Shaquem Griffin puts adaptive game controller through its paces

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Shaquem Griffin says he has been an avid video game player since he was a kid, when he and his twin brother Shaquill would compete, with the loser owing the winner pushups.

Not having a left hand made it a challenge for Shaquem Griffin to maneuver the controller. That made the Seattle Seahawks rookie linebacker a natural choice to promote Microsoft's new Adaptive Controller, which was designed for gamers like Griffin who have accessibility needs.

He spent part of his Thursday evening at a Microsoft store in Bellevue playing a game of Madden with a young Seahawks fan who also has accessibility needs. He let the young fan, Matthew, use the Adaptive Controller while Griffin was using one of its features -- pedals connected via Bluetooth to a traditional controller, allowing him to use his feet to hit buttons he'd otherwise have difficulty getting to.

Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome and had his left hand amputated at age 4.

"Me missing one hand, the left side of the controller, like the L-T, the L-B, the triggers and stuff, usually when I'm playing a game, it's kind of hard to get to that trigger," he said. "I usually have to use my leg and pressure to use L-T. ... So as I'm playing, I don't have to use this L-T button no more. I can use the pedals. So if I'm playing a game and I need to use the L-T button, I use my foot to press it and I'll still be able to move around with everything else that I have. I don't have to press it on my leg or anything. I just move around, pedal, and keep moving. I don't have to slow down and have to look and make sure I'm pressing a button. I might slip, or if I eat popcorn, I might miss the button. But that device is so effective because I can use foot."

Margie Strite, a community development specialist with Microsoft, said the product will be available for sale later this year.

"The Adaptive Controller really was about living out our company's mission statement of empowering every person to achieve more," Strite said. "So for gamers who have mobility issues or gamers who can't really work with the traditional Xbox controller, the Adaptive Controller was designed to really provide an assistive technology that allowed them to use whatever method or modality that worked for their needs."

The Seahawks chose Griffin in the fifth round, reuniting him with Shaquill, a cornerback drafted in the third round last year. Griffin couldn't play as himself on Madden since the 2018 version has yet to be released. So instead he played as Shaquill.

"He's in everything," Shaquem said. "I put him on kick return, punt return, linebacker, spots he's not supposed to be at, but I put him there."

Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. had a positive assessment of Shaquem's progress after Wednesday's OTA.

"Just like anybody, being a rookie, everything is the first time for him," Norton said. "But his speed, he's really knowledgeable, he has a brother who has been here before, so they kinda talk about ball a little, so it's not completely new to him. He has a brother that's really passionate and smart as well and has had some success. But he loves ball. He goes to sleep thinking about, he wakes up talking about it, so the passion and the love for the game is no problem for him."