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Ask HN: Gaming with one arm
51 points by chrissyb on Oct 21, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments
Hi All,

One of my best friends was just caught in an unfortunate explosion, and he has lost his left arm.

He's pretty into gaming, and i think recently he switched form Xbox to PC. He mentioned to me that gaming is something he'll really miss, and i've told him "No, way - we can work something out!"

Could anyone suggest what to start looking at? I've been thinking about a Joystick with secondary feet controls maybe? Any info/help would be awesome!

edit - Thanks everyone for replying to this! I came straight here when i started thinking of it because i trust hn community and the power of group think!

- Also i think he has been playing mostly FPS stuff.

- Razr Naga is coming up a bit so that could be a good starting place.


Ben Heckendorn is known for very clever console modifications and has forayed into accessible controllers in recent years. He sells a custom made one-handed controller for a few hundred dollars, and this may be worth a look!

Hearthstone is a great Collectable Card Game type free-to-play game. A lot of the top players were pros in faster-paced games, like DotA and Starcraft, before switching over. It's pretty fun and fairly deep. I've been playing for about a year. Twitch gaming skills peak at a pretty young age (as young as 25 or earlier) anyway, so switching to something slower is, in some ways, a natural progression anyway.


Hearthstone is quickly growing too! I often see it as between #2-4 on Twitch, and just yesterday there was a $10000 grand prize tournament.


Hearthstone is great. I think just about any turn-based game out there is well suited for one hand.

I hadn't thought of it in that way before, definitely something i can suggest!

What about Strategy games? They are usually mouse-oriented. i haven't played any in ages, so I don't know what's hot these days. But I have spent countless hours on

- Age of Empires Series

- Command and Conquer series (aka Red Alert Series)

- Stronghold Series

I am sure there are modern equivalent of these. Isn't starcraft in this genre?

I'd like to point to Europa Universalis IV for fans of very in-depth, complex games, or history! I've learned so much about history and geography from this game, far more than I learned in high school.

Starcraft is known for the speed that you need on your keyboard hand to play well. You can certainly play RTSs badly with one hand though (which is what most people do, it might even be more fun this way).

There is a player who plays Starcraft at a moderately high level with no hands though, http://videosift.com/video/OMG-he-plays-Starcraft-WITH-NO-HA... .

I agree that there's quite a few leagues you will have a hard time mastering without that extra keyboard hand. However I think without that but compensated with strategic skills, you will be able to beat a range of players (plus one player campaign). Remember Starcraft ranks you among your equals, so unless you are the 'worst' player, you'll always find wins and losses balanced out to some extend.

With one hand you can still switch between mouse and keyboard for the most basic (grouping) shortcuts. Maybe there's even computer mice with some extra keys that you can configure to act like key presses.

I play Starcraft 2 quite a bit, and can confidently say that no matter how good your strategy is, it just doesn't work without good execution against any decent player, and by decent I mean anyone above bronze league. This is because not using keyboard shortcuts slows you down by orders of magnitude, and your faster opponent can just brute force his/her way to victory.

Using MMORPG mice with all the extra hotkeys might work rather well though, but I still doubt that it's possible to get into the more serious players' leagues this way though.

Rather than Real Time Strategy games, maybe consider Turn Based Strategy games.

I often play Advance Wars Dual Strike on an emulator on my phone with one hand when standing on public transport.

First of all - lots of turn-based or slower games can be played with mouse only. That might not be his interest, however.

Something like a Razer Naga[1], a mouse with a ton of side buttons, could allow him to play other games with one hand. Probably not FPS though[2]. Other manufacturers will sell similar mice, I just thought of that one first and have no idea if it's the best.

You could get an IPAC[3] or other arcade control board (I've used X-Arcade kits[4] with success for other projects) and build some kind of custom control surface, maybe using a trackball or joystick and some big arcade buttons.

Final idea, if you're crazy: Bolt WASD onto a mouse, and wire in as extra mouse buttons or to a keyboard controller.

[1] http://www.razerzone.com/gaming-mice/razer-naga-epic

[2] Maybe sensors or pedals for movement? Seems like it would be hard to WASD with the side buttons on the mouse. That way you could get good enough mouse fidelity for aiming and still have enough buttons to do stuff.

[3] http://www.ultimarc.com/ipac1.html

[4] http://www.xgaming.com/store/arcade-parts-and-accessories/pr...

Some games that only need one hand, or the mouse:

Nimbus, Desktop Dungeons, Cogs, Osmos, Papers Please, Peggle, Bejeweled, World of Goo, Any poker game..


Machinarium, Evil Genius, World of Goo, Civilization V

With a controller like the G13 there's many more which could be programmed to playable state: http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-G13-Programmable-Gameboard-Di...

2nd poker.

I spent years devoted to it. It has endless depth, it's the best game ever invented, and one hand is one more than you need to play it well.

Geeking out in one-day fantasy might be a good alternative.

