How I approach video games as a one-armed gamer

video games

Last week I published an article where I wrote about the best Nintendo controllers for people with one arm.  In it, I discussed my own path to becoming a gamer despite being born with one arm.  When it comes to my approach to video games over the years, it has not changed, but things have been added to it.  To be honest, when I picked up my first controller at five-years-old, I did not have a sense of determination to overcome what others perceived as an obstacle.

I was a five-year-old who picked up a controller and started playing Super Mario Bros. 3  because it looked cool.  Also, the controller only had two buttons, so it was not difficult.  Had I’d been that age and given a Nintendo 64 or a PlayStation, I do not think I would have had as much success in the beginning.


As I grow older, I always keep a simple foundation towards my approach to video games and games in general.  Which is “This game looks fun, I want to give it a try”.  I mean even though I only have one arm I still play Twister when my friends play.  Granted I lose every time but I still have fun playing it.  This mindset ties into the next layer of my approach.  No matter how difficult the game, remember it is just a game and always have fun.

Yes, there have been times where I have played Doom, Dark Souls, and other games and wanted to catapult my controller across the room.  Yes, I yell profanities if I keep on having to restart levels or in-game objectives.  Afterall I am human and I do have emotions.  But what brings me back down from the high level of frustration is I tell myself “It’s only a game.  You got this.,” and then I die again and again until I complete the objective and/or beat the level.

I have never become frustrated with a controller because its layout is a huge hurdle for me.  My mindset on them has always been if there’s a position to hold them, there is a way to use them (outside of the Wii and most VR of course).  Figure it out.  I attribute this to the fact I was born in the late 80s and had the opportunity to grow alongside the industry.

video games

There was never a time where a controller with more buttons was released and I saw it as a negative.  Most if not all games give me the option to change their controls.  Which I rarely do because most of the time they do not put me at a disadvantage.  The only games I have problems with are first-person shooters (FPS) because auto-aim often is not part of their control scheme.

So instead of being quick with my shot, I take damage.  Lots of it depending on the difficulty I’m playing on which rarely goes above normal.  Why?  I have to stop completely, move the right stick with my stub to aim and press the trigger to fire.

I’m basically an easy target.  Which is why I don’t play any player-vs-player modes in FPS games or battle royale mode in a game like Fortnite.  I die way too easy way too early because most of my time is spent stopping and aiming.  If I were to run and shoot at the same time, I would waste a ton of ammo.

video games

Using auto-aim sounds cheap, but when you cannot enjoy playing certain games because aiming is half the battle it is a necessity.  It is a reason why I love playing Grand Theft Auto so much because auto-aim comes standard, so beating objectives are easier and I take way less damage.  Do not get me wrong I still die, but I do not die because my motion is interrupted.  Yes, there are missions in games where I have to drive and shoot and those can be a hassle too.

But if the majority of the game allows me to keep my movements and actions fluid outside of reloading my weapons, then I do not feel as restricted.  Any game that does not require me to aim manually I really enjoy.  That is not to say things like graphics, story, and design do not matter, they do.  But to me, a game’s controls are the first thing I look at and examine when I review things and begin to form my opinions on it.

As years have passed and I grow older, my mindset and approach to playing video games have bled into other views.  Mostly my main one when it comes to living life.  I was born with one arm.  There was no way I could have avoided that.  My parents put me in a variety of sports growing up and I loved playing them.

video games

I still do from time to time.  Thus creating and maintaining a mindset that I can do most things anyone with all of their limbs can.  It might take me longer, I might even fail at it.  But at least I tried to make an attempt at challenging myself.  That is all that matters.

Video games are not very difficult for me to play, but there are those whose disabilities make gaming difficult or strip away their ability to play video games at all.  Which is why I would like to see companies like Sony and Nintendo create an initiative as Microsoft has in terms of giving disabled people the ability to game.  My colleague Andrew Gonzalez wrote an article about how Xbox’s Adaptive controller is a “Dream come true”.   Andrew has a minor case of cerebral palsy.

Per one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population are disabled.  Imagine seeing the “Big 3” console manufacturers coming together to ensure disabled people all over the globe could connect through gaming.  That would be monumental.  Not just with home consoles but with handhelds as well.

video games

I want to see controllers like the Adaptive controller play more of a part at gaming expos and other events.  When Microsoft rolled out the initial video for their new controller I cried heavily.  I did so in part because its reveal represented a major opportunity for those with disabilities to get into or back into gaming.  For the first time in my 29-years of life, I felt like the gaming industry cared about people like me.  For that reason, I cried harder.

Video games have always been fun, they have always provided an escape.  To see them become more and more accessible for people like me, and for other people with disabilities is wonderful.  It is something I never thought possible because it is something rarely ever talked about publicly outside of groups like mine.  But it is possible, it is a reality.  I just hope other companies embrace it.

A community without barriers is one that thrives.  Yes the gaming industry is thriving already, but it is also leaving out a huge percentage of people.  Hopefully, this changes soon.

Nick Battaglia
As a gamer with one arm, Nick strives to inform and showcase what it is like to play games from his point-of-view.  While his love for RPG's, fighters, and everything Nintendo is strong, the only thing stronger is his want to become the live-action version of Mega Man. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @MercWithOneArm.