Japanese startup JP Games is going for the gold in inclusivity, developing the first official Paralympics video game. Called The Pegasus Dream Tour, the avatar role-playing title aims to raise awareness for the event—especially among young people—while adding some much-needed diversity to the gaming universe.
With this video game, we want to contribute to the future growth of the Paralympic Games,” said CEO Hajime Tabata, member of the Final Fantasy committee and director of Final Fantasy XV, a globally recognized, fantasy role-playing video franchise.
Tabata has a long history of contributing towards highly successful video games, but when he decided to open his own studio he dreamt of using video games as a medium to spread awareness and further social good. A meeting with former International Paralympic Committee (IPC) CEO Xavier Gonzalez would give this dream direction – the creation of a new video game for Paralympic athletes.
In previous years, video games centered around the Olympics have flourished due to a consistent release cycle, dating back to 1984. Despite their success, not one of those games focused on Paralympic athletes. Tabata believed this was just the kind of project he could excel in given his extensive experience and passion. Even so, he couldn’t do it alone. Tabata knew from the beginning that he would need a team of people who were familiar with the Paralympics in order to truly create a representative and fulfilling game.
To develop the title, the team worked closely with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as well as its project partners, including Ottobock, which provided background on the prosthetics and wheelchairs it creates. Game developers also collaborated closely with Paralympians, like gold medal winner Patrick Anderson, who brought in the chair he plays basketball in. Along with Anderson, eight other Para athletes will appear as avatars in the game, including Japan’s young rising wheelchair tennis star Manami Tanaka and Argentina’s football 5-a-side legend Silvio Velo, nicknamed the “Blind Maradona” (after the country’s other legendary player). Several Paralympians have been quoted sharing their support for the game, with Velo commenting on the official game website, “I am very excited and proud to be part of world’s first official Paralympics video game because through this initiative we can spread the word about our sport and especially about the Paralympic Games.”
The project was launched in 2019—shortly after JP Games was formed—and its release was slated to coincide with the original dates for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. But before the game could make its historic debut, the pandemic forced Paralympic organizers to move their event to 2021. And so the JP Games team shifted to hit a June release date to build excitement for the big event now scheduled to begin on 24 August.
With so many people still unable to attend public events, the team worked to make The Pegasus Dream Tour into an alternative way to celebrate the Paralympics, placing a special emphasis on social interactions. A stark contrast to the ruthless competition of some games, the game encourages players to communicate and collaborate with each other to tackle issues to help the all-inclusive metaverse of Pegasus City evolve and build a better future together. Some players may not even compete, instead opting to hang out with other players and visit sporting venues as an observer.
For JP Games, the game serves as a huge statement of inclusion in an industry that hasn’t always been so welcoming.
“I want gamers with disabilities to feel that games have the power to change the world,” Tabata told Can I Play That?, a website that covers accessibility in the gaming industry. “In the world of Pegasus, disability is just another part of one’s person and when it is portrayed as [such] in the game, people without disabilities can understand that disabilities are normal and people with disabilities are very capable. I believe that as a result, the norm in the real world of the players will also change in this way.”