In 2006, Rocky Stoutenburgh, then an amateur hockey player, was at a friend’s house when he got dropped on his head and broke his neck. On the way to the hospital, he couldn’t feel his legs and soon lost movement in the rest of his limbs.
“I’m paralyzed from the chest down, and it’s been 14 years now,” he told In The Know.
Adjusting to this reality wasn’t initially easy. The first two months of Stoutenburgh’s recovery were incredibly challenging, his mother Christine recalled. Over time, Stoutenburgh adapted to life confined in a wheelchair, as his family searched for a hobby he could enjoy in spite of his limited mobility.
“When I knew he was gonna be paralyzed forever, it kind of, like, tore me up inside,” his brother Andrew said. “So I turned it into a focus on trying to find something for him to continue living his life the best that he could.”
While scanning the internet, Andrew came across the QuadStick, a mouth-operated joystick for gamers. The joystick, which comes in three different models, has sip and puff pressure sensors that can be connected to any game controller button. Its price can range between $400 and $550.
Stoutenburgh, who admitted that he had been a “hands-on” type of person prior to his accident, quickly embraced the new device, first by using it to play Halo Wars, which he called “a real easy game,” and later by moving on to Call of Duty.
“When I first got the QuadStick, I wasn’t that good,” he said. “It’s basically just one analog with three holes that you can sip or puff into and then a lip trigger at the bottom. But the more you use it, the more you learn what you can do, what you can’t do. You gotta just play smarter and not harder basically.”
It wasn’t until Stoutenburgh signed with esports organization Luminosity Gaming and started streaming on Twitch that he really start to cash in on his gaming skills. In the process, he began making a name for himself as Rocky NoHands. He has since accumulated 60,000 followers, breaking several world records along the way.
Still, Stoutenburgh, who predicts he’ll have an even bigger year in 2021, believes he has a bigger purpose: to inspire and motivate those who are living with a similar disability.
“If a guy, who can’t move his body, can use his mouth to play any video game and actually be better than most people that use their actual hands, then anything’s possible for whatever you want to do,” he said. “Me being on Twitch live streaming, showing the world what I can do, showing people that ‘hey, look, you can still play games,’ there’s tons of devices out there that you might not know about.”