When online multiplayer gaming really kicked off during the last console generation, sales of “gaming” headsets exploded. FPS titles ruled the roost, and not only did a good headset allow people to communicate with their teams over voice chat, but the right pair could also afford them a distinct tactical advantage with audible cues like discernible footsteps and directional audio.
Virtually overnight, the idea that the right headset made for a better gamer spread like wildfire. And why wouldn’t it? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to explain why hearing your enemy’s movements can make getting the drop on them that much easier.
But what about those who can’t hear at all? What about the medically deaf or hard-of-hearing, where audio meant next to nothing? Presumably they’d be at a disadvantage against those even without top-tier headphones feeding them crucial information. Vaaxty is one such player, but he’s gone against all odds to reach platinum tier in PUBG Mobile.
Vaaxy’s achievement warmed the cold hearts of the lucrative meme/bot-focused PUBG Mobile subreddit earlier this week. With upward of 200 upvotes (after a few misunderstandings), Vaaxy’s proud announcement was one of the standout posts of the week. But how does a hearing-impaired player climb so high up the ranks of such a competitive game? We had a quick chat with the man himself to find out.
Note: Vaaxty’s quotes have been edited somewhat for clarity.
“I was deaf since birth,” Vaaxty explained. “My parents were deaf as well. I got three deaf siblings too! ” Vaaxty’s condition hasn’t stopped him from enjoying (and crushing) a genre known for prioritizing audio quality above all else, however. Before coming to PUBG Mobile he was a repeated diamond-tier Rainbow Six Siege player. In a TwitLonger post from July last year, he vented his frustration at being virtually unsignable to a major esports organization due to his condition — a hurdle he notes has followed him into PUBG Mobile.
“Most in the game are pretty toxic when it comes to communication…” he explained. “While we are in-game they notice I don’t communicate with them by voice so they usually team killed me with a frag grenade and refused to revive me.”
Despite running into some of the most ill-mannered players the game has to offer, Vaaxty as found a clan that trusts his ability and credentials. “They were cool with that I were[sic] deaf and was impressed by me doing great.” In fact, they’re so impressed by his skills that they’re now joining Ace/Crown-tier lobbies together.
Vaaxty quit Rainbow Six Siege last year after a whopping 7000 hours of playtime. In the comments of his original post, he thanked organizations like Rainbow 6 TMs and professional coach Sua for fighting back against a rule that originally barred him from playing the game professionally due to his condition. Citing frustrations with a lack of acceptance for people in the scene with disabilities, as well as his personal relationship with gaming and streaming, he sold his machine to focus on other career opportunities.
So how did he find his way into PUBG Mobile? Good old peer pressure. “I started to play PUBG Mobile when season 8 came…” Due to his commitment to Rainbow Six Siege at the time and his dissatisfaction with mobile games, however, he didn’t stick with Tencent’s mega-hit.
“… somehow my best friend forced me to return to PUBG Mobile to play with him after work time,” he explained. “I got hooked by battle pass missions… kept grinding with my clan and reached diamond in one month.” He’s not quite done, either. Despite his rocky relationship with gaming over the last 12 months, Vaaxty is confident he’ll be the game’s first known-deaf player to reach the Conqueror tier. I hope there isn’t a soul out there who wouldn’t want to see him achieve that.
On his way to the top, Vaaxy originally tried to compensate for his condition. Headphones were, admittedly, a choice, but he found that even at full volume, whatever he could hear wasn’t usable information: “I barely felt anything.” Beyond it’s the pre-determined chat choices and the relatively lackluster minimap icons that help him the most: “I use the feature in-game that shows direction[sic] where sounds came from in minimap … it’s pretty bad but still works in most situations. We also use those quick voice chat that you choose by wheels. Like ‘search for vehicles’ etc.”
If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s that nobody in the PUBG Mobile community should be discriminated against for how they play the game. Vaaxty is proof that while the game’s chat features could always be better, something someone might view as a disability can absolutely be a hidden strength, and that any able-bodied player has no right deciding what is and what isn’t a game-breaking disadvantage.
There are a million different reasons why someone might not want to communicate through voice chat in a squad match, and not one of them gives someone the right to exclude another player from the game. This is where I’d say Tencent should look to this impressive player for ideas on new accessibility options, but Ocho is already on the case.
Disclaimer: Fanbyte is owned by Tencent, which also runs Tencent Games, developer and publisher of PUBG Mobile. Tencent also subsidizes much of Fanbyte’s PUBG Mobile coverage by covering freelancer budget costs. Those covering PUBG Mobile for the site have no contact with Tencent, however, and are given complete creative control to write whatever they wish.