Disabled gamer shows off unusual play style for charity
Content from the Penny Arcade Report appears every so often on NBCNews.com, and starting this week we're going to run a story or two of their content as well during the weekend. We're going to start with a story I really enjoyed, and am happy to run under the PAR banner. Enjoy! “I don't want to see more of my friends pass away,” Keith Knight tells me. And this, he explains, is why you can find him on Twitch.tv showing the world how he plays computer games—belly down on a bed, keyboard at his chin, pen in mouth, mouse propped against his cheek. Knight is a 25-year-old business student from Canada and an avid gamer who, in the last week, has been livestreaming himself online as he plays the popular PC games “League of Legends” and “Guild Wars 2.” A couple of years ago, Knight watched a friend die from the degenerative disease known as Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He has several other friends with the same disease. Many of them are in their 20s ... and people with Duchenne don't often live to be 30. “They are all getting weaker, and it's not fun to watch,” Knight told me during a recent phone interview. Knight is streaming his games live to raise money for the Walk for Muscular Dystrophy taking place in Canada Saturday. Muscular dystrophy is a disease that Knight is intimately familiar with and not just because of his friends. Knight has a form of it called Amyoplasia Arthrogrypos. That means he was born with far less muscle mass than he was supposed to have and, over time, his joints have stiffened and fused. “I can't walk,” he explains. “I use an electric wheelchair and I need help with all of my personal care.” But that has never stopped him from playing video games. As a kid, he got his start playing games on the Nintendo 64. But since he couldn't use his hands to grip the controller, he had to come up with an alternative. That alternative: He used his chin to move the analog stick and his nose and lips to push the buttons. “I've always used my face and my head for doing just about everything,” he explains. And he was good—especially at “Mortal Kombat.” He'd regularly beat the friends and family members he played. “I am pretty competitive,” he says, explaining that his other favorite hobby is Powerchair Football (that's wheelchair soccer for those of us in the U.S. Check out his team in action here.) But over the years, as console game controllers got more complex and therefore more difficult for Knight to use, he has moved on to PC games—“Warcraft” and other real-time strategy games and eventually massively multiplayer online games like “World of Warcraft.” But these days it's the new “Guild Wars 2” game and the highly competitive “League of Legends” game that he enjoys most. On Twitch.tv, playing under the name Aieron, you'll find him laying on a bed, a simple store-bought pen in his mouth and a mouse propped up against his cheek. He's incredibly swift with that pen, quickly tapping the keyboard in front of him to type and control his character. He nudges the mouse with his cheek and earlobe to shift his view of the game. When he's playing “League of Legends” he sometimes uses a program called Dragon Naturally Speaking so he can fire off voice commands.
“My setup is just something I've figured out from trial and error,” he explains. Watching him play is, well, amazing. Just ask the 400,000 unique viewers his Twitch.tv channel has racked up in the last few days. Knight set a goal of raising $5,000 for the muscular dystrophy walk and then launched into an 11-hour gaming marathon on Wednesday. He met his goal by the time he'd finished and has since raised his fundraising goal to $7,500. Not only does the Muscular Dystrophy Canada organization he's raising money for put those funds toward trying to find a cure, it also provides people with the disease with assistance they need. And Knight is one of those people. The organization has given Knight a scholarship to help him pay for school—schooling he hopes to one day use to work in the games industry. They've also helped him pay for the wheelchairs he relies on. You can watch Knight in action here and you can donate to the cause here. If you miss contributing in time for this Saturday's walk, Knight says he plans to continue fundraising for both muscular dystrophy and the Powerchair Football organization he plays for through Twitch.tv. One thing is for sure, Knight says he's been stunned by the response from the game community so far. “Its been amazing,” he says. “I'm used to people trolling and being stupid online. But this had made me feel like there's a lot of good people out there.” Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News at InGame. More from our friends at InGame: