You probably wouldn’t know just by looking at me, but I was born with Cerebral Palsy. I had a stroke at birth and ended up with mild spastic hemiparesis. Basically, the left side of my body is weaker than the right and I’m prone to muscle spasms.
My left foot is essentially paralyzed and my left hand’s dexterity is about 50% of that of my right hand. I have trouble with a few minor things as well, like being unable to wink my left eye on its own. I never paid much attention to my condition when I was growing up and lived a relatively normal and active life. I was always a bit smaller and slower than my peers, but it never really bothered me at all and I always considered myself lucky to be able to walk and talk.
I’m 31 now, when I was about 26 I started getting increasing amounts of pain and stiffness in my joints, neck, back, hips and muscles on both sides of my body; most likely from walking around with a limp all those years. It’s not rheumatoid arthritis or another autoimmune disease; I’ve been tested for all that stuff a few times. Unfortunately, because I’m an otherwise healthy guy, doctors generally don’t have any answers or solutions for me that don’t involve drugs with nasty side effects.
A few winters ago, I was waking up in such pain and stiffness that I started missing work a lot. Eventually I had to quit working all together. I got very depressed at that time. There were weeks that I wouldn’t leave the house and some days I’d mope around in my housecoat all day. I even started having panic attacks because no one could tell me what was wrong with me.
I needed to find a way to pass the long days while my loving and supporting partner Nathalie was at work. It was at this time that I re-discovered my lapsed love of video games. I’ve been gaming off and on since the early 1980s with an Atari 2600 and arcade machines and have had to adapt my play style to many controllers since then.
I pretty much gave up on video games around the time that the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation came out. Trying to use an analog stick with my left hand was very, very frustrating and I just plain sucked at games like Super Mario 64. For most of that generation I was the guy that just watched friends play, only to die or fail quickly if I did take a turn. After a while, I discovered I could play Goldeneye: 007 essentially “left-handed”, using my good hand on the analog stick and using the d-pad with my left hand to strafe.
Once I discovered that I had new hope. I eventually trained my left hand to do more complex tasks like using an analog stick and shoulder buttons. I still have trouble with games that use both shoulder buttons on the left side of a controller, especially on the Wii Nunchuck Controller, but I’ve have managed to adapt to most modern control schemes pretty well. It hurts sometimes, but it’s totally worth it and I’ve actually gained day-to-day mobility because of it.
As I started playing more and more games after I quit working I found myself becoming more analytical of the game playing experience. I started writing user reviews at one of the larger game sites and they were received quite well. Once I saw how my reviews were being received, I decided that I was wasting my writing talent generating traffic for someone else and started thinking about getting my own site off the ground.
I was also frequenting message boards and forums around that time. Sometimes I’d mention that I found a game was difficult because of my disability and I started getting responses and private messages from other gamers living with disabilities saying how they felt like they were the only ones, etc. At this point I knew what I wanted to do; start a site devoted to the issues facing this unique and growing section of the gaming community.
The idea was born as The Able Gamer (not authorized by, associated with or sponsored by AbleGamers Foundation, Inc. or its website AbleGamers.com) in early 2008. Due to a naming conflict with another site & community essentially doing the same thing, I decided to change my site’s name to Game Forward. To know more about the philosophy and mission of Game Forward please read this article.
I’ve learned quite a bit since then, have met some outstanding people and love video games more than I ever have before. I plan to work as a writer and advocate for game accessibility for many more years to come.
I’m the editor-in-chief, administrator, a writer and a few other things around here. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer writer with Game Forward, want to discuss having your software or organization featured, or have questions related to the subject matter we cover.