Overwatch player Danik Soudakoff is Deaf. However, that has not stopped the 14-year-old from enjoying the game, making it accessible, and cheering on his favorite Overwatch League team — Los Angeles Valiant.
Recently, Danik was featured on an Overwatch League broadcast on Twitch, and prior to that, he has been a champion of accessibility for other players. Last year, he was featured in Blizzard Entertainment’s Watchpoint series for the signs he came up with for characters like Mercy, Widowmaker, Winston, Genji, and Junkrat.
Overwatch has always been Danik’s number one video game recommendation, and he enjoys introducing other players to it.
Although Danik’s school does not have an Overwatch club, he is involved in other ways. “I’m in several internet groups. I’m in LA Valiant’s Discord and I’ve been on there [a few times], to discuss with players, to greet and say goodbye to players,” he explained to Daily Esports.
Despite his busy school schedule consisting of multiple projects at once, Danik took the time to share his thoughts on Overwatch, accessibility, and gaming communities with Daily Esports.
Daily Esports: How did you first get introduced to Overwatch, and what is it about the game that made you continue playing it?
My friend was talking about the game. The more she talked about it, the more I was interested about it. One Sunday, I went over to her house and started playing it — it was spring 2017. Orisa was just released on the PTR.
What inspired you to come up with signs for the different heroes, and why is it important to make Overwatch more accessible for fans and players?
I wanted to be faster and effective and make communication easier with my friends. And I wouldn’t have to spell out each hero’s name. I just created signs for them so I can easily organize and strategize for the games.
Overwatch has a huge player base. When it benefits everyone, from different experiences, disabilities, and ethnicities, to be recognized is extremely important. I really want to be able to communicate with my team effectively, play with my team effectively, and that goes for every Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing player out there.
How has the community feedback/reception been thanks to what you’ve been doing, and what does it mean to you?
It’s been absolutely amazing. It helped kick-start my YouTube career, which I very recently rebooted. I’ve been told that Deaf players started using my signs. I’ve been approached at the Blizzard Arena and in public that they saw me on ESPN and on Overwatch League. It makes me really happy that I’m helping and inspiring many others.
It means a lot to me. I’m a Deaf player who has been through many difficulties while playing video games. I would never wish that on anyone else. I want to be able to successfully help others with accessibility. When you cater to a disability, many people with that disability will come, because it helps them. It’s fun, and it’s easier.
What do you hope to see in Overwatch in the future?
Overwatch is going in a direction that I love. They’ve begun to cater to the players. A new feature called the Workshop is out on the PTR and I’ve tried it out. It’s so amazing. There’s lore coming out and as an avid reader, I’m attracted to lore and I really appreciate it.
I only have one thing that I want to see in Overwatch in the future — accessibility. Accessibility is a pillar that holds up the bridge between people of disabilities and the world. In this case, it’s video games and Overwatch.
What are some of your plans for your YouTube channel?
I’m really excited that you asked me this question. My future plans for my YouTube channel are for me to cater to every single one of you. I want to incorporate vlogs, video gaming, beauty, comedy skits, and many more. I want to be a channel that includes everyone no matter their backgrounds.
What is something you would like Overwatch fans and your supporters to know?
I want Overwatch fans and my supporters to know that it’s okay to be you. Don’t feel afraid to create change. I created change and look at what happened to me now. Basically, don’t be afraid to be yourself.
Danik Soudakoff continues to champion accessibility for other players. On his YouTube channel, he has already uploaded a video showcasing the signs for Overwatch characters. His most recent videos feature skits such as “How People Wake Up” and “I tried following a Bob Ross Tutorial.”