I’m physically disabled thanks to a ‘wonderful’ little condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The collagen in my body is screwed up, so nothing in me really holds itself together. I have difficulty walking, difficulty coordinating my limbs, I bruise easily, and my joints dislocate at the drop of a hat.
I’m also a games journalist, which means I sometimes have to attend events. I get invited to a fair few, but have to blow almost all of them off because of all the considerations having shite collagen brings. When I do go to one, I tend to end up hurting myself in ~hilarious~ ways.
For the sake of hopefully inspiring organisers to make them slightly less gruelling for people like me, here’s just a few of the ways I’ve hurt myself at games events.
EGX 2016 was seemingly sponsored by the shittest chair manufacturer in existence. Instead of supplying the event with actual chairs, each game had an overgrown egg timer dumped in front of it. The cheap plastic had to take the strain of thousands of people gently placing their cheeks on them for three days, and so eventually something had to give.
Thanks to my weak joints, I can’t delicately sit down. At some point my knees decide it’s time to give up and I’ll drop the last few inches into the chair. I’ve had actual sit-down training before to try and correct it, but nothing sticks. I plop. I am a plopper. I’m also a hefty guy with zero balancing ability, so that poor, wanky, already-damaged-by-hundreds-of-people chair didn’t stand a chance.
I could tell the rest of this story, but I don’t need to. Playtonic, the developer of Yooka-Laylee, decided to take a quick picture of their awful chair after the damage had been done… and then share it on Twitter.
— Playtonic (@PlaytonicGames) September 22, 2016
I had a bruise on my arse like you wouldn’t believe, but fortunately that’s the one bit there aren’t any photos of.
The Pirate Barrel
At EGX Rezzed 2014, UK retailer GAME had a gigantic pirate ship they’d, ironically, use to sell games and preorders for things on the show floor. It looked really cool, if a bit crowded with people trying to preorder Alien Isolation. Dotted around the sides of the ship were barrels full of memorabilia. Minecraft plushies, Assassin’s Creed keyrings, mugs, the normal tat you find by the tills in any GAME shop.
The problem was the ship was slightly raised. It was kept on a platform only a few inches thick, presumably to protect the floor of the NEC from ship-related scratching. When there were a lot of people around, it was difficult to see this platform through the heaving masses.
I have proprioception problems. My limbs are never quite where I think they should be, so predicting where they will be in a few metres time is nigh-on impossible. Add to that the balance problems that caused the chair fiasco, and I think you can see where this is going.
A face-full of Creeper toys, my arse at face-level for some scarred Rezzed-goers, and me feeling like a tit for the rest of the day. All because of two inches of metal to protect a floor millions of people drag their heels over each year.
One game at EGX 2016 was held in its own special cubicle, with its own wonderful chairs that weren’t the garden toys Yooka-Laylee was supplied with. They were metal, padded with leather, had decent back supports. These were bar-stools, not strictly chairs. But when they’re the only reinforced piece of seating in the entire dang NEC, a fancy bar stool is like a throne made of literal clouds.
It would have been lovely if they weren’t eighty miles high.
My appointment to see this game was later on in the day, after I’d already spent six hours on my feet and I was in absolute agony by the time I got to try out the demo. I was honestly more excited for the seating than the game itself, so I didn’t quite gauge just how high up the stools were.
I stretched up to plant my aching butt cheeks on their throne, and then pop. Out came my hip, full-on dislocated. A sharp, shooting pain all the way down my side, and the all-too familiar sensation of two bits of bone grinding together.
But I’m a professional, and the PR people were watching me. I had to try to not let on that my leg had seceded from the rest of my broken body out of fear of looking like a right arse… and so I half-perched like a pensioner’s trouser model.
Fortunately, the demo wasn’t too long, and I was able to work my hip back into something resembling normalcy not too much later under the guise of asking for one of the free lanyards the developer was giving away. It was just enough time to stand and wiggle-wiggle-wiggle before having to rush off to the next appointment.
A few hours later, when I was back in the hotel room, that whole leg locked up. It’s my own fault for being overzealous with a stool, but it looked so enticing after having to stand up in a two-hour-long queue to see something I’ve already forgotten. Probably South Park.
While they were embarrassing and painful at the time, looking back on them I can’t help but laugh. I kind of hope people remember “that tit who broke the Yooka-Laylee chair”, because I sure as heck will never be able to live it down.
More importantly, I hope talking about these experiences makes events organisers think about accessibility. Tiny platforms aren’t needed, and seating is such a crucial thing it shouldn’t go to the cheapest (and flimsiest) ones possible. Overcrowding, bizarrely shaped booths and gimmicky displays all make getting around a heck of a lot harder for disabled people than they really should be.
Oh, and sorry about the chair, Playtonic. If you can call it a chair. I can’t call it a chair. That wasn’t a bloody chair.