In the latest episode of Totally Game, we meet Issac Wirth, a transgender video game designer who is working to create more accessible video games.
Isaac Wirth, 21, from North Carolina, is currently studying video game design at NYU, and has loved games since he was a five year old. However, his journey has not been an easy one, as Isaac found certain games challenging due to motor-neural issues - which made holding a joystick or doing precise motion movements problematic.
Diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome at 14, Issac explains: “A lot of people associate Tourette's with cursing, uncontrollable cursing. For some people, that is definitely the case. But for me, I had a lot of vocal tics where I would just say the word ‘how repeatedly, it could go on for five to 15 times in a row. And during those vocal tics, I would kind of flail my arms.”
Issac also became aware he was transgender as he got older, telling Totally Game about how games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild helped him: "Growing up, I always loved the Legend of Zelda games and projected myself on to Link and I never really knew why. When I came out as trans, I found a lot of comfort in Link as a character - a lot of people mistake Link for a girl because he is kind of androgynous."
“People see his tunic and ask ‘Is Link wearing a dress?’ and his hair's longer and especially in Breath of the Wild he has a slightly more feminine shape - he’s not some really buff video game character. Also a lot of people would refer to Link as ‘Zelda’ which is obviously wrong - and that reminded me of when people would ‘deadname’ me by calling me by my old name.”
After earning a scholarship to study at NYU, he is currently working on Spotlight, an adaptable VR dance experience for people who may not get to perform ballet on stage.
He says to Totally Game: "When I was three or four I begged to dance, but I didn't start formally dancing until I was five years old. My mom bought me this little tutu, and I called it my ballet suit. I wore it all over the house and danced all over the place.
“I think dance can offer so many things to people, it’s a form of stress relief, when you dance for fun, it is so relaxing. I also think that dancing can provide an outlet for a lot of people as well. I think dancing can help people convey emotions that they didn't know they had.”
After he graduates, Issac hopes to help improve diversity in triple A game development, working for the companies whose games he loved growing up. He explains: “One day, I would love to work for AAA game companies. I would love to work for someone like Nintendo. I would love to be part of a group of developers that starts a grassroots movement to create more accessibility features and games. I think they're really important.
“I think we need more of them in the AAA games industry. And I'm hoping that if one day I can get a career in that industry, I can help start that grassroots movement."
For more Totally Game, catch up on Season 1 here and to check out more of Isaac’s work visit www.isaacwirth.com