Call: “Digital Entertainment for Special Needs, Special Needs for Digital Entertainment” for G/A/M/E

Call for Papers

G/A/M/E: The Italian Journal of Game Studies
Special Issue: “Digital Entertainment for Special Needs, Special Needs for Digital Entertainment”

CFP online:

Guest Editors:
Dr. Enrico Gandolfi (Kent State University) (
Dr. Richard E. Ferdig (Kent State University) (
Dr. Kaybeth Calabria (Franciscan University of Steubenville) (

Abstracts due by: January 20, 2018

It is well known that videogames represent the driving sector of the current entertainment with an excepted business of 90 billion dollars in 2016 (NewZoo 2015). Furthermore, the supporting technology is often at the cutting edge (e.g., Oculus Rift, Microsoft Hololens, PlayStation VR) and constantly in progress (e.g., social games, cloud gaming, holograms). Along with such a rising popularization, sectorial trends and orientations are getting more and more articulated going beyond the mere escapism: serious games, newsgames, and persuasive games (e.g., Bogost, 2011; Djaouti et al., 2011) are now well-established genres that are able to deal with a remarkable range of issues. The educational and pro-active implications of the medium are noteworthy as well and different fields and disciplines are increasingly applying them toward a multitude of audiences and issues (Ferdig, 2014; Gee, 2007). Moreover, phenomena like the reaction to Gamergate scandals are glaring signals that the game industry is embracing a turning point in terms of representation and equal opportunities. To summarize, it can be argued that the sector is now more different and diversified than in the past.

Nevertheless, special needs still foster blurry reflections and engender discontinuous efforts in video game landscapes. With this broad term, the reference is to physical, cognitive and even socio-cultural conditions than require specific interventions in everyday life routines, learning activities, general accessibility (etc.). Eligible factors vary from mental retardation and sight/hearing impairments to racial background and age. A contiguous and more defined concept is Special Education, which means “specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability” (20 U.S.C. 1401(29)) (for more information about related media implementation see Fage et al., 2014; Kagohara et al., 2013). The implication of embracing special needs in digital entertainment points to usability, engagement and representation in design, production and final consumption. In addition, it might trigger an instrumental perspective in exploiting videogames to improve the state of individuals with disabilities/suffering biases (e.g., ludic experiences that enrich autonomy and social skills) and empowering their participation, which is a fundamental human right (UNICEF, 1990). Unsurprisingly, supportive and communicative efforts of foundations like AbleGamers Charity and Special Effect are increasing all around the world as well as the attention given by academy (e.g., EPINOIS R&D project, Games for Health conferences) and majors (e.g., Activision-Blizzard, Microsoft, Sony) to the assistive potential of the medium. Scholars and researchers are increasingly addressing the topic (Carr, 2014; Champlin, 2014; Ledder, 2015) and exploring on how special needs can benefit from the medium (e.g., Anthony et al., 2012; Nardi & Lim, 2011; Powers et al., 2015; Saridaki, Gouscos & Meimaris, 2009; Yuan, Folmer, & Harris, 2011).Finally, development guidelines have been proposed (as the ones suggested by Universally Accessible Games, Serious Games Initiative, IGDA game accessibility interest group, and International Game Developers Association) and specific titles explicitly addressed the topic (e.g., Drospy, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, If…).

However, although these premises are encouraging and prove the potential of such an association, we are at a standstill in comprehending:

  1. how game industry concretely frames and supports special needs in terms of interaction, representation and customization;
  2. what policies and affordances should be applied to satisfy special needs through digital games;
  3. conversely, what suggestions and insights special needs-related expertise, professionals and involved audiences can provide to game industry as sources of diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

In light of these questions, the special issue Digital Entertainment for Special Needs, Special Needs for Digital Entertainment aims to stimulate both theoretical and empirical outcomes aimed to enlighten the relation between special needs and video games. Contributions from Game Studies, Media Studies, Disability Studies, HCI field, Science and Technology Studies, Psychology and Sociology (and so on) are welcome along with pieces by educators, developers and stakeholders dealing with such a potential interplay. Accordingly, this thematic call also seeks risky and game-changer proposals in order to frame and even suggest future moves in multiple directions, from design stimuli to therapeutic applications. Therefore, implications aim to be significant for a wide range of audiences including scholars, researchers, practitioners and caregivers. The final objective is to outline a coherent and multi-angle overview of the topic and take a step forward for supporting a pro-active synergy between digital games and special needs.

