MEGATech Showcase: Gamers with Disabilities Who Refuse to Quit Michael Kwan February 23, 2015 Features Everyone faces their fair share of challenges in life, but when you are afflicted with a physical disability, it can feel like you are at a significant disadvantage. However, we don’t have to look any further than the Special Olympics to find lots of people with various physical or mental challenges who are able to overcome these difficulties and truly excel at what they want to do. And these inspirational stories of triumph over adversity aren’t restricted solely to the physical competition of the Special Olympics either. Turning our attention over to the world of gaming and eSports, we find there are several players with disabilities who are making a difference and some of them can compete on the same level as their able-bodied counterparts. “Brolylegs” Mike Begum You may recall when we previously featured Brolylegs on MEGATechNews. Whereas the majority of people who play fighting games at a competitive level (and even the marginally more serious casual players like me) prefer to use arcade-style fightsticks. Then there are players like Luffy who prefer using a pad. In the case of “Brolylegs” Mike Begum, he plays with his face. He was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis, which he explains as his “brain did not tell my muscles to grow, thus limiting my motion in my limbs.” In effect, he holds the Xbox controller in one hand and can manipulate the other half of the controller by pushing his tongue into his cheek. And he happens to be one of the best Chun-Li players on the planet today. Check out his book, My Life Beyond the Floor, for more on his story. AskACapper Chuck Bittner If you thought that Mike Begum was the only guy playing video games with his face, then you probably haven’t heard of Chuck Bittner. Perhaps better known as a stand-up comedian who has dubbed himself a “can’t stand up comedian,” Bittner is a C5 quadriplegic and is a self-described avid gamer. Since he can’t really play with this hands, he too plays console games using his face. The difference here is that while Brolylegs was born with his condition, Bittner only lost the use of his hands after suffering a car accident at the age of 20. He had to make some rather major adjustments in his life and now, some 20 years later, he’s pretty great at Call of Duty, among other FPS and action games. He accomplishes this through some relatively simple button customization and re-mapping, since he can’t use both analog sticks at the same time, for instance. Wired has called Bittner “probably the most high-profile gamer calling for increased accessibility.” Artist Robert Florio Whereas Begum and Bittner effectively use “regular” controllers for their gaming, Robert Florio has been experimenting with the Quad Controller. It’s a mouth and voice-operated controller that can also take on the functions of a mouse and keyboard on a computer. It’s also compatible with Android. Florio suffered a spinal cord injury at the age of 14, but he “has not let life get him down.” In addition to his gaming (you can find videos of him playing titles like Batman: Arkham City and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary Edition on his website), Florio is also an accomplished painter and artist. Yes, he holds the paintbrush in his mouth. “Kombatant” Carlos Vasquez Of course, physical disabilities are hardly restricted to instances with reduced function of the hands and limbs. Lacking the fine motor dexterity to utilize a traditional gamepad can seem incredibly daunting, but what if you can’t see the action on the screen at all? That’s precisely the case with Carlos Vasquez. His vision started fading, he developed closed-angle glaucoma, and eventually he went completely blind. He really enjoyed the Mortal Kombat franchise, dating all the way back the arcade original in 1992, so how could he continue playing his favorite fighting games when he couldn’t see? He plays it by ear, literally. Vasquez relies on the stereo sound effects in Mortal Kombat as cues and he’s so good at this that he was able to reach the finals in his pool at Evo 2013. That’s the world’s biggest and most prestigious fighting game tournament. “I told all the competitors [at Evo], if you’re playing against me, don’t play at your worst or hold back just because I’m blind,” said Vasquez. “Play at your best; I don’t care if I get owned… the fact that you take me seriously is the best feeling ever.” AbleGamers’ Steve Spohn Afflicted with spinal muscular dystrophy, Steve Spohn is the Editor-in-Chief of AbleGamers. The site evaluates games based on how well they can be adapted and adjusted to accommodate for players with different types of disabilities and challenges. The best genres, in this regard, include MMORPGs and casual games, because they require the fewest quick movements with multiple keys. Though the website and the associated charity where he acts as the Community Outreach Chair, Spohn aims to empower “children, adults and veterans with disabilities through the power of videogames,” encouraging developers keep these players in mind when creating their games and control schemes. Disabilities? Impossible Is Nothing The next time you pick up a game and find that it is too hard for whatever reason, consider the increased challenges that gamers with disabilities have to overcome to enjoy those same titles. If guys like Brolylegs, Carlos Vasquez and Robert Florio can teach us anything, it’s that if you really love your games, there’s nothing that can stop you from playing. Share This With The World!