Counter Strike video game players, often not known for friendliness, show a rare moment of kindness to a player suffering from HSAN II. Read below to learn more. Photo courtesy of Valve.
By Adley Vogel
The Counter Strike community isn’t really known for its kindness. It’s more easily defined by screaming kids, angry Russians, and a controversial underage gambling scandal. But kindness? No. Or at least not until this week, when 17 year old Adam “Loop” Bahriz had nearly everyone in the Counter Strike community by his side in support of him.
Bahriz has suffered from a condition called hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 2, or HSAN II, from a young age. HSAN II inhibits the body’s ability to feel and respond to physical pain, which doesn’t sound too bad until you learn that Bahriz would literally scratch off parts of his nose without knowing when he was younger.
This inability to feel ended up indirectly impacting his eyesight and speech. Over time he scratched the corneas of both his eyes, resulting in legal blindness. He can still see, but his vision is incredibly limited. Several surgeries left him missing quite a few teeth and suffering from a speech impediment.
But despite these disadvantages, Bahriz plays on. “I've always been addicted to CS [Counter Strike...]Hours and hours everyday,” Bahriz said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything post (AMA). “This game used to give me a lot of anxiety and contributed to my depression/mood swings quite a bit. It really wasn't a healthy hobby for me, and my parents really tried to stop me from playing, […] but I just kept going and going I guess, I can't stop playing CS.”
His love for the game is stronger than the grief he sometimes gets for playing it, and these past few days that grief evolved into something more cruel.
Bahriz is shown above playing Counter Strike. Screengrab from Twitch.tv.
Earlier this week, Bahriz started up his stream on Twitch.tv and jumped into a pickup game hosted by a website called ESEA. For a moment it seemed like this could be a fairly normal match; he joined in and threw this message into the chat just before the first round started: "sup guys I got a lot of teeth removed due to a genetic disease so I can't speak that properly, I can still call [communicate] but be nice.”
Immediately after that message went up, he asked, “What do you guys wanna do? Do you wanna rush scout A? I can buy a smoke.” An entirely mundane comment for someone who understands the game.
But his teammates apparently didn’t feel the same. “Please don’t [talk],” a team member said after a short pause. “Don’t try to call out, you’re just going to get blocked,” another player said. They claim that he’s trolling, that he’s trying to make his voice sound dumb, despite the chat message explaining it all. “God your voice is so annoying, you’re muted already, holy sh*t,” a third teammate said.
The next round, Bahriz lets them know, per their requests, that he won’t talk anymore. The game continues, and they end up gaining a 5-1 lead before one of his teammates votes to kick him from the game for “no comms [communication].” The vote passes 4-1 and Bahriz is left staring at the main menu, shocked at what just transpired. He tried to speak, was shouted down, ended up doing well regardless, and then was kicked for not communicating with the team.
Obviously frustrated, he slammed his headset down and walking off.
But it’s here that things take a turn for the better.
On the ESEA forums, a short thread started to make rounds titled “wtf is wrong with some people man.” In it, a user named chr0med takes Bahriz’s side. Using videos clipped right from his stream, chr0med illustrated the immense unfairness of the situation and made his reaction known. “This honestly broke my heart,” he said, “it’s absolutely disgusting how some people can be towards others without even getting a glimpse of some of the struggles people face [...] Can we as human beings just please be kind to one another? is that honestly to hard to ask for?”
At almost the same time, a Reddit user by the name of “PDeeee” made a post titled “Guy with HSAN (Legally Blind/Deaf) bullied off ESEA pug and vote kicked. Show him some love at some point.” It immediately garnered massive attention in /r/GlobalOffensive (the Countenbvr Strike subreddit), and Bahriz himself even showed up in the comments, proclaiming that it was the “BEST DAY OF MY LIFE.”
Then, when ESEA, the website that hosted the match, picked up on the story, they banned the player who initiated the vote kick for three days for violating their Conduct Policy. The other teammates tried to plead their case, claiming that they thought he was just a “12-year-old kid thinking they're funny joining a game and instantly pressing their bind." But few were sympathetic to their cause, and ESEA upheld the ban.
And it doesn’t end there.
In a single day, his Twitch stream went from 15 viewers watching him play to 1,000. Then 2,000. Then 3,000. People were pouring into his channel to give words of encouragement or donate a few dollars. Dollars that would be spent on $6,000 dentures to fix his speech impediment, and plastic surgery to reshape his nose. By the end of the day he had 3,362 viewers and enough money to be able to afford both operations, thanks in part to massive donation from Counter Strike personalities like m0E and Anomaly, who dropped $500 and $123.45 respectively.
Over Twitter, major esports organization EnVyUs offered Bahriz a contract to stream with them and promote their team, to which he replied “am i dreaming lol.”
But this isn’t a dream. It’s something more remarkable. It’s an entire community of people coming together to be an overwhelming force for good, shaping and bettering the life of a kid who needed it most. No single person did this; rather, it was the combined effort and support of everyone involved. For now, all eyes are on Adam Bahriz, and he seems to be doing just fine.