I bet you could play League of Legends to a reasonable level with a good mouse with buttons mapped to QWER and voice communication over skype. The only tricky part would be activated items, but maybe you could rig something up with a foot pedal? It would be worth it - LoL has become pretty much the only game I play; it's got incredible depth, and a nearly unlimited skillcap.

I agree that League of Legends would be a great game to be played with only a mouse. You would just need a mouse with lots of buttons!

Take the Razer Naga for example (http://www.razerzone.com/gaming-mice/razer-naga). It has 12 configurable buttons on the side of the mouse, as well as 5 on top.

In League of Legends, you only require the following default key bindings on the keyboard:

(The following are crucial)

1. Q [champion ability]

2. W [champion ability]

3. E [champion ability]

4. R [champion ability]

5. D [summoner ability]

6. F [summoner ability]

(The following are less crucial, but almost required)

7. 1 [activate item 1]

8. 2 [activate item 2]

9. 4 [activate trinket]

10. B [teleport back to base]

Pressing numbers 3 and 5 through to 7 on the keyboard, by default, are to activate additional items, but it is very rare that you would have the need to activate more than 1 or 2 items in the game. I would say they are not required to be bound at all (or at least, I never press them).

Other useful keys to use in the game are Ctrl, Alt and Shift. They are modifier keys, which when pressed with the other key bindings or mouse clicks, allow the player to perform different tasks.

Of course, not all of this functionality needs to be bound to a key. Everything can be clicked with the mouse on the game's UI if need be. However, clicking the UI is rather slow, and I think it would be safe to say that a mouse similar to the Razer Naga would allow you to play League of Legends at a rather competitive level, with only using the mouse.

I'm sorry to hear what happened to your friend.

I have no special knowledge on the subject, but I did a quick Google search. I'm sure you might have run across some of these before, but I wanted to share them since I'm pleasantly surprised by the depth of things that are out there.

* http://www.gamespot.com/articles/modder-creates-single-hande...

* http://www.oneswitch.org.uk/1/AGS/AGS-bespoke.htm

* http://kotaku.com/he-built-a-custom-controller-to-help-disab...

* http://www.game-accessibility.com/index.php?pagefile=motoric

There are a lot of really good previous examples of gamers needing alternate configurations that have been popular on the Internet over the years. From gamers that use their head for controls[1], to folks in the same position of having the use of only one hand[2]. Whether it be customized controllers, or just having to re-map a lot of keys or buttons, there doesn't seem to be a barrier to enjoy gaming.

You should let your friend know that they are not alone and they almost certainly can still have plenty of enjoyable gaming ahead of them.

[1] - http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/video-games/disabled-gamer-shows...

[2] - http://www.reddit.com/r/leagueoflegends/comments/120per/ama_...

No Hands Ken is another in the former camp.



Sorry to hear about your friend, chrissyb. Some great suggestions in this thread; only thing I would add is that so many PC games are getting optimised for controller these days, so the number of keys is small enough that a Naga may well be all you need to play them.

I commend you for helping your friend. When I was a child, my fathers friend lost his left arm and all but two fingers on his right hand in a train accident. My dad hired him to work around our yard and help out. He eventually taught the guy how to tie his shoes with only two fingers. I'm still impressed by my fathers patience and inventiveness in helping his friend get back on his feet. I'm sure you'll find a way to make it happen for your friend as well.

My initial thought is there has got to be some kind of foot pedals for the left handed controls. If you can't find one, take an old keyboard and eliminate all the keys except the ones needed for gaming. Then attach foot pads to the gaming keys he needs. It will probably take some time, but he'll eventually get used to it.

Maybe he could try the OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator (if they still sell it). I once tried it and after a few weeks' practise it worked quite well. It uses your brainwaves as input and you can bind different waveforms to certain actions, like pressing a button.

Whoa, holy shit. I just googled that. Looks amazing. Are there open APIs for this?

Sorry about your friend. Good on you for helping him out here.

Unfortunately I don't know of anything in the way of custom joysticks/setups that might be helpful, but maybe I can offer some reassurance for your friend. Even with the standard input devices (mouse/keyboard, controller) people[1][2] have been able to adapt to very extraordinary circumstances. Anything's possible.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bONUFkP3i8s

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83nSodg-HTU

Cheers, I totally agree! If i can just help him with this one very small part of his new life, it might keep in in higher spirits while he adjusts.

I also have one hand and have been gaming on the XBox 360 (and recently the One) for a while. One-handed controllers are hard to come by and a couple links have been posted to this thread.

Many of them were built for the PS2, so you need an adapter to play with something like the XBOX or Playstation, try http://xim4.com/.

Also check out: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/70308014/kings-assembly...

Have you looked at the Stinky Board? http://stinkyboard.com/ Should be able to map standard WSAD keys to it, then use mouse for aiming.

Looks like a great product, but what a terrible name

Thanks for this - this looks cool!

If he likes PC gaming, there are a few mice that have several extra buttons that you can bind to keyboard input.

