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

Mohammed Nadi is calling on big videogame companies like 2K or EA Sports to create a wheelchair basketball videogame.  (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)
Mohammed Nadi is calling on big videogame companies like 2K or EA Sports to create a wheelchair basketball videogame. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)

"This is my first mic'd up practice," Mohammed Nadi said as he took the court at his first wheelchair basketball practice for this season.

"When you're pushing, grab the wheel to stop yourself from moving," Nadi instructs a newcomer to the court.

The 22-year-old St. Clair College student with cerebral palsy first came out for 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 mentioned the idea of wheelchair basketball as a video game.

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

Nadi, an advocate for people with disabilities, said he is reaching out to video game producers like 2K Sports and EA Games asking them to make a video game featuring the best of the best in the sport. He wants the chance to pitch his game idea.

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

"I feel like it's time that disabled athletes got the recognition that they more than deserve," he said. "Respectfully, it's time for 2K Sports and EA Sports to get off their high horses and contact me."

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

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

"He's always trying to find ways to come up with new ways to raise awareness about people with disabilities across the board, not just similar disabilities as himself," Azlen said.

He said he thinks a video game happening on this scale would raise a lot of awareness about the sport and help bring it a little bit more to the mainstream.

"Unless you're in para-sports to begin with, there's not a lot of recognition," he said.

"I think they should consider it. I think given who they are, especially 2K in the basketball world, it would be a good pet project for them."

 

Nadi said he would like to see a disabled athlete given prominence like those that appear on the cover of a sports video game.

"Companies with that high of a pedigree and that much of a reputation look for games that will make them money," Nadi said.

Jayson Hilche, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada said he has never seen a video game cover that has a para-athlete on it.

"Lebron James has enough money, Michael Jordan has enough money, Tiger Woods is rich enough. They don't need any more money out of your pockets to do this game whereas people like me who are frequently looked down on aren't given the proper platform and resources that you provide them with."

- Mohammed Nadi

"I think that it would send a message of diversity and inclusion that hasn't been seen yet," he told the CBC.

Hilche did say that being perceptive and pro-active on representation in games is something that those in the industry are committed to.

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

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

"Within the game itself, within its characters, representation is something that the industry has noted and is working on and needs to evolve even further as time goes on," Hilche said.

"Our players 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 engaged in video games, we have to appeal to those people and that involves making sure that characters look like them, sound like them and have life experiences that they have."

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

Nadi hopes that by giving disabled athletes a platform like a video game, competing and training will become more accessible.

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

"They don't need any more money out of your pockets to do this game whereas people like me who are frequently looked down on aren't given the proper platform and resources that you provide them with."