Today’s feature in IG focuses on gaming within the disabled community, and the fundamental importance of esports providing the suitable provisions to ensure complete equality. This is a topic which is sensitive, but is also currently debated. The ideas and concerns expressed in this article are purely a matter of opinion. It should also be mentioned that disability as a whole is a vast topic, this article will therefore use physical difficulties as its point of reference.
When you think of an athlete, your mind will probably conjure conventional sporting images: Anthony Joshua, Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams. Figures whose physical traits see them competing at the very highest levels, whilst simultaneously basking in their fame and fortune. Esports defies the traditional concept of The Athlete. Sure, those of you that are ignorant to the time that goes into becoming a professional gamer will have the idea of an Esports Athlete as follows: an out of shape, spotty, Mountain Dew addict. Wrong.
Becoming a professional gamer arguably takes the same dedication and work rate that becoming a sporting professional takes. The fundamental difference between traditional and Esports athletes however, is that physical disabilities do not, or shall we say should not, prevent one from competing at the very highest levels of competitive gaming. After all, gaming would seem like the perfect hobby for those whose disability leaves them housebound or unable to seek employment. Even just to escape to a reality where they are not limited by physical impairments can do wonders.
Disabled gamers develop their gaming in the same way they adapt to many of life’s other daily tasks. With practice, they develop their gaming skills by adapting to the abilities they have from birth. Those with degenerative disabilities constantly need to acclimatise to the way they do everyday tasks; if they game, then that too.
Concerns amongst the disabled gaming community surrounding esports’ focus on elite players that carry big name sponsors prove problematic. On the one hand, if esports is to continue its growth, then it is sensible that they focus on the very best gamers. Esports’ willingness to include more gamers effectively increases its mainstream presence. Decent right? Let’s explore further…
I think it’s fair to say that there is a massive underrepresentation of elite disabled gamers. If tournaments are more elite, entry fees subsequently increase, which in turn mean that people with disabilities may not necessarily be able to afford to attend tournaments. Just imagine, not only are you disabled, but you now have to spend £3,000 for a chance of bagging only a £7,000 jackpot. Can we therefore suggest that this has the potential to stall the grassroots opportunities that in the mid to late 2000s esports prides itself on?
This leads us on to our next problem concerning provisions for disabled gamers in competitive esports. These costs can be expensive for able-bodied gamers, just imagine the costs for a disabled gamer. Travel for instance. Specialised vans to transport disabled gamers to and from competitions; vans which may carry thousands and thousands in electronics and disability support. Then of course controllers. Those with physical disabilities will need to modify controllers, and enable macros in order to give them a chance to play the game properly, let alone compete. As they will tell you, it isn’t cheap.
Is it time for sponsorship to consider the challenges experienced by their disabled professionals?
Even after conquering the financial hurdles of competing in esport events, tournament equipment and facilities usually conflict with their disability needs. While the number of competitors with physical disabilities are relatively low, organisers need to ensure that provisions are put in place and venues are suitable. Venue and stage layouts need to be designed in such a way that it is accessible to disabled gamers. There are currently no accessibility standards that esports tournament organisers need to adhere to which is concerning for competitive disabled gaming. What is even more concerning is that organisers have differing views in regards to modification regulations leading to the vital question: in what ways is esports going to ensure accessibility for everyone?
There is still a stigma attached to competitive disabled gaming. A stigma that justifies ridiculing comments that give rise to ignorances towards their needs. If the discrimination is not overt, (or left unchallenged) then it manifests into a pseudo-innocent evaluation that “disabled people just cannot compete to the same level.” Each athlete dreams of being the very best. Even better if they can do so whilst transcending social barriers put in place. Professional disabled gamers have shown their mettle. They proved that they do not lack the motivation to be the very best.
There is still a stigma attached to competitive disabled gaming. r
You Da Best!
Disabled gamers will soon hopefully have the exposure to demonstrate that their inclusion within competitive gaming should not be a choice. They have the potential to be elite, if the correct provisions are put in place. The amount of exposure for the disabled community would be colossal; the inclusion of disabled gamers within the competition will undoubtedly bridge the lack of exposure of disabled gaming and will be source of inspiration. Disabled or not, anyone can achieve what they have set out for, with hard work and determination.
The evolution of esports will eventually see more and more athletes with disabilities continue to dedicate their time to training and reaching the pinnacle of greatness in their chosen games. Whilst their road to success may seem long and full of challenges, it is our collective responsibility to drive the awareness of the acceptance of all disabilities in all capacities of gaming.
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Many more to come!!