Veterans Who Lost Limbs Learn to Game Again With Adaptive Controllers

Source: CNET »

Former Sgt. John Peck is playing Minecraft, gathering supplies to build a Hogwarts replica there for his wife, an avid Harry Potter fan. It sounds like a simple way to pass the time during coronavirus quarantine, but the fact that Peck is able to do this at all is something kind of magical: He’s doing it without any limbs.

While deployed in Afghanistan in 2010, Peck stepped on a bomb and lost one arm and both legs. He also contracted a flesh-eating fungus, which took his second arm, making him a quadruple amputee while he was just in his 20s.

During occupational therapy at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Peck met defense contractor Ken Jones. Jones asked Peck, who is now 34, what kind of hobbies he’d like to get back to doing, and one was playing his PlayStation 3. That led to Jones, who built adaptive controllers for veterans in his spare time, looking into rigging up something for Peck.

“Before I got injured, in the Marines, I would go to work at 5:30 a.m, and I wouldn’t come home till four or five at night,” Peck said. “The first thing I wanted to do was veg out and play video games.”

For the estimated 33 million gamers with disabilities, the hardware required to play (namely, the controller) is often a major hurdle. But technologists, hackers and hobbyists are finding ways to adapt controllers so that anyone can play and become a part of the gaming community, whether they are veterans who lost limbs, or children who were born with special needs. It’s the kind of work CNET is highlighting this week in honor of Thursday’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day…

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