By recently landing a professional esports contract, Rocky Stoutenburgh has officially become the first ever quadriplegic gamer to do so. In a stand-out performance at Destructoid’s first ever “So You Think You Can Stream?” competition back in July, Stoutenburgh won not only a $5,000 prize but also the attention of Luminosity Gaming and their parent company Enthusiast Gaming, resulting in his groundbreaking deal.
Stropse has written about ability and gaming in the past and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the potential for gamers with disabilities to succeed in esports is endless. Now, by signing a deal with Luminosity Gaming, Stoutenburgh has become a prime example of how true that is.
Hailing from Southgate, Michigan, Stoutenburgh played video games in his youth, but it wasn’t until 2008 that he truly began to dive into the world of pro gaming. Two years after a 2006 accident left him paraylzed from the neck down, his brother Andrew did some research on game controllers that Rocky would be able to control with his mouth. Around 2016 or so, it would be Andrew again who encouraged Rocky to begin streaming.
After taking on the Twitch handle of “RockyNoHands,” Stoutenburgh would go on to amass 67,900 followers. And that’s not all: on YouTube he has 54,700 subscribers, on Instagram he has 11,800 followers, and he has 4,599 followers on Twitter. Furthermore, he holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Victory Royales in Fortnite Using a QuadStick Mouth-Operated Joystick” and “Most Eliminations in a Fortnite Battle Royale Using a QuadStick Mouth-Operated Joystick.” Still, it was his success in Destructoid’s first ever “So You Think You Can Stream?” that would lead to his eventual Luminosity Gaming deal.
First launched this past June, “So You Think You Can Stream?” has been compared to the reality competition show “American Idol” and has already spawned a second tournament, with a third on the way. According to Destructoid’s initial announcement of the competition, the site was “looking for the next big name in streaming.” To enter, players had to submit a 20 minute audition video on which they would be judged in the following categories: Skill (Aim/Accuracy, Reaction Time/Reflexes, Map Awareness, Shot Calling/Team Communication, Strategy, Leadership/Moral) and Style (Personality [Wit, Intelligence, Humor, Uniqueness], Overall Appearance, Setting/Background, Stream Setup [Mic, Cam, Lighting, PC/Console], Interaction with community/chat, Flow of stream, Consistency).
After Stoutenburgh won the contest, he went on to sign a deal with Luminosity Gaming, officially becoming the first ever quadriplegic gamer to sign such a deal with a major esports company. In a piece from Forbes, the chief executive of Enthusiast Gaming—parent company of Luminosity Gaming and Destructoid—Adrian Montgomery discussed how the significance of signing with an esports organization is similar to “Belonging to a record label. We have the infrastructure, marketing and talent pool to help launch careers and take careers to the next level. We have a real scale to help these guys develop their followings.”
Since signing with them, Stoutenburgh has landed a deal to promote G FUEL—the popular esports and gaming energy drink—and has continued his content uploads, but now the “infrastructure, marketing and talent” pool to reach a wider audience than ever before. With that boost in visibility, not only is Stoutenburgh able to showcase the “Skill” and “Style” that garnered his win in the Destructoid contest, he’s also able to challenge preconceived notions regarding what people with disabilities are capable of, encouraging such individuals to pursue their own goals.
Talking with Forbes, Stoutenburgh discusses how now, “Gamers who are in wheelchairs… reach out to him on a nearly daily basis on social media, asking him for advice or reaching out just to share their stories.” His response ranges from casual recommendations of the controllers that work for him to messages of encouragement and other welcome signs of positivity. Beyond that, Stoutenburgh says, “I like to make people laugh.” As such, among the content he creates are funny videos, like an Instagram video that features him drinking some G FUEL to transform from Clark Kent to Superman, flying around in his chair.
All in all, Stoutenburgh’s deal with Luminosity Gaming is partially relevant because of the trend he continues of gamers with disabilities finding success in esports. Mike ”Brolylegs” Begum, another successful competitive gamer, was born with arthrogryposis and scoliosis and also uses a mouth-operated controller. Soleil ‘FaZe Ewok’ Wheeler was the first female player to join FaZe Clan and was born deaf. There’s even The Quad Gods, a competitive team comprised entirely of quadriplegic gamers. However, while a lot of the success of these gamers lies in the realm of competition, Wheeler aside, this success hasn’t landed big-name deals with esports companies.
More to the point, however, Stoutenburgh has made history by becoming the first quadriplegic gamer to sign a deal with an esports organization. While his peers have shown that gamers with disabilities can compete and win, he’s shown that being a quadriplegic may limit the ability to move one’s limbs, but it doesn’t mean it has to limit what you can achieve.