It was a day that would change Ryan Gunner’s life forever. After running 11 miles during a sweltering afternoon, he thought, what better way to cool off than going to the pool.
“Literally the first time I jumped in I did a gainer and I hit the slope of the pool,” Ryan Gunner says. “My neck shifted to the left and it dislocated my c4 vertebrae, it snapped back in which pinched my spinal cord causing the paralysis from the neck down.”
Many people like Gunner are suffering from a disability. Being unable to do as much can create a physical barrier that makes them feel like they are alone. But gaming companies like Xbox are trying to knock down parts of that barrier by creating controllers that the physically disabled can play with, helping them to connect with their friends, have fun or even make money through gaming.
Gunner wasn’t originally a gamer. He lived with his disability for two years and said that he “couldn’t find anything good to do.” That was when he turned to video games.
“It created a whole new world.”
Ryan plays on the Quadstick which helped him become a Call of Duty: Warzone streamer. With the Quadstick he is now able to enjoy playing with friends. He likes to challenge himself by putting himself up against two of his friends.
Rocky Stoutenburgh, 34, Detroit Michigan, also known by his Twitch username, Rockynohands, was severely injured from a fall dislocating two of his thoracic vertebrae and severing his spinal cord at the age of 11. This tragic event left him permanently paralyzed from the neck down.
Obviously, this made everything he was used to doing difficult but he was unwilling to give up on gaming.
Stoutenburgh is still able to play high intense shooting and movement-based video games like PUBG, Call of Duty and Apex Legends. He was even signed onto a pro e-sports team, Luminosity.
He wouldn’t have been able to achieve all of this without the Quadstick. The Quadstick is used with your mouth, it has four holes where you can either blow or suck into, to control your character.
“It took me about three days to make a layout,” Rocky told PCGAMER. “I used literally every button I have and there are still some things I can’t do.”
Although he doesn’t have access to every button, he is still one of the top players in the world.
Fred Davison was the one who invented the Quadstick. Fred got the idea from an interview about Ken Yankelevits and his QuadControl joystick. With a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Quadstick was launched in 2014.
In this interview, Yankelevitz, the creator of QuadControl said “I don’t want to quit now but I won’t be going on forever. If someone wants to fill my shoes, it wouldn’t be an easy task,” Yankelevitz told NBC news.
Davison who had already developed many digital hardware and software products was inspired by this and took up Yankelevitz’s challenge.
Another great solution for disabled gamers is Xbox’s adaptive Controller. When Xbox released the adaptive controller back in 2018, it was to help create a pathway for disabled people to get into the world of video games. It was a rectangular box with multiple programmable buttons and many 3.5mm jacks for external buttons. This meant you were able to connect to any controller.
Harrison Barton, a gamer with Amniotic Band syndrome, liked that you could customize your buttons to your liking.
“If I’m having trouble reaching the Y button for instance, I can just pull the Y switch closer to my body. If I don’t need a particular button, I can just remove the switch, or relegate that button.”
Mike Luckett is another gamer who uses Xbox’s adaptive controller. He was a competitive gamer but was in a motorcycle crash which left him with a severe spinal injury. He can move his arms but has no dexterity in his hands. He plays Overwatch which is movement based and he said that “doing that on a controller myself, would not be possible.”
He really liked that you were able to customize your controller.
“The good thing about the adaptive controller is you can customize the set-up for whatever game you’re playing,” he told Eurogamer. “It’s funny when people find out I have a disability and can’t use my hands. It shows that anybody can be competitive and destroy people.”
Gaming has helped many physically disabled people’s lives. It has brought joy, and the competitiveness side out of them. It gave them the ability to play with friends and family, and it has made some of their vision become reality.
“Gaming has helped me understand that I’m not here alone. I don’t know where I would be without gaming,” Gunner says.
Cover Image Credit: Viki_B