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Acmetonia Elementary Student worked on inclusion and was selected as a finalist in the video game design competition

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Acmetonia Elementary students are finalists in the Game Video Game Design Challenge, coded to raise awareness of game accessibility.

Video games weren’t a big part of Owen Gambling’s life until the pandemic.

A 12-year-old kid jumped on his computer and had a game session with his friends to interact with them in games like Roblox.

But he ran into one problem. Most of the games his friends recommended to play were inaccessible to Owen.

“The hardest part was most games where you had to use your right hand,” he said. “My right hand isn’t that fast, so others can react faster.”

After having a stroke in the womb, Owen was diagnosed with right hemiplegia 10 months after birth. Her disability results in damage to the brain and / or spinal cord, leaving a paralysis on the right side of her body.

Obstacles limit his mobility to keep up with the fast-paced movements required on both sides of the body in the game.

His mother, Stacey, said her son had to get out of his way to fix the game in order for the game to work for him to play.

“The game world isn’t as comprehensive as you might think,” she said. “The move to online has raised awareness of non-inclusive games.”

Realizing that it wasn’t included in the game, Owen came up with an idea. He said he wanted to code a game that shows the reality he is facing trying to play a right-handed dominant game. He created an “undecided” game through a computer game program called Scratch. He said the game is played from the perspective of the person whose dominant hand is the left hand.

Sue Mellon, a talented support and enrichment teacher at the Allegheny Valley School District, said game creation is part of the national “Games for Change Student Challenge” contest. Middle school and high school students (5th-12th grades) submitted their original social impact game for a chance to win a prize, including a $ 10,000 scholarship, she said.

“I’m always looking for different programs that kids can do, and I knew they love games,” Melon said.

Students were able to play the game on three social impact themes: “differentiate the world,” “sustainable cities,” and “voice of a new generation.”

Owen’s game landed him as a finalist in the “Shaping the World for Difference” award category.

“I’m very excited about him. He’s a very good boy,” Melon said.

Owen said he didn’t think he would go far in competition.

“It feels great. I didn’t expect to reach that 100%,” he said. “I did it just for fun.”

His mother admits that Melon offered his son the opportunity to experience competition. She enjoyed seeing his progress throughout the project.

“It was nice to see his efforts rewarded,” she said. “It was the first time he had such an interest and I saw his idea come true on the screen.”

Owen will know where he is at the June 16th convention.

Tani Château Thomas is a Tribune Review Staff Writer. You can contact us via Tanisha (412-480-7306, or Twitter. ..