Adam Bahriz, of San Diego, was born with a rare genetic condition called Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy (HSAN) which means he feels little to no pain.
Growing up, the disease caused him to injure himself, including damaging his corneas and causing his blindness. But Adam has still managed to become a respected CS:GO player, even hitting the highest rank in matchmaking.
The 21-year-old, who streams on Twitch as ‘Lo0p__’, told Barcroft Studios: “Gaming gives me something to focus on, something to be good at despite my physical limitations. Gaming is my competitive outlet. It’s something I can put time and effort into. And CS:GO is super competitive so it’s perfect for me.
“When I play I’m just looking for anything that moves, honestly. Out of all the players, I’m almost certain that I’m in the top 0.1%, if not the 0.01%.”
In regular CS:GO matchmaking Adam has reached ‘Global Elite’ – the highest rank available - and has hit an A+ ranking on third-party matchmaking service ESEA. It’s an impressive feat for someone who is legally blind. While his corneas are significantly damaged, Adam can still perceive enough of a visual image to play his favourite games – including Valve’s popular shooter.
He explained: “I play the game by developing an extremely fast reaction time and sitting very close to the monitor. I developed fast reaction times from years of playing Counter Strike and outside games designed to improve my reaction time and hand-eye coordination.
“If a person is standing still they would be difficult to see but that’s why I need to develop a really good map awareness to be aware of the situation and be aware of what’s going on.”
Counter Strike has provided a real outlet for Adam, who has struggled throughout his life due to his condition. Aside from causing what’s known as ‘sensory neural hearing loss’, Adam’s form of HSAN means the receptors in his body that should send information to his brain about pain don’t work.
Adam said: “A lot of people may think this is cool – ‘oh wow, you don’t feel pain’. But any small injury I get I will not know, and because I don’t feel pain it will get progressively worse.”
This has caused numerous debilitating injuries throughout Adam’s life, most notably facial lacerations from where he would scratch his face and eyes subconsciously as a child, which led to the cornea damage that has impaired his sight. In the past, Adam has also broken his jaw without knowing, and has had all but two teeth removed due to infections.
Adam said: ”I’d say one of the more significant setbacks would be the facial deformity. Middle school was a bit tough because I became self-conscious about my looks. Up until last year I did not have a nose. Also I had a cleft palate which means I had a hole going from my mouth to my nose.”
Adam now uses hearing aids and his injuries have somewhat stabilised since becoming an adult. He even recently had facial reconstruction surgery through a surgeon he was referred to by a friend he met playing CS:GO.
“If I didn’t play this game, I wouldn’t have had facial reconstruction,” said Adam. “They just contacted me through my Twitch channel and was like ‘hey I want to fix your face, I have a friend who can do it’. I had my cleft palate fixed, I had my nose fixed, all from CS:GO. It’s crazy.”
Even before all this, gaming had been a big part of Adam’s life since he can remember. Growing up he would play games such as Crash Bandicoot on the Nintendo DS, and FIFA on the Nintendo Wii. But it was when he first played Counter Strike 1.6 in 2012 that he discovered a passion for shooters, saying he became “addicted within 10 minutes of playing”.
By 2014 Adam had moved onto CS:GO and by 2017 he had become one of the most formidable players in competitive play. Perhaps even more impressively, he uses no form of specialised equipment to play. Aside from turning his screen to a 4:3 aspect ratio and sitting incredibly close, the young streamer uses a regular mouse and keyboard.
He explained: “Normally when you play Counter Strike you have the game stretched to the whole monitor. But because I sit really close I have it configured so there are black bars on either side which allows me to see the whole screen.”
Despite reaching the highest ranks of competitive play, Adam has faced his share of negativity online.
“I have a speech impediment because of my loss of teeth and because of that people often harass me when I’m playing Counter Strike. Over the years I’ve developed a thick skin to it and most of the time I just mute them and do not engage with them whatsoever.”
Now Adam can be found streaming eight hours a day on his Twitch channel ‘Lo0p__’ where he’s built up a positive community of more than 230,000 followers.
“I’m not sure what I would do if gaming were to disappear tomorrow,” he said. “It’s a very integral part of my life because it helps deter focus from the outside world. It also helps me form meaningful connections with other people, even if it’s digital.
“My advice to people living with any medical condition is to accept what you have and try to become the best person you can be and live the best life you can.”