Hanze students launch game platform for gamers with disabilities.

With Indietopia, the Game Bakery and Studio Bleep, Groningen has a good number of companies involved in gaming. Recently, that number expanded to include Cloudwhale: a company founded by Marcel Former, Daniel Krysztofiak and Corey Hobson, three third-year Game Design students at Hanze University of Applied Sciences.

Cloudwhale is not a standard game platform, however. The games they design are specifically geared toward people with a physical disability. ‘It really started during one of our school projects’, said Marcel. ‘Corey and I were given the assignment to create a game for Jeroen, who has cerebral palsy. Basically, what that means is that he is paralysed for the most part and can only use the muscles in his face. After we created the game, we thought: why don’t we help more people who are in the same situation as him?’

And so they did. They worked out the concept for their company, and through Hanze, they are now able to work on their company full-time for their work placement. In the process of developing their platform, Marcel and Corey were struck by the fact that games for people with a physical disability could often only be played with expensive hardware. With Cloudwhale, they are trying to get around this problem by making the games adaptive.

Custom-designed controls
‘The games on our platform can be adjusted to the individual player’s needs’, said Corey. ‘In Jeroen’s case, the game mainly used only one button, but depending on the person multiple buttons can be used to play, too. The games don’t change, just the controls.’

We want to make more games in the future, including narrative titles.

For €10 a month, users get access to the Cloudwhale platform, which currently has four games available to play. The selection ranges from puzzle games to more action-oriented titles. One of the games is 2048, a puzzle game that was already popular as an app. ‘We made a few adjustments to the game concept to make it more like Tetris, so users only need a single button.’

Open source
As far as the future goes, there is still plenty to accomplish according to the two students. Marcel reports that the controls are still in development. ‘In the future, we want to make more games, including narrative titles. For now, the most important thing is to make sure the controls are working properly and that as many as people as possible can play our games.’

We’re helping people who don’t have the same access to entertainment as us

They have a multiplayer version in the pipeline, and they are considering making the platform open source. The latter means that developers can upload the games they create to the platform. According to Corey, there are dozens of examples of people who have designed games for someone with a physical disability, but have no avenue for distributing them. ‘For example, take a parent who created something for their child with a disability. We think it would be so cool if they were able to share that game on our platform.

Cloudwhale currently has six users, with one to two new users joining each month. These two gentlemen hope to have between 500 and 1,000 users a year from now. It is not such a wild idea; after all, the two are currently in talks with a company in the US about joining an incubator programme. Although they cannot share the exact details at this stage, you can tell that they’re enthusiastic. ‘We’re helping people who don’t have the same access to entertainment as us. It’s just great to do.’

Photo: Studio Dijkgraaf