It's easy to take the little things for granted when gaming like, you know, having two hands. That's what Jason, better known online as ',' discovered when a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed in his left hand. In an instant, the WASD setup that we all use, along with dozens of other things, became impossible for him. But, amazingly, that hasn't come between Jason and his love of gaming. I would know. I challenged him to a duel in CS:GO and he kicked my ass with what might as well have been one hand tied behind his back.
Though his accident was only eight months ago, Jason streams his attempts to get back into gaming on Twitch. Unable to play by traditional means, he uses a MMO mouse—the one with 12 buttons on the side—to do just about everything I would use a keyboard for. He's still able to use the weight of his left hand to push a button or two on his keyboard if he absolutely has to, but everything from moving to swapping weapons is done on the mouse. If it wasn't for the second webcam pointed at his hands when he streams, you might never notice that Jason is only using one of them. That's how good he is. But getting there, he tells me, has been a struggle.
The road to recovery
What was supposed to be another day of riding motorcycles with his brother turned into a disaster when Jason lost control and steered into a wall, flipping over and falling 35 feet to the ground below. "I broke multiple vertebrae," he says. "I have a T5 [spinal] fusion in my back. I broke my scapula. I broke my right arm, my left hand was severely dislocated. They said I broke all of my ribs. My spleen also exploded, so that had to be removed."
In all, he spent nine days recovering in the hospital. But when his left hand still hadn't regained feeling, Jason worried something was wrong. "After going through a bunch of tests, they determined that I severed some nerves in my brachial plexus which is in my neck," he says. "So they think I pulled them out of my spinal column." The diagnosis wasn't positive. While there might be some procedures to restore a little bit of movement, Jason's left hand was paralyzed.
For Jason, who tells me he's been playing on the PC for years, that was hard to take. "Gaming is a huge part of my life, it's like my favorite thing in the world," he says. "I was like, how am I going to play games? Am I ever going to be able to play Counter-Strike again? Am I ever going to be able to play games with my brothers and my friends?"
But Jason didn't waste any time trying to figure out a way. He very quickly figured out that a game like Diablo 3 could easily be played entirely using the mouse, so he started slaughtering demons to help pass the time he spent at home in recovery. Take one look at the most played games on his Steam profile, however, and it's easy to see that Jason is a Counter-Strike guy at heart. Eventually he longed for the sandy corridors of de_dust2.
After a somewhat successful attempt to play the Overwatch beta, he decided it was time to give Counter-Strike a try. "What I did was I went into a deathmatch—I didn't change any [settings]—and I just sat there. I let people come to me and I'd just kill them." It was hardly playing, but it was just enough to motivate him to try a little harder. "I was like, if people are missing this bad while I'm standing still, it can't be too bad if I try moving around," he says. "So I decided to try to rebind [the controls] of Counter-Strike."
With some experimentation, Jason found a setup that worked. And with each match he played, a sliver of his previous ability came back. In the time that we spent dueling each other, it was obvious that Jason is the better player. His aim is deadly, but movement is where he can stumble. Using his thumb to control his character means that he can't strafe and peek as effectively as most players. He also tells me that in hectic situations he'll sometimes switch guns due to hitting the wrong button. Still, that hasn't stopped him from ranking at Gold Nova III. "I definitely get frustrated," he says. "I know where I used to play at skill-wise, so sometimes it gets frustrating especially when I'm in a [competitive match]. I always telling everyone that the only reason that I'm probably where I'm at right now is because of what [knowledge] I have of the game."
But knowledge in Counter-Strike goes a long way. The first few times Jason came out on top, his brothers would always brag in chat about him pulling it off one-handed. When players didn't always believe them, they started encouraging Jason to stream himself playing. Though he was apprehensive at first, he quickly realized how sharing his story could be a positive thing. "It's been amazing," he says. "Through the streaming and whatnot, I've met a bunch of great people. It's helped me tremendously—talking to these people, talking about my accident, and not just storing it away."
Becoming King of the Kill
Months later and Jason streams just about every single day of the week. Though his audience is small, he delights in sharing his moments of triumph. Just over a week ago, he had what might be the most meaningful of those experiences. Out of the 150 people that stepped into a match of H1Z1: King of the Kill, Jason was one of two still standing. His opponent crouched behind a large boulder while he took cover behind a tree. Using a molotov for cover, Jason broke cover and rushed his enemy. Just as he closed in, his opponent opened fire but Jason proved to be the better shot. His reaction to winning is priceless.
"I play with two hands and I've yet to win," writes one commenter. "You put me to shame."
"I'm super proud of myself," Jason says of that win. "That meant the world to me at that moment."
And already he says he's pushing himself towards his next challenge. Fans have been clamoring to see him tackle the will-breaking monstrosities hidden within Dark Souls, a game known for its difficulty but that's already been beaten with a , the world flipped , and using only . He sounds nervous when he tells me about it, but says he's willing to give it a shot. That kind of attitude is at the heart of Jason's message: "After my accident, the only thing I could do was be positive. When I started playing games again the only thing I could do was be positive and know that I would never play on that same level," he says. "I want to tell people that, yeah, this happened to me not too long ago, but we can still work through obstacles in our lives and we can still be positive."
Jason might never reach that same level of skill he had before his accident, but I don't think he minds all that much. And you know what? Two hands or not, he can still kick some ass. If you ever see him in a game of CS:GO, tell him I want a rematch.