Disabled and Hardcore • Page 2

The story of the man behind Call of Duty's N0M4D controls.

Regardless, his playing prowess has certainly inspired others. "There's quite a few disabled gamers that play tournaments now, but I was the first. I get a lot of emails from other disabled individuals that say 'thank you so much, you gave me the courage to go to this tournament'. I feel good about that.

"But it's a hobby - I don't plan on making it a career. Some of these 15-year-old kids crack me up. They send me messages asking how to become a pro gamer and I'm like: 'Kid, you can't go into this thinking it's a career'."

Career-wise, Fitzgerald's real plan is to open his own game development studio. "I went to college to study game design and development. That's my real passion: I like making video games."

While a period of serious illness has meant he had to delay completing his course, he has already registered the name Nomadic Games and is close to finishing his first game design documents. "I know a lot of people in the industry, including the people at Infinity Ward, and they're waiting to look at these documents and are going to help me shop around for a publisher that will hopefully give me the money to hire a team to make these games," he says.

Fitzgerald's links with Infinity Ward are close, not least because he has had a direct influence on the last five Call of Duty titles.

Back in 2006 when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was still in development, Fitzgerald and Infinity Ward's creative strategist Robert Bowling got to know each other while writing E3 blogs for Microsoft.

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Randy catches up with members of Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games, including Robert Bowling (far right).

So the following year Bowling invited Fitzgerald to try out the beta of the game that would turn Call of Duty into the commercial juggernaut it is today. Fitzgerald loved it: "It was really fresh at that time with things like killstreaks."

But there was a problem. The toggle aim option included in Treyarch's Call of Duty 3 was nowhere to be seen. "That option made the game easier for me as instead of having to hold the left trigger, you just tap it to raise or lower your gun," Fitzgerald explains.

Figuring he should see if others felt the same about its loss before raising the matter with Infinity Ward, he asked members of Call of Duty's†CharlieOmegaDelta forum for their views. "I thought maybe a couple of people would go 'oh yeah, me too', but I got 25,000 replies within a couple of days," he says. "Every second somebody was posting something new. I don't think I slept for two days as I was reading all the messages and trying to reply to everybody. It was crazy."

Within days Infinity Ward had taken note and promised to reintroduce toggle aim in a patch that would add a new control option named N0M4D in Fitzgerald's honour. Since then every Call of Duty has included the N0M4D control scheme, except Modern Warfare 2, where a bug forced its last-minute removal and the subsequent sackings and walkouts at the studio meant a patch never happened. Infinity Ward has, however, confirmed the N0M4D controls will be included in Modern Warfare 3.

Having already left his footprint on pro gaming and Call of Duty, Fitzgerald is now more focused on his future as a maker of games. It's a journey that reflects the meaning behind the Minnesota resident's gamer tag. "People think I chose N0M4D because a nomad walks around and it's ironic because I'm in a wheelchair, but no. My reason is more philosophical. My version of a nomad is someone who travels the Earth searching for their purpose in life and along the way stops in villages and towns and shares their experiences before moving on. I think that's me. I'm a person still searching for their purpose in life and whatever I learn I share with people. So I figured the name suited me."

And others clearly agree: now when Fitzgerald goes to competitive events, he's met with respect in place of the bemusement that met him back in 2007. "A†lot of people don't even know my real name," he says, "I'll go to a tournament and it won't be 'hey Randy how you doing it?' itís 'hey N0M4D, what's up?'"

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