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July 28, 2009 / Joe Osborne

A Minute With An Extraordinary Gamer: Tristan “Renkou” Caliboso

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During a recent late night raiding binge in World of Warcraft with the Conclave of Shadows guild on the Magtheridon server, I meet a player (an exceptional Mage at that) who calls himself Renkou. Amidst slaying the undead minions of the Lich King, the two of us begin small talk. As the raid was comes to a close (hours later), Renknou and I compliment one another on our “1337 skillz” when a raid member interjects claiming Renkou is a good player, “for having no limbs.”

It’s difficult to react to a joke like this other than in silence and with a bit of skepticism (this is the internet). Renkou jokingly agrees with his fellow guild member, but after redirecting me to his YouTube channel, consider me convinced and amazed. Renkou, or 23-year-old, Chicago native Tristan Caliboso, was born with congenital limb loss and claims to have been playing video games since age two. Tristan recently took to the time with us to explain how he not only plays games, but how he has joined competitive gaming communities despite his disability. Find out what he had to say after the break.

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(GEEK): Describe your first experience playing video games. How did you make it possible?

My dad came home one day and he asked me what I was doing. I said that I was watching TV and he asked me, ‘Well, you wanna have a little fun and try something new?’ So, he sat me up on my high chair and he puts this Nintendo controller in front of me and he puts in [The Legend of] Zelda. There aren’t that many buttons on a Nintendo controller so, I just started pushing stuff. I got used to what the buttons did and I just ran around attacking stuff. So I started playing[The Legend of] Zelda at the age of two and beat it when I was three.

(GEEK): So, while growing up playing video games, how did you adapt to the increasingly complex control schemes?

Pretty much the same way that I played any other console. I make sure that the controller is a little lower than usual for me. So, I can just reach my arm over and tap that top button, but sometimes that would leave me vulnerable because that means that I need to take my arms off either the d-pad or ABXY buttons. Keyboards are pretty much the same thing, but I think the hardest thing about using the keyboard is memorizing where the keys are without looking at the keyboard as much. I think the hardest controller I learned to use was the Nintendo 64 because it was shaped like an ‘M’. After some thought about it I realized that my arm can fit underneath so I can press the Z button and I would just use my chin to get the joystick and use my lips to hit the A, B and C buttons while my right arm hits the right trigger.

(GEEK): You say that you play competitively. So, what tournaments have you played in?

I’ve played in CAL, I’ve played in local LAN tournaments where it wasn’t ‘bring your own computer’, but I brought my own keyboard and mouse because there were no rules against that. Most of the tournaments that I’ve tried to get into were for CAL (Cyberathlete Amateur League) so I get could get higher and into CPL (Cyberathlete Professional League).

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(GEEK): What motivates you not only to play video games but to think of strategies to help you play these games competitively?

Well, growing up it was kind of hard to see all of my friends playing sports like baseball, football, hockey, all that fun stuff. I really couldn’t do it that much because of my wheelchair that didn’t have the movements to do it. So I was wondering, ‘If I can’t do that, why don’t I do something that I can do with my mind like play video games.’ Video games are mostly about thinking and strategizing about what the player’s going to do next. It’s kind of like sports, but a virtual version of it.

(GEEK): Did you make the Youtube videos in response to people’s disbelief?

Yes. Like, the video of me playing Left 4 Dead, a lot of people are always asking, ‘How do you play first person shooters on a console like Xbox 360?’ That’s why I made that video, to show people this is how I play, this is me.

(GEEK): Is there anything that you would like to say to anyone who shares your disability or a similar situation?

To anyone else who is disabled like me or has any other kind of disability: Don’t let anything stop you or get in your way of doing what you want to do to make yourself happy or others proud of you. I never thought I would be able to play video games nor do anything and here I am. I’m 23 and have been playing games for almost 22 years and I’m still playing them. Don’t let anything stop you from succeeding in life.

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