Topics of interest may include but are not limited to:

  • Current and alternative procedures in making the medium more accessible (from input devices to user interface) (e.g., the high customization of Uncharted 4 and Overwatch).
  • Creative and productive insights for staging a meaningful play for special needs.
  • Case histories of video games especially effective or conversely ineffective in dealing with special needs.
  • Liaisons between industry/stakeholders and special needs (e.g., low-cost prosthetics inspired by Deus Ex)
  • Performing different abilities in gaming (e.g., AbleGamers’ 5-day streaming event on
  • Empirical research on digital play’s effects on individuals with special needs.
  • Perspectives and methods for implementing digital games in Special Education
  • Application of special needs-related guidelines/criteria in gaming development and practices.
  • Q/A of ludic experiences enrolling users/testers with special needs.
  • Cultural/social/economic analysis of relations between digital entertainment and special needs
  • Virtual worlds, online communities and sub-game cultures related to special needs/disabilities.
  • UGCs and mod-scapes addressing special needs/disabilities/bias.
  • How disability, impairments and bias are portrayed in digital entertainment from aesthetics (plot, characters, etc.) to mechanics (rules, resources, etc.).
  • Potential of gamification toward special needs and Special Education.
  • Participative game design dealing with disabilities and inequalities.
  • Disabilities, special needs and minorities in Game Industry workforce.
  • New/specific bias and difference factors related to digital gaming.


Please send your abstracts of 500 words (references not included) by January 20, 2018 to Enrico Gandolfi ( Notifications of acceptance/rejection will be sent out by February 5, 2018, and full manuscripts are going to be submitted within May 15, 2018. Contributions will be subjected to a double blind peer review process. The special issue is expected to be released in September 2018.


Anthony, l., Prasad, S., Hurst, A., & Kuber, R. (2012). A Participatory Design Workshop on Accessible Apps and Games with Students with Learning Differences. ASSETS’12, Boulder, CO.

Bogost, I. (2011). How to do things with videogames. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Carr, D. (2014). Ability, Disability and Dead Space. GameStudies, 14(2). Retrieved from

Champlin, A. (2014) Playing with Feelings: Porn, Emotion, and Disability in Katawa Shoujo. Well Played, 3(2),

Djaouti, D., Alvarez, J., & Jessel, J.P. (2011). Classifying Serious Games: the G/P/S model. In P. Felicia (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Improving Learning and Motivation through Educational Games: Multidisciplinary Approaches. Hershey, PA: IGI global.

Fage, C., Pommereau, L., Consel, C., Balland, É., & Sauzéon, H. (2014). Tablet-Based Activity Schedule for Children with Autism in Mainstream Environment. ASSETS’14, Rochester, NY.

Ferdig, R. (2014). Education. In B. Perron & M. Wolf (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Video Games Studies. New York, NY: Routledge.

Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (second edition). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kagohara, D. M., van der Meer, L., Ramdoss, S., O’Reilly, M. F., Lancioni, G. E., Davis, T. N., Rispoli, M., Lang, R., Marschik, P. B., Sutherland, D., Green V. A., & Sigafoos, J. (2013). Using iPods1 and iPads1 in teaching programs for individuals with developmental disabilities: A systematic review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(1), 147-156.

Ledder, S. (2015) “Evolve today!”: Human Enhancement Technologies in the BioShock universe. In L. Cuddy (ed.) BioShock and Philosophy, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell

Nardi, B., & Lim, T. (2011). A Study of Raiders with Disabilities in World of Warcraft. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Foundations of Digital Games. New York, NY: ACM.

Powers, G.M., Nguyen, V., & Frieden, L.M. (2015). Video Game Accessibility: A Legal Approach. Disability Studies Quarterly, 35(1).

Saridaki, M., Gouscos. D., & Meimaris, M. G. (2009). Digital Games-Based Learning for Students with Intellectual Disability. In Thomas Connolly, Mark Stansfield, and Liz Boyle (Eds.) Games-Based Learning Advancements for Multi-Sensory Human Computer Interfaces: Techniques and Effective Practices (pp. 304-325). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Yuan, B., Folmer, E., & Harris Jr., F.C. (2011). Game accessibility: a survey. Universal Access in the Information Society, 10(1), 81-100.

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