David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, today launched the UK's first accessible games centre in his constituency of Witney, Oxfordshire.
The centre, run by children's charity SpecialEffect, was formally opened by Cameron and the charity's patron, Matt Hampson. It offers a central hub where technology can be tested and shared to help young people with disabilities to play videogames.
Speaking at the launch, attended by GamesIndustry.biz, Cameron said: "The work of SpecialEffect brings together three things that I am passionate about: helping those with disabilities, the innovative use of technology and corporate social responsibility." "This new centre will enhance the quality of life for some of the most severely disabled people across the UK and I will continue to support SpecialEffect as their local MP.
Hampson, a former England under-21 rugby player paralysed in a scrum accident, said: "Like me, many other people with disabilities are interested to find out about the benefits of games and leisure technology for socialisation, rehabilitation and, of course, fun. Now they drop into a friendly centre and can see what it can do for them."
Cameron was given a tour of the facilities at SpecialEffect's headquarters, including taking on Shahzad Hossain, a young disabled gamer, at Gran Turismo 5 using accessible technology. Cameron quipped that he had been "thrashed".
Speaking about the games industry, he said: "It's incredibly inventive and creative and a massive provider of growth and jobs and I think that will just continue.
"As someone who has an iPad and is pretty expert at Angry Birds and Flight Control HD – if you haven't tried that one give it a try; eventually the airplanes do all crash but it's fun while it lasts - I think what the games industry is doing in terms of helping you and working with you is incredibly important.
"The games industry is a very successful business and for a small amount of outlay from them there's an enormous amount they can do to help you and disabled people."
UKIE chairman Andy Payne, who also gave a speech at the event, told GamesIndustry.biz: "I think the PM was inspirational, absolutely inspirational – taking time out to come here and recognise what these guys are doing is just exemplary.
"And he gets it – that is a big thing for us as an industry, this charity and importantly the people who find that they can play on a level playing field through games technology".
UKIE director-general Michael Rawlinson added: "What SpecialEffect do is amazing and it really just reflects the industry's commitment for gaming for everybody.
"I think David Cameron genuinely believes the computer games industry can play its part in helping young people and those with disabilities".
For Dr Mick Donegon, head of SpecialEffect, the event was of huge importance. "I genuinely feel David's support and endorsement has been really significant in terms of building up our credibility.
"We're actually a place now where people with disabilities and also developers can come and see the kind of technology that can be used"