I recommend the Razer Naga, or Razer Naga Hex. The hex has 6 extra buttons while the original Naga has 12 I believe. Both mice are in the $60-$70 dollar range but are well worth the purchase.

I stopped in to comment ( my first comment actually ) because games are a big part of my life, and I couldn't imagine a world without games. I'm a game developer by day and player by night. My best wishes go out to him and I hope he continues to keep playing games!

My cousin has lost an arm about 10 years ago and now beats me at every single game he owns on ps3, using the standard controller. For some games he'll use his feet for the triggers, but other than that, he just plays with one hand over the controller, and has gotten really good at it.

Looking for alternative controllers might be nice, finding some way to make do with the standard one could also help him gain more agility with the one hand he has left, which will be useful for many other things in his life.

One of my buds from architecture school is quadriplegic from the neck down. It was an obstacle not a barrier. It would have been less of one if the Kinnect existed.

He ran 3D Studio by pushing the trackball and hitting keys with a stick gripped in his teeth...and with a pen, he could kick most of the studio's ass sketching - so long as someone set the sketchbook on his lap...he used that as a pickup line with the ladies.

Your friend is grieving. You can't fix that. But it will work itself out.

With foot pedals and a mouse and he could probably play FPS games at a high level. It's mostly about the mouse hand.

There are also mice with a lot of buttons, like the Razer Naga: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004AM5RAM

Voice commands in games is becoming real: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmsuTiuRaog

I hearded about joystick-like device that can be controlled with your feet. Never tried that, but it could solve wasd movement controls for your friend and other actions can be surely mapped on something like Razr Naga.

I couldn't google any of this device, but I saw one in university lab. It was circular board - much larger than usual pedal-size with 4 springs at edges. It may be possible that it was custom built though.

Yeah a post below mentions http://stinkyboard.com i think this would be simliar to what you're referring too.

A coworker in a different department is missing his left arm above the elbow, and one of his team built him a set of foot switches both to do his job as well as to participate in gaming nights. A gamer mouse with lots of buttons is also included. Then, macros to change the contexts of what the different buttons and foot switches do, and he's able to recover a significant amount of functionality.

I hope hes right handed.

For PC FPS i would try a mouse with a lot of buttons on the left so you could put wasd on 4 buttons on the left so he could control the shooter enirely by mouse.

Depending on how much use he has with his left arm he could also probably build a simple custom Joystick to replace wasd movement keys...

Also i would get some One-Handed Keyboards for fast Typing with one Hand.

Hope he gets adjusted quickly!

Yeah he is dominate right-handed, thankfully. Will look into the one handed keyboards too!

Thanks for that!

Pretty much any rts even if keyboards have practical shortcuts. Some rpg too. I'm playing shadowrun dragonfall with only the mouse, awesome game (rpg with turn based combats, bargain price). But its very cool from you to try to come out with a solution for your friend. It would be useful mostly for fps shooters or rpg.

A typical FPS control setup maps one hand to movement, and the other to observation and actions. If he can work out a control scheme that moves actions to the movement hand (i.e. Q and E on top of WASD if he’s a PC gamer) then observation controls could be moved to the position recognition of a VR helmet?

for FPS, I'd be interested if you could recreate the WSAD setup for moving with foot pedals? Your feet can be quite dexterious, just most of us never use them for more than walking. I'm thinking something like using the whole foot to control the buttons, not toes. Something sort of like how a kick drum works maybe, but with two degrees of freedom for the heel and toe?

edit: I mean, hell, dance dance revolution sort of does that already and the savants that play that can do crazy speed with their feet.

There was a girl at my school a couple of years above me who was born with no arms. She could write reasonably well, feed herself, etc. via her feet by using her toes like fingers. I was always impressed with just how able she was. She ended up getting her drivers license and everything with a steering wheel that she can use with her feet.

Your foot pedal idea is really interesting, i also just thought that there is a certain amount of pivoting ankles can perform while seated. So the two feet holsters could pivot from side to side and forward and backward. If all these movements were linked to potentiometers, calibrated to an individuals movement that gives you a total of 6? variable inputs.

You're definitely on the money with your reference to the girl from your school too, our feet's dexterous movements are surely only limited by use/practice.

There's a lot of portable games that are stylus/touch-driven. Kid Icarus came with a cradle for the 3DS and if he likes RPGs the recent Final Fantasy Theatrhythm would work great. It supports a one-handed mode for the buttons too.

Maybe the Razer Orbweaver[1] can help. Best of luck.

[1] http://www.razerzone.com/gaming-keyboards-keypads/razer-orbw...

Depends what he wants to play. Sim racing could work, as it's mostly foot control with some arm movement for the wheel. Can be done with one arm and one leg if need be.

Get him an Emotiv Headset http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs2GDSYYCoA

How much of his left arm did he lose? (eg, is there a stump with enough motion that a rig could be devised for d-pad control?)

What type of games does he play?

Lost all up to shoulder, i think hes been playing mostly FPS.

Oculus + Joystick + Eve Valkyrie could work.

recommend world of tanks with a footpad set up for wasd

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