Well, it has finally happened. My daughter has been BEGGING me to let her play videogames for quite awhile now, but even I couldn't figure out a way for her to really enjoy the games because of a few "issues". You see, my daughter is pretty close to blind and can only focus within a few inches of her face, even with very thick glasses, and has an anoxic brain injury from birth.
Since her birth we have always been told many things she can't do. The list is almost a cliche now, but still worth noting in my opinion. She was 13.6 oz at birth (for reference, a single pound is only 16oz itself) and we were told she would not live, she would not walk, run, talk, learn, read, etc...and she has done every one. She has her challenges for sure, but she is the happiest kid I have ever seen and more of a morning person than I think is legally allowed.
But with gaming I originally thought she just had no interest in it but that changed as she would want to hang out with us playing more and more until she finally started directly asking "Daddy...I want to play a game too!". I had played with some ideas while reading about games like "Real Sound: Regrets in the Wind" from WARP in Japan on the Dreamcast back when she was younger and was thankful there were ideas being used to allow for games without the visuals which would at least let her experience gaming in a way, but I was still frustrated on what to do about "normal" gaming that she watched me and the family do on the big living room TV.
She was getting better at watching movies without having to literally have her nose against the TV to focus with us, but she still preferred to have her smaller TV in the bedroom where she watches her Muppet Show again and again. I had tried some games on that little TV, but she wanted us all to play like she would see which lead to the issue of us having to try and see the tiny screen that was not blocked almost 100% by her. She needed her own display and we needed a larger TV. I was frustrated as hell.
Back when the Wii U was launched, I had hoped for things like Netflix allowing us to stream a movie to the TV as well as display it on the GamePad simultaneously so Jen could have her own display and sit on the couch with the rest of us to enjoy a movie. This ended up not being the case, but the seed was planted for the GamePad being a display that could move with her.
I looked through the library of Wii U games as they were released to find something we could play together in this way but could not find anything that would work. New Super Mario Bros U had the feature, but she would die pretty quick and became frustrated. It wasn't what we wanted. But when I got home last Sunday with my new boxed copy of New Super Luigi U in hand, I had an epiphany about the new character that Nintendo decided to replace its signature plumber Mario with...Nabbit.
Nabbit is different because this character is basically invulnerable. I'm talking you can run about the screen and you will just pass around enemies without being "bumped" or "tossed" anywhere so you are free to move about. This lead to a character Jennifer could play and run with, but without the frustrations that plagued her before. She still can fall into a hole, but then Nabbit is tossed into a bubble and she gets to "shake" the remote to let us pop it which she thought was hilarious. I was amazed at how quickly she picked up the mechanics and started jumping gaps and running about. I would smile as she got her face so close to the screen that a platform would pop up when her nose tapped it from time to time before she figured out it was a touch screen too.
People complain and argue that the GamePad is an unnecessary accessory on a system that is failing to launch fast enough. They complained that the Wii Remote was too simple and could not allow for "proper" gaming. Yet here I sit able to say that the Nintendo Wii U...with it's GamePad and ability to use the Wii's Remotes has led to me playing a game with my daughter directly for the first time. Where at night when my wife goes to work at the hospital me and the boys could join into a 3 player game while my daughter would watch a movie finally have a 4th player. We are together and my daughter has broken another "she can't".
The Wii U may have just become my favorite system in history.
EDIT: In case you are wondering, Jennifer has what is called "Retinopathy of Prematurity Stage 4" and has had two surgeries to reattach her retina as best they could.
EDIT 2: Got some video tonight of all four of us playing together. Enjoy!