Whenever I introduce myself as a blind gamer I get a wide array of reactions. From doubt to surprise; they all funnel down to two main questions, “Why and how do you play video games?”
I guess I should begin with how I got into video games in the first place. When I was young my family would visit my grandparents often. In their house was a room called the “Toy Room.” One of the most popular ‘toys’ was the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Since my cousins are all years older than my siblings and I, we would always be the ones watching as they played. Though I couldn’t see for myself, I could still feel how much fun they were having. The first games I ever played were on that system. Super Mario World, Paperboy, Mario Kart Super Circuit, and the original Star Fox was what began it all. My parents bought us a Nintendo 64 a few years later. From then on it was more Mario games followed by The Legend of Zelda and other classics.
It wasn’t until I was twelve years old and made some of my first true friends that my interest in gaming became an even bigger part of my life. They introduced me into the genre of games that I now love most: The Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG). From there I moved on to titles such as the Tales of and Kingdom Hearts series. They showed me a whole new side of gaming and I am forever grateful.
Before I begin explaining how I play games with barely any vision I should define my diagnosis. I was born with Septo Optic Dysplasia which is a rare congenital defect that, among other problems, had me born with underdeveloped optic nerves. I am completely blind in my left eye and see shadows, light, and dark out of my right.
To be honest most of playing video games as a blind person is just a lot of trial and error. It’s memorising environments and knowing where you have and haven’t been. Dying over and over again due to getting lost, using a wrong item at the wrong time, or miscalculating where an enemy is.
Since this can be a slow and frustrating process there is no way I could do it alone. Walkthroughs and Let’s Plays are key factors in success. Walkthroughs are simply written guides that inform someone where to go and what to do. Let’s Plays are Youtubers who give full commentary while playing the game. Some even describe the non-verbal interactions aloud which can be extremely helpful to knowing what is happening.
With the emergence of streaming services such as Twitch and Hitbox, I am able to receive live assistance from people watching me play video games in real time from around the world. This helps create a community connecting gamers with disabilities and those without. It’s made for a lot of fun experiences.
When all else fails, I simply ask a sighted friend or family member for assistance. Even if they have no idea what is going on they can at least help me make a jump or read a map. This has led to fun situations of characters making comments that, out of context, can sound strange, awkward, or perverted. Trying to clarify what is happening during said scenes has led to amusing conversations to say the least!
Now I am a 24 year old who is still enjoying video games. I look forward to gaming events such as E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) each year and going to midnight game releases with friends. I enjoy being a part of gaming culture and showing that being blind doesn’t have to be a barrier. Hopefully this encourages others to try gaming for themselves and realize how much fun it can be.