Accessible Arcade Programming
Wrestling is bigger and more diverse than ever, with Wikipedia listing 51 different active wrestling brands in the US alone. How much do you know about the wide and wonderful world of wrestling? I used to be a pretty huge wrestling nerd back in the 90s, but I fell off that train. Others sure haven’t, though. There are people all across the games industry who are really, really into wrestling, with a particular favorite of mine being the strong-willed games pundit Jim Sterling, who performs as a wrestler alongside his gaming content career.
Anyway, I’m here to talk about one of those pro wrestling brands. Actually, I’m talking about a video game being made around one of those brands. Well actually, I’m talking about the lead programmer behind that video game. Say hello to CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling, a wild wrestling game tied to the CHIKARA professional wrestling brand, as well as its lead programmer and producer Eugene Tchoukhrov.
The game’s promotional team reached out to AbleGamers to ask if we could share Eugene’s story. Having covered other developers who are doing some incredible work related to disabilities, I jumped on a call with Eugene in what was apparently his first feature interview experience to get to know his story.
Eugene is a huge part of a small group working on this bundle of piledrivers and fireballs. Eugene is a self-taught programmer with cerebral palsy that’s done some development work on some VR sandbox games, built a soft-body simulation system, and most notably for this story, is the main programmer behind CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling.
Self-described as having a mild version of cerebral palsy, Eugene says he has about 90% use of his left arm, less so of his right, and is still able to walk, which he’s thankful for. He explained how fine manipulation is difficult, though. He shared a story about how he was purchasing a car and punched holes through the paperwork he needed to go through and sign for the process. Despite his own annoyance with the constant movement his condition brings, he says he’s happy he is able to make his own way, including taking his car onto the track and offroading at times.
Eugene lives and works from his home in San Diego. He raised some attention that some people may see programming as a sort of lazy job, as they’re just sitting around and typing all day. For Eugene, though, he says it’s a full-body workout, as almost any sort of minor movement means just every other muscle in his body is going to be involved, intentional or not. Even more so, as Eugene’s condition has him typing on a standard form keyboard using his tongue. He says the summer can get pretty brutal for him trying to keep cool while working.
For CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling, though, Eugene’s position is bringing some unique perspective to how things work. Many of the game’s controls are influenced by old-school arcade machines that used two-button controls. Coincidentally, that fits what Eugene is able to do himself, where he is playing with an Xbox Controller using his feet. This has lead to some fairly simplified control schemes that not only brings a classic arcade feel, but can hopefully translate well for other gamers with disabilities.
During our interview, Eugene was very positive about his life and his work, despite these struggles and complexities. He notes that confidence is very important. Many of the people he’s done business with aren’t concerned with the specific physical qualifications, only if he can get his work done. Eugene says being able to adapt isn’t something to be afraid of. He’s had to give his speech some extra attention while on calls with colleagues, but he says that you shouldn’t be too worried about what someone else might think about how you approach your work, just make sure you can do it.
He has shown that adaptability from the start. Eugene used to fool around with the hardware and software in the Xbox 360 with his father, then learned from a programming book a neighbor gave him in high school, and took on college courses in which he seemed to already know everything and was able to focus on longer projects instead.
Despite his background and position, though, he was not yet aware of what AbleGamers provided the gaming community. From our Quest to Game grant stories to our developer resources, we’re still carving that path to awareness and attention so that everyone can game! But don’t let any of that distract you from the fact that in 1998, The Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell In A Cell, and plummeted 16 ft through an announcer’s table.
CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling is launching this fall on Steam. Follow @CHIKARAaaw on Twitter and be sure to let us and them know what you think about this story and the game once it’s out!
Kevin is a games & tech industry marketing nerd with an affinity for duct tape and playing an orc in every game he can. You absolutely should @ him on Twitter @norumu.