Sometimes Ryan Green thinks about the hobbies he enjoyed several years ago.
Rollerblading. Photography. Hiking. Parkour - an activity that involves running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, and using other movements to navigate environments as quickly as possible.
Sometimes he thinks about finishing high school early or the year of college courses he took to pass the time before he could work.
And sometimes he reflects on the time he spent working with his dad, traveling throughout the United Kingdom to install lifesaving medical equipment. The 15-hour days were long and he says it wasn’t uncommon to work seven days a week during their busy periods.
These days, Green struggles to walk from one room to another because most of the time he can’t walk more than five meters without falling.
The twenty-three year old suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that causes inflammation of the spine and other joints. He began to notice weakness in his back and knees even while he was taking those business classes in college, but he ignored the symptoms until he began to collapse at work when his joints simply stopped working properly.
For the past year Green has been in a wheelchair. He had to give up his job and his hobbies.
Well, he is still able to enjoy one hobby quite thoroughly.
“I am lucky enough that I can still do some of my favorite things with little issue,” states Green, explaining that one of his favorite activities is playing VR games.
“I now have to play in a chair,” he explains, “which is less of a problem than I expected it to be, [but] it can be a hindrance in some games for sure, like not being able to crouch behind cover when being shot at kinda sucks.”
MrRJGreen, as he is known is the gaming world, not only continues to play virtual reality games, but this weekend he and his teammate, Proper_D, will compete for a spot at the VR League Season 3 Grand Finals in Ubisoft’s Space Junkies.
Green describes virtual reality as “an amazing platform for gaming, but it’s something else, too.”
Virtual reality “is also a big social platform in a way that pancake (flat screen) gaming just couldn’t be for me,” he explains. ”It just feels so normal and natural to be talking to these people, whoever and wherever they may be. The level of immersion you get from seeing people’s actual movements and gestures – it just makes it feel like you could be right there with them. … And through these different interactions in different games, I feel like I’ve made (hopefully) lifelong friends with many different people.”
Social interaction is important for everyone and virtual reality is improving the lives of people who struggle with chronic pain or deal with challenges in accessibility to the world.
“Through VR I have made many friends that just help keep me sane and help to stop me from slipping into depression,” states Green, adding that “it’s not always easy staying positive. In fact, most of the time it’s very very difficult, but the friends I’ve made through VR really help me out more than they even know or could think they do.”
Virtual reality helps in other ways as well.
“Doing VR the way I do it in the chair does help to at least keep my hips and knees working as the movements I do on the chair to turn myself around are very similar and work the same parts as my physio exercises do,” he explains, adding that he does have to be careful not to play too long at a time.
“In general I feel I’m getting to know the limits of what I can and can’t do, so I’m getting used to it and making the most out of the time I can get in VR.”
Although he does sometimes think about those days of rollerblading and parkour, Green doesn’t focus on the past. Instead, he focuses on a promising future, especially for virtual reality.
“If I am loving VR so much already in its infancy,” he says, “I cannot wait to see how amazing the future is going to be for this technology. It truly is a great time for gamers and tech geeks to be alive.”
Sonya Haskins is better known among the gaming community by the username "hasko7." She lives with her husband and five children in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Northeast Tennessee.