How Pokémon Go with the help of PokéVision was breaking down the barriers of disabled access to mobile gaming.

How Pokémon Go with the help of PokéVision was making mobile gaming accessible for people with disabilities.

Niantic the games developer have now killed this option, but it’s still important we explore this, so other developers (and maybe Niantic) can learn from this experience.

My son has issues meeting and interacting with other people. He pretty much goes through a full fear response when forced into social situations he is not expecting, likely due to the fact that he tested highly on some areas of the autistic spectrum. This in real terms means he doesn’t want to go out and socialise or meet/play with friends. Even those whom he considers to be his best friends from school, he struggles to interact with. He wants to talk/socialise with them, but he is often afraid to increase the boundaries of their relationship, even when it comes to simple things like asking them to hang out with him outside of school hours.

There was a dramatic shift though with the launch of Pokémon Go. Now he was actively looking to be out of the house, come rain or shine, he was Pokémon hunting. He is still finding it extremely difficult to socialise with other players we meet and he can’t instigate a conversation, but they are doing it for him and forcing/pulling him into conversation to talk about Pokémon. Previous history has taught me that this forced socialisation would likely have put him off. Not this time, despite continually meeting and having to interact with new people playing the game, he is still going out and doing it (or was until Niantic threw a hissy fit).

Thus the game mechanics along with PokéVision’s large scale map have encouraged my boy to overcome his disability and participate.

However, as any Pokémon Go player knows the game is broken. The tracking system doesn’t work. In fact, as of today’s update (Sun 31st July), Niantic have disabled it altogether, completely killing off one of the biggest sections of the game. Now this wouldn’t have mattered too much if the developer hadn’t also gone after 3rd party fan sites that had started up specifically to overcome the games tracking shortcomings.

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The best site was clearly PokéVision which gave real time locations of Pokémon with a countdown clock showing how much longer they would be there. My wife is an electric wheelchair user, so she simply can’t run around with us chasing after Pokémon, she doesn’t have the energy (or battery life) to be out for long, nor can she physically get to many of the places that she would need to get to in time, before the Pokémon ran away.

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However instead she would sit and home and act as our “navigator”. If a rare Pokémon appeared on PokéVision she would phone us and tell us we had “X” time to get “Y” location and off we would run or sprint (or even jump into the car if it was very far off) as needs required.

Thus PokeVision brought her into the game and allowed her to feel part of the excitement.

Apps and sites like PokéVision made the game accessible to people with disabilities who cannot through their disabilities walk a great distance or access areas that abled bodied players can.

Pokémon Go has become a worldwide phenomenon. People with disabilities would also like to participate in whatever limited capacity they can. 

Since the game itself fails in allowing you to track Pokémon that are near you, PokéVision and other sites kept the game “somewhat” disability friendly. In fact it can be argued that the 3rd party sites opened up the game even further through the example of my wife sitting at home operating as our navigator.

So on two fronts, the combination of Pokémon Go and PokéVision together created a reasonably disability friendly game.

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My best guess is that it will be highly unlikely that we will see PokéVision or similar sites/apps back up and running, now that they have been forced to “Cease and Desist” their services, but other developers could learn a lot in how to make a game as widely accessible as possible, by combining the experience of both services and make no mistake about it, other developers will be paying attention to the success of Pokémon Go & PokéVision and wondering how they can get a slice of the action.

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