match when I reach the 100% speed mark.
My Football Game can be played by people with multiple sclerosis, people involved with physical therapy, individuals in rehabilitation programs and individuals with other disabilities.
My Football Game is a terrific holiday gift for children and adults.
I am glad that I have it. You will be glad to own it.
VTREE, LLC teams with EA SPORTS to create a football video game for both children and adults who have developmental and physical challenges
Parenting Special Needs Magazine Features My Football Game In It's Holiday Gift Guide Ad
MyFootball Game And They Said It Couldn't Be Done.
October 17th 2009 - Original Article
AbleGamers has had the privilege to go to some major gaming events and talked to some big names in the gaming space. When we talk to them about game accessibility, they are on board with what we are talking about, until we get to one part, and that is the cognitively disabled gamer. We hear things like, “There is no way you can make a game that takes all these factors into account.” “That cannot be further from the truth,” said Chuck Bergen, President of VTree LLC, makers of My Football Game, a high quality game for the special needs gamer, “We have been developing virtual reality software for the special needs communities for 10 years now. What we have learned is that if you put in the effort; work with parents, teachers, and care givers they will give you the formula for success. Have them as part of your development team, they will help you develop software that is both fun, and provide inclusive participation for most children and adults with cognitive difficulties.”
Before we go on, we need to talk a little about what “cognitive disability” means. Cognitive disability is an extremely large and poorly defined term that describes any disability that originates in the brain. Why do we say poorly defined? So many things fall into the category. Relatively minor conditions from dyslexia, ADD / ADHD, and Dyscalculia are cognitive disabilities. Developmental disability such as epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome also fall under the cognitive disabilities umbrella. Then there are the non-generic causes of intellectual disabilities such traumatic brain injury, lead poisoning, stroke, brain tumors, Meningitis and even Alzheimer's disease. The approach to each one of these conditions is vastly different, making the term “cognitive disability” a poorly defined, but widely used term.
So why would you make a game for this community, Bergen answers, “I have been involved in software development for over 30 years. One thing in particular that struck me many years ago was that almost all the popular software, video games, were designed and developed strictly for the mass market and that the physically and developmentally challenged individuals and families were excluded from using these systems because of their design. So 10 years ago we decided that we needed to try and break through this wall and do whatever we could to design a game for the 53 million American with a disability.”
So what did Mr. Bergen and his development team come up with? “Let’s do a football game”, and why not! Football is the most popular sports in America, and the football-based video games are a proven best seller. Now the next challenge, HOW do you go from an idea for a football game for the special needs community to a finished product? “I was at a trade show in California for technology and it just so happened that EA SPORTS also had a booth at this show,” explains Bergen, “Through a mutual colleague, I was introduced to Rob Moore CTO of EA SPORTS. I pitched my idea right there at the show. I explained that our military men and women who have grown up playing EA Sports video games and many of those fans of EA Sports are now seriously injured in the current conflicts and could no longer enjoy the games they grew up with.” So what did Mr. Moore think about the idea? “We started thinking about licensing EA SPORTS' game engines; we were interested in the physical training market. Then we met several companies that were interested in rehab, which had some similarities to training. When we met with Chuck Bergen and, he felt strongly that our sports games could be used for both cognitive and physical rehab. Chuck had written some software himself and had a good track record of meeting their customers' needs, so that started us off.”
The pieces started to fall in place. VTree LLC had the idea and the know-how to develop software with the disabled community in mind, and EA SPORTS had more knowledge about making football games in their pinky then most people had in their towns. Mr. Moore took the idea to the executives at EA, did he get any pushback? “Not at all - just the opposite actually.” Moore said, “The main concern our executives had was that we create a quality product and that it actually helps people, so we worked hard with VTree to develop a product that used our technology in a way that would really make an impact with the users. That is a continual goal for us, so we will be getting the feedback from VTree LLC and continually making improvements to the product. “
The development process started, and EA SPORTS was right there to help, Moore explains, “We visited a VA facility earlier this year to get their rehab experts' feedback on the changes we were making [to the game engine]. They were enthusiastic about the product. The Veterans asked if we could create teams for each branch of the service and even the special units of each branch [like Seals, Rangers, and Special Forces]. We said yes, if they can get us permission to use those names and logos we will make custom teams for each of them. I think our soldiers have the toughest job out there in protecting our nation. If we can help our veterans recover a little faster, or even just have a little fun sometimes, that would be a great outcome for us.”
