It has been a little over a year now since we first discovered Chuck Bittner and his petition for custom button remapping in video games. If you don’t know who Chuck Bittner is, let us give you a little background. He’s a quadriplegic comedian and gamer. He calls himself, “The Can’t Stand Up Comic” and for gaming goes by the name “iONLYUSEmeFACE.” He also runs the website AskACapper. While Chuck isn’t busy making people laugh, he loves to play games like Call of Duty. As you can see Chuck doesn’t let his disabilities stop him from enjoying himself and the world around him.
Because of his disability though, he is unable to hold a controller in his hands the way all of us do. He is forced to play video games using his face and it makes it quite difficult to play sometimes. That’s why he has spent the last year now petitioning for custom button remapping in video games. Back in December of 2009 when we found Chuck and his petition, he was just barely over 500 signatures and was just getting started. Since that time, Chuck has garnered the support of gamers from all across the world. He has had several articles written about him on different gaming news sites, received positive encouragement from Reddit’s r/gaming, and gained a small following on YouTube.
Chuck has made tremendous progress in the last year. His petition now has close to 15,000 signatures and he’s still rolling them in. While it’ll be a long road, Chuck plans to continue cruising down it in hopes to see his dream of custom button remapping become a reality. As one of the first sites to pick up on Chuck and his story, we’ve decided to check back in now. Chuck was kind enough to give us some of his time recently for an interview where he talks about the petition, his plans for the future, and the level of support he’s gotten for his cause.
HBG: You’ve been in several gaming publications in the last year. When you first started, did you think that this would receive the amount of support and publicity that it has?
Chuck Bittner: When I first started, I saw this was something that was needed. This is a global issue that would help so many people and I knew it would eventually peak news publication’s interests. The answer is Yes, to answer that in one word. The reason being is, again, I saw it as something that was going to help so many people. When I first started, I saw it as the need for me–as in handicapped people–but then I said, “man, this is going to help any gamer.” Back when I had hands I used to like to remap my controls and I’m sure everyone else feels the same way.
HBG: Aside from the internet what are the other ways that you’re promoting the petition?
Chuck Bittner: Last year I went to PAX East and I’m going to be going again this March. I’ve been handing out cards to some of my friends and nurses in my area. We hand them out in public, but for the most part we use the internet and word of mouth. Using the internet is my major means of getting the word out because I can reach so many more people in so many more areas.
HBG: What in your plans has changed from last year to this year as far as gaining exposure on the petition and what are your plans for this year?
Chuck Bittner: Well I’ve been using YouTube a lot which has been really good. I’m doing a lot of gameplay commentaries, talking about the petition, getting on a lot of different podcasts. That’s been something that’s changed recently. A lot of the big YouTube channels have started to show support and that’s been awesome. Some of them have put up the video where I talk about the petition and allow them to download it and put it on their channel. I was doing a lot of forums before and now I’m finding YouTube gameplay commentaries has helped me to gain a lot more exposure. People are able to check out my videos, subscribe, and then they tell their friends to check it out. It sort of a new avenue I’ve been taking.
PAX this year as well. Last year when I went, I focused more on handing out cards to individuals. This year, I’m going to get developers info, give them a copy of the petition, give them some of the comments from the petition, explain what it is, why it makes business sense, ethical sense, and start a real dialogue with developers. The way I think this is going to go down is that small developers will take the lead and be the ones to do it first. The PR boost they get when I’m able to say “hey, these guys are going to do this, they care about disabled gamers, and want gamers to be able to do this” will hopefully get the bigger developers to follow suit. This is year though, I plan on focusing a lot on the smaller development studios and talking to them. Getting their feedback and concerns and then going from there. What I learn from them can help propel me into the bigger studios.
HBG: Have you had the chance to speak to any developers about this directly, and if so, what were there reactions/thoughts about this?
Chuck Bittner: There has been some industry feedback as to why they might not want to do this, or why they are hesitant. I have a friend who works with developers and has told me that what he hears from these developers is that first off, they don’t want to wreck the user experience or they’re afraid that user themselves might wreck the experience. They might do a layout that might confuse them or ruin their experience. I see their concern, but they can set a default layout and that can be reset. There is also a fear of balance. There could potentially be “one layout to rule them all.” If that were the case though, they could just patch it to remove that layout.
HBG: Would you settle for a compromise of sorts? Say they didn’t do complete button remapping, but gave more accessible button layouts for people such as yourself?
Chuck Bittner: I can use the nomad layout which they finally added Call of Duty: Black Ops on PS3 because it has the Aim Down Sights lock. I can hit the L1 button and then hop back and aim down sights. It’s totally changed the game. I can finally aim down sights and no longer have to use “noob tubes.” It’s made the game a lot more enjoyable. It’s still not my perfect layout, but it’s changed the game. If they do more stuff like that it could be good, but little steps are good. Little steps are used to make a big journey. This journey is going to be taken in little steps and I do understand that.
HBG: Have you received any negativity towards your petition from the gaming community, or have they been supportive?
Chuck Bittner: Awesome super amazing. Crazy go nuts supportive — it’s amazing. I love some of the comments, people are like, “of all the petitions I’ve ever seen, this is the one that makes sense and I’m going to support it.” It’s been great, I’m amazed. Almost 100% support — and globally! I’m getting support from Brazil, I’ve gotten tons of signatures form a Brazilian website. People in Australia, France, just all over the world. Even some Arabic websites have posted some of my videos. I’ve got some people in the arabic countries posting support. Whats cool about it is, it’s something everyone appreciates. This is something globally that’s gonna help gamers no matter what country they’re in. They’re all saying that they want this. It’s cool, very few trolls. When the trolls do come out, everyone else puts the flamethrowers on them.
HBG: Before we wrap this up, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Chuck Bittner: Just thanks to you guys supporting me, and thanks to the Hot Blooded Gaming community. You guys at HBG and the other gaming sites have been really cool. Thanks to the people who were saying “yeah we want this, this is awesome!” It was so good to see few trolls and so few negative comments early on. It’s what really got me rolling and moving on. It got me saying “I can do this, this can happen” and to keep plugging away. Thanks to all the sites who supported early on. It’s totally awesome and it meant a lot to me.
I think remapping is going to happen, it’s going to come. Another thing I’ve been thinking about is, what if someone breaks their hand and wants to play games? Remapping also helps people who don’t have a permanent disability, but are temporarily disabled and want to play games. It’s something that is good to just about any gamer out there and is something I see is going to happen. I’m making 2011 the year of the remap.
Chuck will be continuing his petition this year and on until his dream of custom button remapping becomes a reality. Not just for himself either, but for all gamers out there — disabled or not. You can support Chuck by signing the petition, telling your friends, and letting anyone you think might want this know about his cause. He regularly posts videos like this one on his YouTube channel.
You can find more of his videos at YouTube.com/AskACapper. Look for Chuck at PAX East this year if you’re going to be attending the event this March. As he said to us, he’ll be easy to spot. He’s going to be the guy rolling around. Chuck will be playing in the game rooms available at the event to demonstrate to others how he plays and why custom button remapping is important to him.
If you’d like to learn more about Chuck’s Petition, you can do so by heading over to his website.
Editor’s Note: We’d like to thank Chuck for his time for the interview and wish him the best of luck with his petition. See you at PAX East Chuck!