One Limb Left: How I As A Gamer With One Arm Play Video Games

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2008
Monkeys Fighting Robots

Video games for many people who play them provide an escape from the regular world.  When you spend eight hours or more trapped in a cubicle, nothing says freedom like exploring new worlds in Super Mario while wearing your finest Tanooki attire.  But for gamers like myself who have one arm, or are missing limbs in general, the question on a lot of people’s minds isn’t how we escape, it’s how we execute our escape.  While disabilities and missing limbs differ in all cases, causing playing styles to differ, they all create cause for continuous adaptation during our lifetimes.

Forcing people like myself to think outside of the box in order to solve both simple and complex issues.  From tying my shoes to entering the Konami code, to performing Sub-Zero’s famous spine rip fatality in Mortal Kombat.  But before I dive into my life as a gamer, I must tell you more about my birth so you can get the full picture.  I was born in 1988, five years after the Nintendo Entertainment System was released.

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Before I was born my umbilical cord wrapped around my arm cutting off growth just below my elbow.  Causing my right arm to look like a club or a submarine periscope made out of flesh.  It’s perfect for pointing at things.  Before I began playing video games I was introduced to pinball.

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Not only did its simplicity make it attractive to play in my eyes, it also helped build my hand-eye coordination.  I would work the plunger and left flipper while one of my parents would press the button to activate the right flipper.  Creating a bonding experience I won’t ever forget.

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It was the simplicity of pinball machines that made my transition into video games at five-years-old easier.  My first home console was the Nintendo Entertainment System, which like the machines I grew accustomed to had two action buttons.  Except for this time, I could reach them both with my right stub.  Bringing me to my answer to the question everyone asks me when I tell them I play video games.

How do I play them?  Picture in your mind a standard NES controller (or any other controller if you wish) and divide it down the middle.  I control the directional pad with my fully functional left hand, and I press the buttons with my right stub.  Now I know what you’re thinking.

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How do I press the buttons individually and not mash them all like an eight-year-old playing a fighting game?  Well though the end of my stub is round, it consists of bones.  One in particular on the bottom of it is pointy and allows me to individually press buttons with pinpoint precision.  The same goes for when I play PC games like Starcraft and League of Legends.  

What also made learning how to play video games easy was the era of games I grew up with.  A lot if not all of the games were sidescrollers and as games became more advanced in their controls and design, and controllers had more buttons attached to them, I was able to grow with them.  Making the transition from console to console easier outside of the Wii’s motion controllers.   Even though the design of controller’s for the most part change from console to console, a lot of my ability to play comes from muscle memory.

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If you play enough then things come naturally.  That being said I still do struggle when it comes to playing certain types of games particularly shooters released on current gen systems.  Most don’t have an auto-aim feature and require me to navigate two sticks at once to aim instead of pulling a trigger and firing.  Which feels like an unnecessary step and results in me taking damage and in some cases dying which leads to frustration and me turning the game off if it happens repeatedly.

When I have to drive a vehicle and shoot at the same time it can also be a bit of a hassle.  As I have to use the sticks to aim and press the right trigger against my right thigh to accelerate.  Which results in my character crashing a lot or missing turns because I can’t slow down.  But whether I’m jumping on enemies, performing stunts with cars, or dunking on an opponent, my love for video games always prevails.

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They provide an escape for me and in some cases, they allow me to blow off steam.  Not to mention the worlds they showcase help build the imaginations of both myself and the many others who play them.  They will always be a part of my life and no amount of buttons or terrible motion controls will change that.