Full Spectrum Gamer

Full Spectrum Gamer
Able - Bodied Gamer

Jeff Groves | 1 Jun 2010 12:10
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Spohn's explanation for determining accessibility is simple: "Generally we look for options. Can you turn subtitles on? Can you adjust mouse sensitivity? Can you alter the colors and fonts? If I had one hand could I still play?" The last one is particularly important to him; his muscles have degraded to the point he can no longer use a keyboard. He must play computer games using only the mouse.

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Spohn and Barlet's friend Stephanie are not the only gamers whose disabilities appeared or worsened as they grew older. As the first generation of gamers ages, more and more of them develop health problems over time. "There are some issues, like muscular dystrophy, that you are born with and it is debilitating from birth," Barlet stated. "That said, you are also born with multiple sclerosis, you just will not know it until you are in your thirties. There are so many issues that fall into that category: some muscular dystrophies, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson."

For these gamers, it is encouraging to have a website categorize which games they will be able to play as their abilities degenerate. But there is another group of gamers that were disabled by accident. That's what happened to Barlet. "I just went to work one day and before the day was over I was flown to Bethesda Naval to have my back operated on," he said. "Slipped on the stairs and broke my back."

I shuddered at the mention of accidents and how a single incident could irrevocably change your life. Like anyone, I worry about my typing being hindered by carpal tunnel syndrome or, maybe, losing a finger. What would it be like to lose more than that? Would I still be able to game?

Michael Clinton, known as 1armbandit on AbleGamers, certainly can. In 2002, he had an accident while working on a high-voltage power line. Over 14,000 volts of electricity coursed through his body. His left hand, which took the brunt of the damage, was amputated. He was 19 at the time, and an avid gamer, but Clinton refused to let his injury keep him from enjoying first-person shooters like Modern Warfare 2 and Global Agenda.

"It took me a few months to get somewhat skilled at the PS3 controller," Clinton said. "I just needed to find different tactics and ways to play. I control the left movement joystick with my chin and use right hand to hit most of the buttons. I use my left stump arm to hit L1 and L2 if I need to."

I paused to make sure that I was forming the correct mental image: In order to play Modern Warfare 2, Clinton held up the controller by his face, moving with his chin, using his right hand to aim and fire, and his left stump for the shoulder buttons. Amazing.

"How well do you play like that?" I asked.

"I hold my own," he replied. "On a scale of 1 to 10, maybe a 5 or 6."

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