Acmetonia Elementary student tackles inclusion and is named a finalist in a video game design competition

A student from Acmetonia Elementary is a finalist in a video game design challenge for a game he coded to raise awareness about accessibility in games.

Video games were never a big part of Owen Gamble’s life until the pandemic hit.

The 12-year-old would hop on his computer for a gaming session with friends on games like Roblox to socialize with them.

But he ran into a problem – most of the games his friends would recommend playing weren’t accessible to Owen.

“The main thing that was difficult was that most games I had to use my right hand,” he said. “My right hand is not as fast, so the others can react faster.”

After having a stroke in the womb, Owen was diagnosed with right hemiplegia when he was 10 months old. The disability results from brain and/or spinal cord damage, resulting in paralysis on the right side of the body.

The disability limits his mobility to follow the rapid movements required with both sides of the body in games.

His mother, Stacie, said her son had to do everything possible to modify the games to make them work for him to play.

“The gaming world isn’t as inclusive as you think it is,” she said. “With everyone moving online, it was a wake-up call for games that weren’t inclusive.”

Noticing the lack of inclusion in games, Owen had an idea. He said he wanted to code a game showing the reality he faces when trying to play right-handed dominated games. He created the “undestined” game through a computer game program called Scratch. He said the game is played from the perspective of a person whose dominant hand is the left hand.

Sue Mellon, a gifted support and enrichment teacher for the Allegheny Valley School District, said the game’s creation was part of the national Games for Change Student Challenge. Middle and high school students (grades 5 through 12) submitted original social impact games for a chance to win prizes, including a $10,000 scholarship, she said.

“I’m always looking for different programs for kids, and I knew kids loved games,” Mellon said.

The students were able to base their games around three themes of social impact: “Shaping the world for difference”, “Sustainable cities” or “The voice of a new generation”.

Owen’s play earned him a finalist in the “Shaping the World for Difference” category.

“I’m so excited for him. He’s such a nice boy,” Mellon said.

Owen said he didn’t think he would get far in the competition.

” It feels good. I didn’t 100% think I would go this far,” he said. “I just did it for fun.”

His mother credits Mellon for giving her son the opportunity to experience competition. She enjoyed seeing her progress throughout the project.

“It was nice to see his hard work pay off,” she said. “It was the first time he had sparked this kind of interest and seen his idea come to life on screen.”

Owen will find out his place in the competition on June 16.

Tanisha Thomas is the editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tanisha at 412-480-7306, or via Twitter .

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