Mark Barlet, Founder Of AbleGamers, Receives ‘Games For Change’ Vanguard Award 2021
Mark Barlet, founder of AbleGamers, is the 2021 recipient of the Vanguard Award by Games for Change, a non-profit that promotes the power of games for social impact.
Although I knew about AbleGamers, having worked to provide accessibility information to families in the database of video games I’ve created, I hadn’t heard of Barlet’s pivotal journey in the video game industry. He has quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) been working in the assistive technology space for 25 years since leaving the Air Force in 1996 with an injury.
When his friend, Stephanie Walker, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004 she was no longer able to play video games. In response, Barlet founded the AbleGamers non-profit to build the assistance she and other people needed to play the video games they loved.
Speaking to Barlet about the award, it’s fascinating and moving to hear him join the dots from where he started to where AbleGamers is now. “How do you change a 64 billion dollar industry from the outside,” he says, talking about the early years. “It’s not by giving people a place to complain, it’s about the games themselves and building a community of advocates.”