Who are the "Quad Gods"? The inspiring story of the professional e-sports team
NEW YORK - E-sports competition is huge, a billion dollar industry with hundreds of millions of players, thousands of whom are professional gamers.
One team has overcome insurmountable odds to compete in that arena. They're people who use wheelchairs, with limited or no use of their hands. They are known as the "Quad Gods."
"We are the first-ever totally quadriplegic e-sports team," said Blake Hunt of the Quad Gods.
Hunt, Richard Jacobs, and Prentice Cox are three members of the six-person squad.
"After the injury and everything that happened, like, this definitely was a blessing, like, to change your outlook on the way things go in life," said Jacobs.
Playing with adaptive controllers, some using only breath and head movements, the Quad Gods hold their own in competition. Make no mistake, their goal is to win, but they also know there's much more at stake than just a victory.
"Just seeing the Quad Gods change their life, and they're close to checking out. And just being able to talk to him, and talk to me through streaming, and talk to the other teammates, it changes people lives," Cox said.
Changing lives is also a goal of Dr. David Putrino, director of rehabilitation innovation for Mount Sinai. He's been working with the Quad Gods for about five years, earning him a unique nickname
"Yes, I am in some circles known as 'the Quad-father,'" Putrino said.
It started when he was working with patient Chris Scott who was struggling to cope after a skydiving accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. Putrino discovered Scott's love of video games, and saw his mastery with a mouth-operated controller, also known as a quad-stick. More importantly, he understood the sense of purpose gaming allowed him, and brought in other patients to engage - and ultimately benefit.
"In order for the brain to actually change itself, and learn and create all of the neuroplasticity you need for recovery, it needs to be engaged. It needs to be excited. It needs to be understanding the importance of doing the movement, and gamification can provide all of that for our patients," Putrino said. "When you sit them down in front of video game, and you set it up so that the movement that you want... we start to see thousands of repetitions of movement. So you see an order of magnitude increase in the work that they're doing."
"I'm thinking, I'm going to play this game by any means necessary... not even realizing that that mentality was also helping me build my muscle memory back," Jacobs said. "And it helped my my recovery immensely. Like before, I couldn't even pick up a cup and drink water on my own. Like, I had people physically standing next to me with a cup and a straw in my mouth, like I was a baby."
Jacobs says he usually plays with a weighted controller with special grips.
"If it's too light, I won't even be able to tell that I'm holding anything," Jacobs said.
Hunt uses his hands, not fingers, on a specially engineered device.
"Essentially, all the buttons there I have here in front of me. So I can use every button in the game. The same," Hunt said.
Cox has been able to adapt a commercial controller.
"I'm able to use certain buttons quicker than others. But, you know, like I said, I make it work," Cox said.
Quiet concentration is the hallmark of gaming, but it takes on greater significance when the depth of the player's trauma is considered. The Quad Gods logo has wings to honor Chris Scott who died in 2019, and was created by a team member, Sergio Acevedo, who paints with his mouth. The team says they play in his honor with fun, purpose, for rehabilitation, the motivation to compete, and more.
"We're now creating an everlasting Quad God family, even that, hopefully, when we are gone, those people we leave behind will continue to grow our family and make it something that lasts," Hunt said.
"My wish is that they're not just the team, they're a movement. That every single person who wants to get involved in adaptive e-sports can reach out to the Quad Gods and say, 'How do we do it?'" Putrino said. "And the only thing stopping them is, you know, what we've set as society norms for access, and Quad Gods are bringing more and more access."
For more information about the Quad Gods, CLICK HERE.
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