First, a little background. I am legally blind, but still have some vision. I lost most of vision at three years old, and my eye doctor prescribed that I play video games for at least an hour each day to help with hand-eye coordination. Shortly after that, my parents bought me a SNES. Thus the start of my gaming hobby had begun!
I remember playing the Donkey Kong Country games fine, but any secrets I found were by accident. For instance, I could not see the cracks in the wall to use the rhino to open a secret. I also remember playing Super Mario World, which had bright colors and good contrast so I could see it pretty well. Super Mario Kart was interesting to play. Most tracks had the bright colors and I could see well, but a few were dark and hard to see. I usually had a friend or my sister play those courses for me.
The game I played most is probably one of the least known… Earthbound! It had bright, contrasting colors throughout most of the game as well as high contrast text boxes so I could see it all well. The combat was turn based, giving me time to read the menus and choose the right abilities.
One Christmas, I received an N64 as a gift! It took some practice to learn the controller and 3D movement. I remember playing a plethora of games including Super Mario 64, both Banjo-Kazooie games, Mario Kart 64, both Legend of Zelda games, Perfect Dark, Pokémon Snap and Stadium, Super Smash Bros, Donkey Kong 64. All of them have bright colors and high contrast text boxes. I wasn’t very good at the competitive multi-player shooters, but Perfect Dark allowed me to play against bots and still experience the beginning of the FPS.
Even though I had a GameCube, I had gotten older and didn’t want to play the family friendly Nintendo games anymore, so I gave it to my sister and got a PS2. I played a lot of the Ratchet and Clank as well as Jak and Daxter series. They still retained the bright, contrasting colors but now had voice over for the characters, removing the need for text boxes! I no longer had to worry if I could read the text!
The game I played most was Final Fantasy X. It had the bright contrasting colors throughout most of the game, great VO actors, and turn based combat. It is probably the first game I remember having accessibility options. I could change the text size and set the cursor to memory, so I didn’t have to read through all the choices each turn.
By the time the next generation of consoles were released, I got my first job working at Gamestop! Since I was researching the new consoles more, I chose to get an Xbox 360 with one of my first paychecks. I was impressed by the amount of console based accessibility options that would activate on every compatible game. I started playing more competitive shooters like CoD, Battlefield, GoW, and Perfect Dark Zero. I wasn’t very good at any of them unfortunately.
I preferred to play against bots in PDZ or the coop zombie/horde modes in CoD and GoW. The games I ended up playing most were for very different reasons. I liked to play Defiance because it was a pseudo MMO, so I could play the whole game in coop! I played the Forza games because I couldn’t drive anymore and they have some of the best accessibility settings! I also played World of Tanks because it was a slower paced shooter that used a spotting system that outlines enemies…
I ended up playing it for 1250 hours in the first year of release! The proliferation of online cooperative games really helped me play a lot of different games with the help of a friend or stranger across the globe.
When the current generation of consoles came out, I waited until the new WoT and Forza released before buying an Xbox One. I’ve seen great strides in accessibility this generation, especially at Xbox. Some recent games that stand out are even indie games! I have a few recent examples that follow. I finally got around to playing The Walking Dead: New Frontier via Xbox Game Pass.
I enjoyed the previous games in the series due their laid back mechanics, but this one has a lot of quick time events. I really can’t do those anymore because I can’t always see where the prompt appears. Also from Game Pass, I tried out the Bloodstained games. I couldn’t really play the first one with its dark color palette and pixel based art style. If my attack is just one pixel off, I still miss. The second one was a lot better however. It has a brighter color scheme and modern graphics. I mostly enjoyed the Resident Evil 2 remake, but had trouble with the dark areas. Even though the characters have a flashlight, it is automatic when they use it. Almost every time they would, it was too late for me.
I wish they would have allowed it to be manually turned on or just programmed them to turn them on earlier than expected. Just in the past week, Warframe had an update that allowed you to change the size, style, and color of the cursor! I’m glad to see that addition, but disappointed it took years since release to do so.
As for the future, I am hopeful that more games, even indies, continue to add accessibility options. I believe that is the way that it appears to be heading but more progress can always be made. I also hope that I get the opportunity to write more about the hobby that has helped me through much of life, including the current pandemic. Maybe this can even open your eyes to the struggles of the low vision players and you can think twice about how your teammate didn’t kill the enemy behind you before you yell at them…