Inspired by his own passion about creating arcades from old parts, Rodney Field decided to share his hobby at his workplace with the people he supported and fellow staff members. Determined, Rodney, an employee of Semiahmoo House Society’s Acquired Brain Injury Services in Newton, proceeded to browse the Internet in his own time in search of various computer components which he and his team of engineers would need to build their very own arcade.
Building the arcade from scratch proved to be a complex project. Many tasks needed to be planned, coordinated and performed in a timely manner. Program participants, Mike, Mark, Gregor, Peter, Sandy and Noel, joined in and shared the work whether it was looking for parts, configuring, wiring, drawing graphics or painting. In spite of the cognitive and physical challenges they faced due to their acquired brain injuries, the group persevered, not without the occasional frustration, and completed the project.
The arcade is quite the nifty production. At first glance, it boasts neatly drawn and painted video game characters on a black background. The play console is equipped with a variety of buttons and joy sticks allowing two people to play at the same time. Under the front cover, an intricate network of wires connects the various components together to produce the interface. And that’s just the hardware. The gaming machine delivers immediate access to 8,000 games with the ability to produce an additional 12,000 with a few software tweaks!
Because it can be moved and placed on a table, the arcade is accessible to someone who uses a wheelchair. Rodney put a lot of thought into ways to adapt it so that a wider range of people could use it. “Some people have partial paralysis and would do better using their feet to operate the joysticks,” said Rodney. “So, I’m playing mental tennis with members of the group as how we could create a foot rocker to make the arcade more assistive.”
The challenging project was cathartic and made a real difference for the participants who had difficulty finding activities that interested them. Their curiosity was peaked when Rodney began to bring the parts and accessories to the centre. Soon, the curiosity was followed by motivation and a desire to give it their all. “As a result,” Rodney said, “I witnessed a real sense of purpose and increased self-esteem in the people who persisted to the end.”
Rodney and his team dubbed the gaming machine Flynn’s Arcade in honour of the character in the 1982 Disney movie Tron, whose name was Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges. Unlike Flynn, participants are not concerned about being drawn in the machine and fight evil forces. They can safely perform heroic deeds by staying firmly seated in their chair, with eyes on the screen, fingers on the controls, and crying out the odd, “Gotcha!”
By Louise Tremblay, Director of Development at UNITI
UNITI is the partnership of three affiliated non-profit organizations that have existed for decades. Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. Peninsula Estates Housing Society provides affordable and inclusive rental housing that reflects the diversity of our community. The Semiahmoo Foundation assures that UNITI has the recognition, relationships and resources to support an inclusive community.