Right now, I’m watching speedrunner HalfCoordinated blast through Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight on “Insane difficulty” using just one hand. HalfCoordinated has hemiparesis, so the whole right half of his body is severely weak, a disability that hasn’t stopped him from speedruning Momodora: RUtM in under 25 minutes. Today, HalfCoordinated is on the front page of Twitch as a part of advocacy group AbleGamers’ 5-day streaming event showcasing disabled gamers.
Twitch’s front page is about as visible as most gamers can get. Streamers lucky enough to land there typically focus the camera on their face, but HalfCoordinated keeps the camera on his hands, one of which is rapidly tapping buttons, the other, idly holding the controller. All week on Twitch, non-able-bodied streamers will be demonstrating how they modify controllers, speak in sign language or do any variety of things to better integrate into the streaming community. Thumblessgaming, Blindgamer102, CombodudeTheGamer, DeafGamersTV and CrippledKenny will be showing their stuff all week as a part of the AbleGamers event.
“A lot of people don’t know that people with disabilities game,” Steve Spohn, AbleGamers’ COO told me. “People here are highlighting how they game and how well they game. What AbleGamers is doing is attempting to integrate gamers with disabilities into the video game community—Twitch is a huge part of that and recognizes that these gamers need to be supported.”
Spohn added that, a lot of the time, it’s deaf gamers who are left out of the streaming scene. Talking (or if you’re PewDiePie, yelling) with viewers in response to chat is how most streamers forge connections with their audience. Since deaf viewers can have difficulty interacting like this, AbleGamers is helping Twitch test the viability of closed captioning for streams. Last week, AbleGamers representatives streamed Rocket League while a Twitch employee live-typed captions for deaf viewers.
Craig Kaufman, AbleGamers’ Program Director, said that there’s already a community of Twitch streamers who accommodate deaf or hard-of-hearing fans, but closed captioning will make Twitch a more inclusive space.
“Especially for big streams like E3, a lot of a deaf gamers feel left out,” he said.
Hopefully, Twitch’s initiative will inspire other streaming platforms to follow in their stead or, more importantly, more physically disabled streamers to feel comfortable gaming on their platform.
“Yeah, some of us are minorities, some of us have struggles in real-life, but we’re all gamers. We’re all about the game and doing the best we can,” Spohn said.