It's been nearly a year since Microsoft unveiled the Xbox Adaptive Controller aimed at allowing special needs gamers to enjoy playing video games more easily. The controller even had its own Super Bowl commercial celebrating these dedicated gamers. Microsoft is now talking up the work that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is doing to help rehabilitate injured soldiers.
Microsoft has partnered with the VA to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the United States. The controller can be used with the Xbox One and on Windows 10 PCs, and was developed with extensive consultation from gamers and other associations that work with players who have limited mobility.
Gaming is a popular activity in the military community, but for those who return from service with injuries, it can be difficult or impossible for them to play games as they once did leaving them feeling isolated. Dr. Lief Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events for the VA, says that while people tend to think of gaming as isolating, gaming is found to have the opposite effect. Gaming can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans and can be a tool in the rehabilitation process.
Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as a therapy with his patients for seven years. About a quarter of the people that Kaplan works with have traumatic spinal injuries. He says that the Copilot feature is particularly useful by allowing two controllers to be linked as if they were one allowing for players to team up and share controls. He says that one of his patients was able to play games with his brother for the first time in three years using Copilot.
Microsoft's Phil Spencer says that everyone can play games and that Microsoft focuses on that as an organization. He says that working with the VA was a "perfect opportunity" to bring Microsoft's focus on gaming and the work the VA is doing together.