On Monday, a legally blind and deaf Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player was bullied off a match. In response, the CSGO community rallied around him.
Adam "Loop" Bahriz is a 17-year-old Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player who got hooked on the game in 2013 while he was with his Algerian family overseas. In 2015 he started streaming for fun, and after realising he was gaining some traction, he decided to pursue as a hobby while still in school. On Monday, he was doing something that wasn't unusual at all — playing a pickup game with strangers. As soon as he entered the lobby, he told his teammates the same thing he says before every game: That he has a genetic condition which has lead to the removal of teeth, which makes him sound different.
Bahriz has hereditary sensory and auditory neuropathy, or HSAN. It's a degenerative disease that affects the nervous system. It can manifest in a lot of different ways — for Bahriz, this means he has vision and hearing problems and has had teeth removed. "HSAN does not mean you are born blind, or half deaf, or whatever, there are some people with this condition that have normal vision but an injured foot. Perfect speech but improper vision," Bahriz said over email. "HSAN makes a person more prone to injuries because they don't feel pain and are unable to be treated for injuries right away, which allows the injury to get worse."
Bahriz said that, when he tells CSGO teammates about his condition, "In more than 80% of cases, this is not an issue at all. Responses to this... are generally positive."
This time, though, after Bahriz started speaking, the reaction was a little different. Other players assumed Bahriz was trolling, telling him to "not even to try it" and muting him immediately. Bahriz responded by saying "OK, I won't talk" and continuing to play. Not long after, he was kicked from the match for not talking.
"I was honestly caught off guard by the way my team reacted," Bahriz said. "I was shocked and sad at the same time… did they all have a bad day?"
Bahriz had been on a losing streak before that match, which he had been determined to turn it around. Right before he got kicked, his team was up 5-1. "At that point all I could think about was all the bullshit I've had to deal with on ESEA for the longest time, not because of a completely lacking of ability to talk, or mechanical skill, or anything like that, but just because of a small speech problem that is caused by something I have no control over."
But the support of the CSGO community after this incident was, in Bhariz's words, "heartwarming."
Bahriz had been streaming while this happened, and one of his viewers posted about it on the Global Offensive subreddit, telling the community to "show him some love". The viewers on his stream shot up to around 5000, and people started donating hundreds of dollars.
"At this very moment my mom is making a phone call to the only clinic in Southern California that does the eye surgery that I need, telling them that she will be able to pay out of pocket (because of stream donations)," he said. He was previously unable to afford this surgery because they didn't take his insurance. He also said he's signed a partnership deal with Twitch, and he's hoping the money from subscriptions can help fund a summer trip to Algeria. "Honestly all these donations have given me, a 17 year old, a level of financial security that I cannot even begin to fathom," he said.
After this incident, Bahriz said he feels like people should understand that disabled players exist, and they're all over the place. "You think I'm the only one who manages to play this game semi decently with a handicap? Look at Handi, dude has no arms and still destroys people."
"It really shouldn't be that difficult to distinguish a troll from an actual disabled person. Had the players that kicked me looked at my profile for one second they would have easily seen that I've been a member of ESEA for far longer than them and have much higher karma," he said. "So just try to be more respectful and considerate of the people you play with. I understand that trolling and bad stuff happen in CSGO but there is a line that cannot be crossed, and people need to learn to recognise where that line is."