A dramatic, machine-generated fog and a computer screen separated Ian Alexander from the crowd at the DreamHack Denver 2017 American Video Game League Collegiate League of Legends Championship in October.
A camera to Alexander’s left livestreamed the team’s pre-game deliberations while shoutcasters commentated. Draped over the back of Alexander’s chair is a gray-blue bomber jacket, a yellow “CHALLENGER” embroidered in the League of Legends font on its left breast.
What the cameras on his left side didn’t pick up, though, was the most interesting part of Alexander’s journey to that chair.
At 18, Alexander is one of North America’s best League of Legends players. At his peak, “MistyStumpey” (as he’s known in League) was No. 12 on the game’s solo queue ladder. And the top laner did it with just his right hand and a lone digit on his left.
When MistyStumpey rolled his chair back to talk strategy with Columbia’s coach, he grabbed his “stump,” as he calls it, just as it comes into frame of the livestream camera. He often fiddles with the one finger on the end of his left arm, which ends in a partial hand where the elbow would normally be. He can move the finger, but not fully. It’s mostly cartilage, so it doesn’t bend at the joints. He can use it to press keys, but he has to move his wrist to get from one button to another.
Imagine what it’d take to be one of the best players in the U.S. despite that disability, rubbing shoulders with Cloud9 and FlyQuest starters and, yes, Team SoloMid’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg on the solo queue ladder this season.
In his promo photo for DreamHack, MistyStumpey flexes with his right arm, looking over his shoulder at the camera. But for some reason, the photo was mirrored so that it appears as if he’s flexing a full left arm, as if he doesn’t have a disability at all.
And on his best days, he plays like it.
“He’s a professional-level player missing four fingers on his keyboard hand,” said Drake Porter, Columbia College’s Esports Senior Strategic Analyst. “If anything, he should not be nearly as successful as he is.”
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