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I walk into my local GameStop store determined to get the game that I’ve been saving for. As soon as I enter the store I can tell some people are staring at me as I grab the new Max Payne title from the neatly stocked supplies. I know that I’m not a normal customer. The reason for this isn’t because of the Halo T shirt I have sported today, the Call of Duty hat that nests on my scalp, or the Star Wars keychain I possess. The reason why I’m so different is because of the long red and white cane that I clutch along with my new Xbox 360 title.

As a blind person I get asked a lot of questions and they all range from common sense to legitimate. That doesn’t bother me at all to answer questions. I admit that some of the questions I get asked are just simply common sense, and if people would just stop and use their brain, they’d know how I do things, such as type on a computer. The one question, however, that I get asked all the time, especially on Xbox Live when I’m making my way onto the leader-boards after a heated fighting match between me as Maxi, and someone from Xbox Live or PSN, is “how in the world do you play video games?”

The first thing that I want to clear up is that I’m not totally blind. I’m legally blind but I’m often considered a total. To mimic my vision, the next time you play a game, try covering your right eye and making an O around your left eye, leaving a pin hole to look through. That’s how I see all the time, and even that smidgen is blurry.

GTAIV

I’ve always been a video game enthusiast ever since I could walk. Even when I was little, my grandmother and I would hit the arcade so I could score 20 levels on Pac-Man or dive bomb some ships in a flight simulator. People stared at me with my white cane there as well, but when I heard the blip of the high score noise, I wasn’t staring. I was smiling. That love for video games has never died, and I still love the feel of a new adventure, new puzzles and stories, and a new challenge. I’d anxiously wait for the next title to come out.

How’s a blind person able to play GTA IV, Halo, Batman, or even Star Wars? There are a number of different adaptations for different scenarios, if developers even add them to begin with. Grand Theft Auto IV has an audible GPS in all of its cars, and with my surround sound headset, different events happen in my left and right ears. Traffic noises swoosh off in my right ear, so I know that I have to turn my car to the right. My GPS tells me, also, to turn right, but how do I know if I’m even on the road? A simple flip of the vibration option will fix that problem. If I have to get out, I make sure that the sound effects volume is at its max, and I use what remaining vision I have to detect if there’s some sort of object near me as I am walking. The targeting feature is a little hard to deal with, but I never give up. An action game such as GTA will need some deeper concentration, and I die more often than anyone else but there’s one thing that I do, even if I’m sitting trying the same mission for an hour. I will get past the mission.

Uno

There are some games, of course, that are not so easy to adapt to. There are others, on the other hand, that I don’t even have to use my blurry eyesight to play. The card game UNO is a prime example. The controller vibrates whenever it’s my turn, and the cards each make a sound when played or drawn. When I have to pick a color, the color selection presents me with a wonderful song from my childhood. The musical notes of the game Simon says. Red is the lowest tone, and blue is the highest tone. Green and yellow have different pitches.

With all these games that I do play, there are a lot of games that I simply can’t play with my blindness, as well as my secondary disability of cerebral palsy. The Call of Duty series is a prime example. That game isn’t as sound oriented as some of the other games that I play and my vision won’t even help. A lot of levels are outside in the snow, with no clear map that I can blow up along with no detectable cross-hair to even tell me where I am aiming at. Video games that are hard on my cerebral palsy are games where I have to tap the buttons really fast to do certain combos. I can’t play motion sensor games at all. I have to sit at a distance from the TV, and most of the games are so visually oriented that I don’t know where or even how to move. I try all games however. I have every demo downloaded onto my console that you can think of. I love all types of games, and I hope to be playing many more against some amazing people with my surround sound headset locked in place, my game face on, and perhaps, a new guide dog at my side. One bark for left, two for right!


Robert Kingett

Robert Kingett is a blind journalist in Chicago who is the author of Off the Grid, living blindly without the Internet. He has been gaming ever since he picked up his first Atari back in 1990. he actively makes a living writing for various blogs and websites with the occasional guest post. He is also an advocate, encouraging education about video game accessibility on mainstream gaming publications



  • eltonBorges

    Nice text! I remember that kid who played MK 9 and Inustice, exactly because it had sound effects that really helped to guide his position in the fights.

  • Really? That’s cool! I hope game accessibility improoves, however. Ironically, as games look more “realistic” they become harder for me to see, so that is why I stick to older titles, unless I have to review something LOL

  • eltonBorges
  • Smoky_the_Bear

    Thanks for the article, enjoyed reading that.
    I read a story a while back about a blind guy who raided in World of Warcraft using a combination of boss mods sounds and a buddy on voice coms guiding him through. Would be interesting to play a game designed with minimal visual cues to see how the rest of us would do without relying on them. Also it definitely shows that there is more possibility than one would initially imagine for people of many disabilities to enjoy the medium if developers actually give it some thought.
    I’d also cite the example of a guy by the name of TheRealHandi on Twitch, a quadraplegic who is actually pretty damn good at Counterstrike, a controller would be nigh on impossible for him to use, with keyboard and mouse he manages it, even hitting his nose into the keyboard for a couple of controls! With a bit of thought, I doubt it would be too hard for the game to implement a form of control which makes his keyboard faceplant unnecessary, in the same way that things such as good sound design and vibrations/warnings etc, turn an unplayable game into an enjoyable one for yourself.

  • Valchrist

    He’s a pinball wizard, there has to be a twist ♫

  • Me too! There are audio games but they are no where near as complex as say, the Final Fantasy series or the Kingdom Hearts series. I also enjoy let’s plays for games that I simply cannot play but finding a serious Let’s player who reads the text and otherwise is not as wasy as one would think. I love Christopher Odd, though, for the reason he reads stuff, so the telltale games I can get into by listening to them

  • Didn’t you know? I am a blind Ninja!