Video Game Platforming, But from a Wheelchair with a Mouse

Video Game Platforming, But from a Wheelchair with a Mouse

brianna albers
I want to talk a bit more about game accessibility this week. But, unlike last week, I’m going to offer up some actual, concrete experiences that will hopefully make it easier to understand how I — a disabled person; more specifically, a disabled person with SMA type 2 — engage with video games. It’s easy to write about these things. But I’ve found that in many cases talking about things — saying things like “this,” is something that needs to be addressed. While it is important to talk about accessibility, the conversation only seems to go so far.

Most of my experience with massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs, or MMOs) is set squarely in the EA/Bioware camp, thanks to Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’ve played a little bit of Guild Wars 2. A little bit of Star Trek Online. I haven’t touched World of Warcraft, mainly because I have no idea where to start.

I started playing SWTOR my senior year of high school. I started playing an Imperial Agent (because stealth, because knives and sneaky-sneaky spy stuff), joined a guild, and failed miserably at everything combat-related. I wasn’t interacting with anyone, but I was still having the time of my life, so I didn’t really care.

Fast-forward. I finally made a friend, and for a few months, we did everything together. But I never once said anything about my disability. There were opportunities — plenty of them, really, but something kept my mouth shut. Why complicate a good thing, right?

At one point, my friend and I were platforming, which basically involves jumping one from platform to another, usually in the pursuit of some in-game reward. Now, I love platforming — it’s fun as all get-out. But I’m also very, very bad at it, mainly because I control my character via a mouse/onscreen keyboard. I fall and die a lot, which is fine when you’re platforming on your own. But when your partner’s watching you stumble from platform to platform, waiting for you to catch up, watching you die again and again and again, it quickly becomes a kind of torture. Especially when you struggle with anxiety (hi, yep, that’s me).

I remember one really awful jump. (Thanks, YouTube.) I just could not get past it, so I gave up and said, “I can’t do this one.” But my friend wasn’t about to leave me behind, so he kept trying to goad me. “Sure you can. Just give it one more try.” To which I said, “No, you don’t understand, I literally can’t do it.” And, naturally, he asked, “Why not?”

The words were there. I’m in a wheelchair. I’m doing all this with a mouse and onscreen keyboard. Impressive, right? But then I remembered the mantra.

Why complicate a good thing?

The issue, of course, is this: My being-in-a-wheelchair-ness — disabled-ness, crip-ness, abnormal-ness, whatever you want to call it — shouldn’t be a “complication.” Not when it comes to virtual relationships, anyway. The thing about the internet is that identifiers like “disabled” or “crip” or “cyborg” exist in a kind of liminal space. They help like recognize like. (Oh, hey, you’re disabled too? Do you ever use the #DisabledAndCute hashtag? Can I follow you on Insta?) They don’t affect you if you don’t want them to. I’m not asking you to vacate the handicapped parking spot or install a ramp, please, it’s 2017.

Anyway. I told him, eventually. And he said something along the lines of, “I can’t do this.” (Can’t do what? Be my friend? Play Jedi with me? Have feelings for someone in a wheelchair?)

He never spoke to me again.

This was originally meant to be a one-off, but there are other experiences I want to write about. So I think I’ll make this a series, pick up where I left off next week. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your experiences with video games! Comment below, or tweet me at @bhalbers with the good, the bad, the “oh crap, my mouse just died and now my character’s running straight off the edge of a cliff …”

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

4 comments

  1. Liz says:

    Hi Brainna

    I’m sorry you had to make such an experience. It is not friendly if a team mate ignores you , because of your disability, if you trust him. 🙁
    I myself have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis since my childhood. I myself sit in a wheelchair and have learned that not everyday is the same, People can be painful.

    I myself know what I am writing. I am a graphic artist in a health organization and active in the gaming scene for more than 17 years. I can combine both through my profession. I can speak from my experience, these are a rare species among gamers.
    In all the years I’ve only had a negative experience of a mother in all the decades where I have a gaming community. She was horrified because I modeled a Sim in a wheelchair. I said to her. Hey, thats me, this is my SimAvatar and I am a wheelchair user , because of my illness and now you have a problem !? She took a deep breath and said, oh sorry Liz I didn’t know this, she asked me, we were talking. Today her child is the most loyal fan of mine. I think many people have a lot of anxiety, I try to take these people. I know many players who show respect and tolerance to other players who have a handicap.
    Include players from Battlefield, as well as from SWOTOR. Among other things I have a player of the total blind. He has a dearly teammate, which accompanies him through Battlefield. Both fight side by side.
    The blind young man plays with acoustic signals and listens to the commands of his friend via Teamspeak. I love it every time who I meet both in the game. I even play games when I have time BF1 to SC in multiplayer mode.

    I’m used special joystick and speech controller from Apple.

    Sure people must learn to be careful with their words. Words can more harm in a soul, like a blow in the face.
    Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

    Happy Gaming

    Cheers
    Liz

    • Hi Liz! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts — I always love hearing from disabled gamers, as it broadens my perspective, and lets me see past my own experiences to what the community at large tends to go through. Like you said, people need to understand how their words, and even their nonverbal reactions, wield power. But I’m glad to hear your experience has been largely positive! Mine has as well, apart from the overall inaccessibility of different games, and for that I am grateful.

      • Liz says:

        Agree completely Brianna. I’m sure the games will be more and more accessible in the near future. The gaming industry has became aware of this. The assistive technology is getting better from year to year. Let’s look positively into a future, I’m look forward to your upcoming report. ?We stay in touch. 🙂

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