Daniel Melville’s been gaming since he was a kid. Only, back then, something wasn’t quite right: the characters he played as didn’t really look like him. Melville says, “I played a lot of video games – I still do – but I didn’t really have many video game characters to look up to. Everyone had two hands, or were full bodied. Then, I started playing Deus Ex and was like, ‘this guy’s got bionic arms – that’s extremely cool!’”
As someone who grew up wearing a prosthetic arm, Melville found that in Adam Jensen, the protagonist in the epic sci-fi series, he finally found a character he could relate to. He explains, “He had these cool augmented arms and he was a badass, and I thought ‘I’d like to be like that.’ Finding a character in a game that really related to me just felt amazing.”
At the time, Melville could have no idea that one day he’d grow to have even more in common with Jensen. He says, “I had prosthetic arms that didn't do anything. You wore them because you thought that was the normal thing to do. I only ever got them to get time off school because I hated school, but I hated the arm too. It was a Catch 22. I felt more disabled wearing it and for many years I stopped wearing them. I grew up with sci-fi films, though, so I wanted a bionic arm like the Terminator or Robocop.”
Unfortunately, the bionic arms then available were far too expensive, especially as a young person who would feasibly grow out of them. Years later, however, Melville stumbled across Open Bionics, which was running a Kickstarter campaign for a 3D printed low cost bionic arm. After some email correspondence with founder Joel Gibbard, Melville and Gibbard met up and established that the former would help test the arm. This made Melville a Guinness World Record breaker: as the tester of the world’s first 3D printed multi-grip bionic hand.
Melville immediately knew that this would make a huge difference. He explains: “From day one, what fascinated me was that I could do open and close, and pick things up like a piece of chalk whereas when I was growing up I couldn't do any of that."
And this arm allows Melville to master his skills in his favourite pastime: gaming. But how does it work? “I use pulses in my arm to open and close it. If I tense my muscle it’ll change the grip pattern to certain modes. It’s quite nice and simple, really, but also effective. When I game on my computer, especially wearing this arm, I need something that won’t slow me down. Something that’ll speed up and make my gaming experience nice and fluid.”
Outside of gaming, Melville now designs his own bionic arms, knowing that there was so much more he could do.
After quitting his job to pursue designing full-time, Melville also started running workshops for kids and families. He adds, “If the kids do a doodle, I can do a 3D print for them so they have something memorable that they can take home. It doesn't cost a lot for me and they have a keepsake they can keep forever.”
And while he currently feels that it may take disabled esport players a couple of years to compete against able-bodied players, technology’s moving in the right direction. You get the sense, too, that he’ll be leading the charge. He concludes:
“My parents were always worried about me playing games because they thought I might not be able to play missing a limb, but they saw me playing it at a friend's house and they got onside.”
“If you’re passionate about something, you always find a way of doing it, which is why I am always playing video games.”