For all his life, video games have given Mike Begum an escape from the everyday, and a sense of community. Many gamers can claim the same, perhaps, but few can boast the level of accomplishment Begum’s achieved under the handle “BrolyLegs.” He’s a star competitor at Las Vegas’ annual Evolution Championship Series (EVO) and has even been ranked as the best Chun-Li player worldwide in Ultra Street Fighter IV. That’d all be impressive on its own, but one detail makes it all extra remarkable–BrolyLegs plays with his mouth.
Begum was born with the rare medical condition, arthogryposis, which has significantly hindered his ability to use his hands and feet. When he handles a game controller, he really can only use his left thumb and one of his fingers. So, he instead relies mostly on his teeth, cheeks, and chin for the button-pushing and joystick-wrangling. It’s a play style that must be seen to be believed. And luckily, Capcom just produced a video profiling him to mark Street Fighter V‘s release.
Obviously, there’s a whole new game for him to conquer. Once Begum does that, though, he already has another goal in sight. He wants to build a house of his own; one customized specifically to suit his needs. And fans can actually help him reach that dream. He offers personal training on his website, allowing all would-be street fighters to get masterful one-on-one instruction via Skype. And he’s also written a memoir, My Life Beyond the Floor, sharing his unique experiences in far deeper detail than any video package has space for. Profits from all of this goes toward his house-building project.
There’s one anecdote from Begum’s book that’s definitely worth sharing, though. It occurred when his mother was still pregnant with him. A stranger approached her, felt her belly and, on the spot, predicted that her child would be born with a disability. Understandably, his mother was furious, but the stranger quickly added that her child would go on to inspire many people–because he’d face and overcome his disability.
Begum has taken that prophecy to heart, striving to set a positive example through gaming. And in interviews, he repeatedly stresses how the fighting game community has been nothing but accepting of his condition. In fact, he’s contemporaries with other remarkable EVO competitors overcoming disabilities, like “Rattlehead,” who’s a formidable force with Cyrax in Mortal Kombat even though he’s blind.
These guys still have to work around games that weren’t designed to accommodate them, though, and that’s why we’d like to draw some attention to the charity organization, AbleGamers. This non-profit exists to connect gamers with disabilities, consult developers who seek to make more inclusive games, and also grant assistive technology to individuals who might’ve previously been excluded from gaming.
Are there other remarkable eSports competitors or organizations who’d deserve a spotlight here? Be sure to fill up the talkback with your suggestions.
Photo Credits: BrolyLegs