Alex Walls runs a computer game streaming channel online – but he’s not your average gamer.
Leicestershire lad Alex, 22, is growing a following on streaming site Twitch under the username DisabledGuyPlays.
Alex suffered a spinal injury at eight months old, caused by a virus called transverse myelitis which caused his spinal cord to swell and ultimately be damaged by the surrounding vertebrae.
This means Alex is unable to walk, has weak upper body strength and poor hand function.
But he’s not letting that stop him from doing what he loves – which is primarily showing everyone how much better at gaming he is than them.
Growing up with two brothers in Market Harborough, Alex says: “I always grew up being competitive, so gaming was a way I could show my competitive side.”
He doesn’t shy away from the fact that he could “often beat those more able” than him.
But it was not until going to university that Alex decided to share his time spent playing games online.
Being too busy with work and friends to dedicate time to editing, Alex turned to streaming direct to Twitch, where you can broadcast yourself playing live.
Users can also choose to subscribe to a channel for a fee, half of which goes directly to the streamer.
This allows people to be able to supplement their income with the service, or even take it up as a full-time job.
This has led to the platform being an invaluable asset to some people who are unable to work other jobs or leave their house.
Alex, who works as a data analyst by day, says: “As a disabled twitch streamer I honestly can’t think of any difficulties I specifically have.
“Obviously, you get the occasional trolls but I have quite thick skin and you just have to learn to block them and get on with it.”
Alex says Twitch is well equipped to deal with online abuse, giving streamers the power to immediately block people from contacting them or viewing their content.
The real problem, Alex has found, is with game developers.
Button mapping allows a user to alter the controls to be more comfortable for the user. For gamers with limited use of their hands this is a vital to maintaining a level playing field with other users.
But lots of releases lack this function.
He said: “A big issue is the lack of flexibility in certain games where you are unable to change the button mapping on games.
“Due to my disability I struggle using a keyboard and mouse.
“I’m stuck with the disadvantage that I only have the ability to use 30% of my body and then additionally I can only use 60% of the controls.”
It is precisely these sorts of issues that Alex wants to draw attention to on his channel.
With gaming quickly becoming a more global and competitive industry, there is more money and development in the area than ever before, yet disabled gamers remain on the fringes of consideration.138216277814
A recent study by AbleGamers, an organisation that advocates for disabled gamers, estimated there to be around 33 million disabled gamers in the United States alone.
People like Alex are vital to raising awareness for areas in which the gaming industry is lacking.
While Alex has a rather modest viewership at the moment, the rapidly growing Twitch community is the perfect place for him to announce his, and other disabled gamers’, presence in the gaming world.