Meet three gamers defying the odds

Muscular dystrophy has not stopped these gamers from following their passion

These 3 gamers jam video games regularly despite having the same disability; muscular dystrophy (MD), which is a group of diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. In muscular dystrophy, abnormal genes (mutations) interfere with the production of proteins needed to form healthy muscle.

However, these gamers with disabilities didn’t let muscular dystrophy destroy their desire to play video games, if anything their atrophying bodies made them even crazier about gaming…

Masood “Oody” Hamid

This 26 year old from Eldorado Park, south of Jozi has a form of MD called spinal muscular atrophy. Doctors predicted that he wouldn’t live past the age of five. If only they could see him today, gaming like boss.

When did you pick up your first joystick?

I first picked up a joystick around the age of six, back then I was playing cartridge ‘TV games’ like Mario Brothers. During this period my condition hadn’t started interrupting my gaming experience.

Over the years how has MD effected how you game?

It is difficult for me to click the analogue sticks like R3 and L3 because my fingers don’t have enough strength anymore. I also find it increasingly difficult to keep up with games which require Quick Time Events (QTE – spontaneously tapping a button repeatedly to achieve certain outcomes in the game).

What challenges do you face playing video games today?

Having to sit for long periods of time makes me really tired, but fortunately I can still hold a controller and my fingers work.

Are there any gamers with disabilities you look up to?

I can’t say I look up to any gamers with disabilities because I don’t know any. I’d rather look up to myself and other gamers with disabilities because not having the full ability to play is what most persons take for granted. So I’d rather say I look up to all gamers with disabilities

Masood “Oody” Hamid

Is PC or arcade gaming harder or easier for persons with disabilities?

Both are definitely harder because you have to use many keys on the keyboards, you have to use a mouse and both pieces of hardware require quick reactions. Arcade machines are just as difficult because most of them are too high for people on wheelchairs to reach or see the screen.

How can game and console manufacturers make video games more accessible to persons with disabilities?

With tech moving forward I think at some point persons with disabilities will be able to access gaming. I can’t recommend any new ways because some people have missing limbs or play with their feet because they don’t have hands. Hopefully with technology evolving persons with disabilities will be able to play games with unconventional body parts.

Mothusi “Jay Crixus” Rafutho

Jay Crixus is a 28-year-old gamer from the small town of Postmasburg in Northern Cape province with a form of MD called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (MDD). Doctors told him he would likely have a short lifespan and if he had to die far from home it would be more expensive to transport a body like his to his hometown.

As a result he moved back home from Cape Town and dropped out of school while he was in Grade 7. He sat two years without school, but after battling his demons he decided “I will prove them wrong”. He went back to the Mother City, enrolled in school and finished matric. Today he is a rapper & technician working at an Anglo-American mine. Take that doctors!

Mothusi “Jay Crixus” Rafutho

When did you first pick up a joystick and what challenges did you face back then?

My first controller was from back in the days when people still used fake Nintendo’s we called TV Games. Then a friend of mine bought a PlayStation1, I then got a PlayStation2 from Reach for a Dream foundation, and later on a PlayStation 3. MDD didn’t seriously disrupt my gaming experience back then.

How does MDD effect your gaming experience today?

My muscles started getting weaker when PlayStation 4 arrived. Also, it’s difficult to play in winter when my hands are cold because I cant press L1 & R1 shoulder buttons, it’s the reason why I hate winter.

Is PC gaming easier or harder for gamers with disabilities?

I’ve played solitaire but I’ve never played serious PC Games, I prefer PlayStation.

Any ways game & console makers could make gaming easier for persons with disabilities?

The PS5 controller is a bit heavy. Also, if console makers can at least make the buttons on the joystick a little softer because with the buttons being hard it is difficult to press them rapidly during QTEs.

Jonathan “2J Hamronix” Groenewald

2J Harmonix from Eerstrust in Pretoria was diagnosed with MD at birth. Cynical doctors said he wouldn’t live past age 4 and still have a normal life. Today he is 38 years old and has multiple professions including being a life coach, rapper, YouTuber and an ambassador for charity organizations like Casual Day and Nappy Run. He is also Youth Awareness Officer for the National Council of and for Persons With Disabilities In South Africa (NCPD). So if docs got any prediction right, it’s probably the part of 2J not living a normal life, because even ‘normal’ people couldn’t keep up with that many jobs.

Jonathan “2J Harmonix” Groenewald

When did you pick up your first joystick and what were your challenges back then?

I’ve lived through many eras of video games but it all started around the late 80s during the ‘Golden China’ era, playing games like Mario Brothers & Double Dragon. But i couldn’t play with both thumbs well, I mainly played with my index fingers & that resulted in my left index growing a bunion because my left forearm has always been twisted…When analogue sticks came in with PS2 I used it the way people use a joystick in the arcade…

How has your condition gotten worse since you started gaming?

As time went by my thumb got slower and weaker until I couldn’t even make a thumbs up. For games which require you to combine action buttons or left shoulder buttons I struggled, the controller also became too heavy for me and eventually I stopped playing games on console altogether.

What challenges do you face playing video games today?

I can only play mobile games like Candy Crush, even then I can only play in portrait mode because I can only use my right thumb and left index fingers. I can’t play games like Call of Duty, Fortnite and PUBG because they require you to hold the phone in landscape format. I’ve seen my friends play PUBG, it looks like a world I would love to enter but that is something that will never happen.

Is PC Gaming harder or easier?

Due to the way MD has twisted my hands, playing on a keyboard is impossible for me. Keyboard has always been harder than holding a controller

How would you like to see game and console makers accommodate gamers with disabilities?

If they could integrate gaming controls onto the phone. Due to the way MD has effected me individually, I could play console games again if I could connect my phone to the console via Bluetooth and use my smartphone as a controller.