with eSports, they fight against stereotypes about disability

DISABILITY – With an expert chin, Shunya Hatakeyama gets a devastating grip on the fighting game “Street Fighter” and hopes, along with other Japanese disabled players, to destroy prejudices about disability through eSports, competitive video games, which you can see in our video at the top of the article.

Born with muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease, the 28-year-old mainly competes in Street Fighter V tournaments, which are open to everyone.
The ability to “overcome handicaps and compete against different people” is the beauty of fighting games, he says.

“When I go to a tournament, I don’t want my disability to be a problem. I want to impress people with the way I play, he says to AFP.

Completely blind since the age of 20 due to a congenital eye defect, Naoya Kitamura, also 28, manages to play Tekken 7 using only sound. “I’ll block a shot and the sound it makes will tell me which shot it was,” he explains. “Then I will react and make my move,” he adds.

Handmade joystick

Esports is booming worldwide, with revenue estimated at over $1 billion per year worldwide. The sector in Japan is not as dynamic as in China or South Korea, but it is gradually gaining importance there.

Daiki Kato, a Japanese social security worker, wanted to give Japanese players with disabilities every opportunity, and in 2016 founded a company called ePara. It employs players like Shunya Hatakeyama and Naoya Kitamura and gives them time to practice video games alongside their work, which, among other things, managing the company’s website and organizing video game events.

Shunya Hatakeyama has used a wheelchair since he was six years old. He’s always loved fighting games, but his muscles have weakened so much over the years that he couldn’t even hold a controller. Depressed, he decided to quit gaming for six years until he and a friend decided to make a custom joystick that he could use with his chin while tapping his fingers on his keyboard. Now he trains other disabled players by explaining to them the different sequences and certain techniques. “If I had never played fighting games, I think I would never have sought to find solutions even when I was in adversity,” he says.

“Same rules, same competitions”

According to Kato, there is a growing market for gamers with disabilities, and video game companies will soon begin to cater to this. He wants to use eSports to showcase talented people with disabilities that the Japanese “don’t really get the chance to interact with”. For Naoya Kitamura, eSports is helping to change the perception that people with disabilities “only need help”.

According to him, the term “eSports” helps to be taken seriously, giving an image of the competition, and not just of “people who play video games”.
Many believe that eSports will one day appear in the Olympics and Paralympics, but Daiki Kato believes that in eSports, people with and without disabilities should compete in the same categories. “Regardless of whether you are in a wheelchair or not, it is the same rules and the same competitions. »

Also look at The HuffPost: In a wheelchair since she was 2 years old, Kenza has decried the inaccessibility of beaches

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