Wheelchair basketball player with cerebral palsy wants video game featuring disabled athletes

“This is my first practice with a mic,” Mohammed Nadi said as he stepped onto the court for his first wheelchair basketball practice this season.

“When you push, grab the steering wheel to stop yourself from moving,” Nadi orders a newcomer to the pitch.

The 22-year-old St. Clair College student with cerebral palsy started playing the sport five years ago.

“I was immediately blown away by the talent of my teammates and my coach,” he said.

He said it was his coach John Azlen who first brought up the idea of ​​wheelchair basketball as a video game.

“My gears in my head started spinning, I was like, what can I do to make this happen,” Nadi said.

Nadi, a disability advocate, said he reaches out to video game producers like 2K Sports and EA Games to ask them to create a video game featuring the best of the best in sports. He wants the chance to pitch his game idea.

Mohammed Nadi enlists major video game companies like 2K or EA Sports to create a wheelchair basketball video game. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

“I feel like it’s time for athletes with disabilities to get the recognition they deserve more,” he said. “Respectfully, it’s time for 2K Sports and EA Sports to get off their high horse and contact me. »

“If you don’t like it, I at least appreciate that you gave me the time, but until you give me that time, I’m constantly going to feel undermined.”

Coach Azlen said he was not surprised by Nadi’s push for the game.

“He’s always trying to find ways to find new ways to educate people with disabilities on all levels, not just disabilities similar to him,” Azlen said.

He said he thought a video game performing on this scale would bring a lot of awareness to the sport and help bring it a bit more mainstream.

“Unless you’re into parasports to begin with, there’s not a lot of recognition,” he said.

“I think they should think about it. I think considering who they are, especially 2K in the basketball world, it would be a good project for them.”

Nadi said he would like to see an athlete with a disability featured like those who appear on the cover of a sports video game.

“Companies with such pedigree and reputation are looking for games that will make money for them,” Nadi said.

Jayson Hilche, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, said he’s never seen a video game cover featuring a para-athlete.

Lebron James has enough money, Michael Jordan has enough money, Tiger Woods is rich enough. They no longer need money from your pocket to make this game while people like me who are often looked down upon don’t get the proper platform and resources that you provide.-Mohamed Nadi

“I think it would send a message of diversity and inclusion that hasn’t been seen yet,” he told CBC.

Hilche said being insightful and proactive about representation in games is something industry players are committed to.

He pointed to an adaptive Xbox controller created in collaboration with, among others, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, which would allow people with disabilities to play games they might not otherwise have been able to play.

He also said that Xbox is allowing more options to reflect who they really are when it comes to their virtual avatars, including options like wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs.

“In the game itself, in its characters, the representation is something that the industry has noted and is working on and still needs to evolve over time,” Hilche said.

“Our gamers don’t all look the same, don’t all live the same lives, and don’t all have the same experiences…To get more people involved in video games, we need to appeal to those people and that involves making sure the characters look like them, sound like them, and have life experiences that they have.”

Man holding basketball in wheelchair about to make a pass.
Coach John Azlen said he wasn’t surprised when Nadi told him about plans to pitch the idea of ​​a wheelchair basketball video game. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Nadi hopes that by giving athletes with disabilities a platform like a video game, competition and training will become more accessible.

“Lebron James has enough money, Michael Jordan has enough money, Tiger Woods is rich enough,” he said.

“They no longer need money out of your pocket to make this game while people like me who are often looked down upon don’t have the proper platform and resources that you provide them.”