Gaming with a Disability

Game with a Disability, one man's chin serves him well when it comes to playing video Games.

Pac-Man really wants to play his own video game. This is the original Pac-Man, a disk with a slice cut out of him, not the cartoon version with arms and legs. He has no hands to control the stick. How can he avoid the ghosts? He is gonna have to use his face. More importantly his chin. 

I have the physical condition called TAR.

My arms are shorter than the average person. I don’t have the radius bone. This is more commonly known as the funny bone. It’s the long bone that makes up your forearm.

When I was seven and eight and started to game on the NES my parents tried a variety of controllers so that I could game with my brother and friends. Unlike most people I use my chin instead of my left hand to press the directional pad or analog stick. Usually I’ll sit on the left side of a couch. This makes it easy for me to prop up my left arm, wedging the controller  between my left hand and my chin.

The flat directional pad of the NES controller proved hard for me to press with my chin.

You can imagine I would press up when I meant to go forward. The NES Advantage was the first thing we tried. It resembles what you would find on arcade machine, a large analog stick and big flat A and B buttons. This was an improvement over the smaller standard controller. It was not perfect for my situation. The configurations of buttons were still in a close configuration.

It was a simple piece of hardware that helped a great deal.

An analog stick attached to a frame served as the best solution for me. This frame wrapped around the controller. The analog stick sat directly over the D pad. This was a huge improvement for me. My chin could easily move into any of the four directions and comfortably play NES games.

As of this date the manufacturer or the name of this device  escapes me. I no longer have it in my possession. Finding it online has been impossible.
There have been many different types of controllers over the years for many different types of systems. From using the nun chuck for the Wii to using standard controllers found on the PlayStation or the Xbox I’ve found different degrees of success and had to work with the controller to adapt it to my needs.A picture of myself holding a PS3 controller using my chin.

For me personally, the nun chuck with the Wii controller seemed to work the best.

Because it separates into different parts connected by the wire both hands could rest on either side of my body holding the devices. 

For this reason devices like Split Fish work great for me. Split Fish is the more popular of these types of controllers though I use one made by Aimon. This device has made playing twitch based shooters on my computer easier.

People such as Ben Heck modify controllers for accessibility. An example of this would be his one handed controller. It puts an analog stick underneath the controller. The person using this controller can now use his thigh to control movement.

For people with physical disabilities playing outdoor sports and activities such as baseball or even cards are daunting. It all depends on the disability.  Having adaptable hardware gives us an even playing field in the virtual space of games.

When I’m in a battlefield for multiplayer match no one knows of the disability.

To be honest they don’t even care. This is fantastic. If we are playing a game of basketball together they might feel obligated to go easy on me. Being online makes the difficulty the same for everyone because of the anonymity.
People with disabilities seek challenge if not physical than mental. This is the same as everyone else. Being part of a generation that grew up on video games has served as a place to find a challenge. The game doesn’t care who you are it will kick your ass just the same.

While I was looking through the great articles I found on Game Shinny I came across "Disability Gaming and How it can transform lives" by . It is a great overview of how games transform lives. 


Bob is an Artist, Illustrator and Cartoonist with a Geek bent. He enjoys playing video games and writing and drawing about them.

Published Aug. 6th 2014
  • Bob Nat
    Note to my readers, In my article I stated that using adaptive equipment made it possible for me to play twitch based shooters. I replaced the word 'possible' with 'easier'. If the game has controler support then I can play it with my chin as seen in the photo of myself with "chin action" written below my face.
    The Aimon controller does make a world of difference for me though. I am much more accurate when it comes to shooting. When I play on my PS3 I use a controller for shooter games and it works as well as it should.
    I wanted to let my readership to know of the change and not just silently put it in because I want to be honest and accurate with the people that read my stuff as I can be. Once again thank you for reading my story.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you Bob for sharing your story. I'm glad that you've been able to find a controller that suits your needs. My eldest son learned to adapt to playing video games being blind in his left eye. His same disability, that many call it, has also given him an unique advantage when it comes to shooters and shooting in general. I enjoy hearing stories of how people overcome in every aspect.
  • Bob Nat
    Thankyou for sharing about your eldest son. Yes things that seem like disadvantages, like your son's eye become an advantage. I'm glad you found some happiness in reading my post.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I thank you Sir.
  • Yasmin Curren
    Featured Correspondent
    This is such an interesting read! I'm glad you've managed to find a controller which suits you so you can still enjoy gaming :)
  • Bob Nat
    Thankyou, im glad you liked it. Yes I am to (about the finding a suitable controller). Happy Gaming.

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