My Football Game Is Born
When Chuck called the AbleGamers headquarters (it is my iPhone) I was skeptical of his claims. Had I bought into the premise that a game could not be made for this special needs community? Nope. What I was suspect of was that a game of such high production values had been made for the special needs community. We have seen some good, clever games made in the past, but they all had three things in common, rough around the edges (and sometime in the middle), simple, and designed as a learning opportunity disguised as a game. Bergen sensing my skepticism and said “Let me come demo it for you.” He got into his car and drove down to DC, I had arranged about an hour to spend with him, once I saw the game, I was floored, and we spent almost 3 hours in the meeting. The VTree LLC/ EA SPORTS partnership turned that whole idea of games for physical and cognitive disabilities on its head. My Football game is a high quality, full depth production that puts fun first. Our motto from day one has been "Improving Lives one Smile at a Time".
My Football Game does everything right, from the design of the box (it looks like every other game) to the feature that it has built in, this game proves that you can make a game for the special needs community that looks and feels like a game.
Features Of My Football Game
Customizable playing speeds allow nearly everyone to enjoy regardless of experience or physical and/or developmental disabilities. Need the game to go at half speed so that your reaction time is compensated for? Okay, there is a slider that gives you the option to run the game at full speed, all the way down to 20%.
VTree LLC has reached out to as many accessible technology providers it could find to make sure that the game was compatible with most USB adaptive devices. You can also play with a USB XBOX 360™ game controller or just the keyboard.
A gradual “Step up” using skill drills; this allows the gamer to practice running, passing, tackling, and kicking at a comfortable speed to improve skills before moving into full game competition. It does so using positive feedback and clear instructions for the gamer, as well as the caregiver.
The full game plays like the most popular traditional video football games, just not as complicated. Things like the play clock and deep dive menus have been removed to allow the gamer to take in and react to the game.
My Football Game has many personalization features, like being able to name your player avatars. The effect is engagement, ownership, and recognition.
It used familiar themes to reward achievement, VTree LLC Capitalizing on cues from real life football; players earn a full set of diamonds in My Championship Ring reflecting success as skills improve.
And most importantly, socialization and fun. At the end of the day My Football Game is a football game. The gamer is going to see on the screen the same basic game that they see in commercials. They are going to hear familiar sounds that they have heard when their brother or sister was playing an EA SPORTS title. This is so important because at the end of the day, this very special game, does not feel like one. To the physically and developmentally disabled person this game will feel like a game plucked off the shelf at GameStop or BestBuy. In short, there is nothing SPECIAL about this special game.
Now that the product is out, we circled back with Rob Moore of EA SPORTS and asked him some final thoughts.
AbleGamers: Mr. Moore, what do you think of the finished product?
Rob Moore: We've only had the game in a few people's hands so far - but so far, so good. We are really looking forward to feedback from this community so we can continue to improve the experience. There's a lot of potential here, and we're happy to be a part of it.
AG: What was EA SPORTS hoping to accomplish in this endeavor?
RM: In general, EA SPORTS always hopes to entertain people and give them a direct connection with the excitement and passion of sports. For this product though, given some of the tough circumstances VTree's LLC customers are dealing with, I think each smile we can put on someone's face will be especially sweet. It's an opportunity to take the technology we've developed, apply it in a different environment, and create some great benefits for a really important group of people.
AG: Have you taken any lessons learned now that you have seen the final product, do you see any of those lessons filtering into the mainstream titles at some point?
RM: We've learned a lot about just how hard our games can be to play for people if they don't have the right controller or interface to the game. Also, we've worked in ways to really slow down the game to accommodate different reaction speeds. The games are still challenging though, we didn't make it any easier...you still have to accomplish the task.
VTREE, LLC Today Introduced “My Football Game”
July 21st 2009 - VtreeLLC.com
VTREE, LLC today introduced “My Football Game,” a new football video game engineered specifically for children with special needs and adults with developmental and physical disabilities. Using technologies provided by EA SPORTS, including the EA SPORTS football engine that powers some of its most popular football video games, “My Football Game” is a CD-based game for the PC that will bring the thrill and enjoyment of authentic football action alive to players with special needs.
There are two game versions in each CD: one for children and one for adults, each engineered to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities and those recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries and stroke. The game can be played solo or with two users competing at the same time. Speeds can be adjusted to complement the skill level of the individual user, allowing anyone to practice and play in a comfortable environment which promotes confidence and fun while reducing frustration. Features throughout the game provide immediate feedback on performance, preserve levels of improvement, maintain results and chart development as players move through three progressive levels of play.
In addition to enhancing game skills by moving through the progressive play levels, players are rewarded for their progress inside the “My Championship Ring”. “My Championship Ring” is a virtual record for the player where diamonds represent each achievement. Every time a user passes a specific skill in the practice levels they are rewarded with another diamond inside the ring, providing a graphic illustration representing the player’s personal success and winner’s attitude. The ring is completed when each step inside both levels have been achieved.
VTREE’s “My Football Game” is available in a PC-based format that can be played on any desktop or laptop with a Windows XP or Vista operating system. The game is compatible with any USB XBOX game controller and many USB adaptive devices.