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Community Focus - Grant Stoner

Every single Community Focus has mattered. Every single Guardian offers something unique to our community and this is our way of saying thank you for being a part of it. With our latest Community Focus, it’s going to get a little bit personal. 

As a gamer with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - a nervous system disease that affects mobility, coordination, vision, and more - and a former journalist who has covered the ways the disabled perspective and the gaming industry intersect, I've always been deeply passionate about furthering accessibility within video games. For that reason, it is my immense pleasure to introduce Grant Stoner: a writer you might have seen in some of the biggest publications in the world, like IGN and Fanbyte, that has been loud and proud when it comes to educating this space on what it means to say, “gaming is for all.”  

He's also a total beast when it comes to kickin' some foe butt in Destiny 2. 

Grant! I'm excited to have you here! Before we get started, go ahead and tell the Destiny 2 community who (and how) the heck you are!  

Hi there! I'm a freelance gaming journalist specializing in the examination of accessibility and the disabled perspective. My articles highlight new accessible innovations from studios, review games based on their accessibility from someone with a physical disability, and most importantly, elevate disabled voices through longform features. My goal as a writer is to show the gaming industry that stories discussing disabled people are not niche nor inspirational. Disabled people deserve the same recognition and respect as our able-bodied peers. 

And finally, I'm TIRED. 

You've done a lot of great work in the gaming space, with contributions to so many big publications, can you talk a little more about your journey into game journalism and accessibility work? How did you get started?  

Growing up, I always wanted to be a game journalist. It has always been a dream of mine to write for publications and interview developers. When I was an undergrad in college, I joined the school newspaper where I primarily reviewed games. Yet, I actively avoided writing about accessibility and the disabled experience because of my own internalized ableism. Then, one of my best friends (he still is to this day!) wanted me to review the Nintendo Switch for his publication, but he would only publish it if I reviewed the system based on its accessibility. So, I reluctantly did, and a few months later, my review won second place in the Keystone Press Awards. Since then, I have decided to try my hardest to exclusively focus on accessibility and disabled voices. After graduating in 2019 with my master's degree, I joined Can I Play That as the Mobility Editor, and the rest is history! 

I love that you talked about your initial struggle with internalized ableism, I think a lot of people can relate to that. It’s a journey! With all of the work you do, what do you hope for the future of accessibility in gaming? How do you feel about the progress being made over the past few years?  

I want disabled people to be able to play as many games as possible without dealing with frustrating unintentional barriers. Unintentional barriers are mechanics in games that are not intentionally placed by developers, which can often cause the most issues for disabled players. And since I've been doing this professionally since 2019, there is such an increase in awareness and a willingness from studios to create accessible gaming experiences. More studios are including extensive accessibility menus, building their games from the ground up to be as inclusive as possible without the need for numerous options, and they are actively bringing in accessibility consultants and working with disabled writers to discuss their latest inventions and contributions. There is still work to be done, but it's been absolutely incredible to see how much developers care within the past few years. 


I know how exhausting it can be sometimes, especially with our shared background, being a voice in this space when talking about accessibility in games. Do you experience that fatigue at all? How do you overcome it and push through?  

I am tired all the time, but I think most of that is because I'm a freelancer, so I never have time to truly rest! [laughs] Aside from my own personal fatigue, it can be very exhausting to continue to have to prove to the gaming industry why disabled people deserve to play these games and why disabled people are not these mythical inspirational beings used to make able-bodied people feel better about themselves. This is especially true when dealing with the “difficulty discourse” that continues to rear its ugly head every few months, as seen most recently with the release of Elden Ring and its difficulty level. I've written stories about it, friends have written stories and filmed videos about it, but people become so reactionary to topics surrounding difficulty in games that it can be a lot to deal with sometimes. That being said, I love when I get to interview other disabled people and elevate their voice. I get to make them the star for a specific story. I get to give them a platform where they can discuss what works, what doesn't work, and more importantly, talk about why they love gaming. Because at the end of the day, it's not about me, it's about the people I'm highlighting. 

OK, OK, look. I tried not to talk about Destiny right out of the gate, but I'm dying to play with you and so I need to know the most important question to ever have been asked in the history of questions: What do you main?  

Warlock. More specifically, Void 3.0. I've been playing a Warlock since the original Destiny! During previous seasons, I used to main Stasis and Tickle Fingers. My absolute favorite was Chaos Reach, but that was nerfed into oblivion. I'm not bitter, I promise. 

I'm a little sad not to have you on Team Titan, but I respect it. Space Wizards are the beesiest of bees knees.  

One of the best parts about this job is that we get to see a wide scope of community reactions, which has revealed some wild conspiracy theories about the story so far and where we're going next, so it would almost be illegal for me not to ask: what's the most out-there theory you've heard so far? Have you got any imaginative ideas on where you think we're going next?  

This isn't really a theory, but I just really want to see Zavala and Caiatl admit their feelings for each other. Like, we all see it, right? In all seriousness, I am really beginning to think that the Traveler isn't this force for good, and I think the new expansions are going to really explore how it is almost this tool of destruction disguised as a beacon of hope. 

I’m pretty sure even our readers could hear my excited squeal when you said Zavala and Caiatl, that’s my (non-canon) pair! Speaking of what's next (in this less-than-smooth segue), if you could craft the ultimate subclass, completely to be whatever you want it to be, no questions asked, what would that subclass look like?  

Chaos Reach 2.0 where every ability just shoots a massive beam. Grenade? Giant laser beam. Melee? Another giant laser beam. Super? Two giant laser beams. In actuality, probably a poison subclass that spreads damage over time. Warlocks are really powerful when it comes to crowd control, but I think having a class that does nothing but damage over time and area of effect abilities that spread would be wildly exciting! 

Yeah, but you totally sold me on the giant laser beam! Another thing I love about your work is that your personality can be felt in it all, so this next question is purely selfish because I want to hear your thoughts: Who is the character from the Destiny universe that you've connected to the most, and why? 

I don't know if I've really connected to anyone from the Destiny universe specifically, rather, I'm grateful that Destiny led me to my clan! They are some of my closest friends and we always love to joke around and support each other in whatever ways we can. Without Destiny as a whole, I don't think I would've connected with them! 

Right. So, crying is on the bingo card today, apparently, because that’s wholesome as heck. Is there anything that you'd like to see make a comeback to Destiny 2, or something you'd like to see evolve into something different?  

You brought back Xenophage, so I have absolutely nothing to add (Chaos Reach, enough said).  

Touche’.  

Thank you so much for chilling with us today, it was a blast! Before we let you go, let that mic drop and shout out anyone you want to give a little extra spotlight to. Also, where can folks find you to  check out some of the projects you are working on? 

One of the biggest things I want to change with my work is that I want the industry to look beyond the handful of disabled people that are continuously called upon. This is absolutely not a dig at them, as many of them are very dear friends! But, because disabilities and the disabled experience is such a personal aspect, the only way to truly advance accessibility is by listening to as many voices as possible. So, I really encourage others to check out people like Carlos Vasquez, Chris Robinson, Erin Hawley, Mike Legum, Kristie Matheson, Neera Burner, James Rath, Sherry Toh, and even yourself, Hippy! But beyond everyone I just listed, I implore the greater gaming industry to continue to seek out disabled voices. If you really want to make a difference, start including as many people as possible. 

If you want to keep up with me and my work, feel free to follow me on Twitter! Though, just a warning, I mostly scream about POKÉMON and journalism. 



And that’s a wrap, another phenomenal Community Focus in the books! Thank you so much to Grant for joining us today and sharing his story, I encourage you to check out some of his work! 

The ‘ol record player is on repeat again, but we can’t shout it from the rooftops enough: we love hearing your tales and learning more about you, both in relation to the Bungie experience and outside of it. Thank you for being you and never stop showing the world your inner Light, because it’s so bright, I’d swear that the beacons were lit and Gondor was calling for aid.  

Before you mosey on off on your own adventures, make sure to stop on by last week’s Community Focus featuring the wonderfully talented Knitehawk

Until next week, get that vitamin D, smash those personal goals, and don’t forget to hydrate! We’ll see you soon.  
 

“I should go,” 
<3 Hippy 

Special shout out for photo credit to Elizabeth Woolner on Unsplash

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