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Playing Games in the Dark – One Blind Gamer Reviews Accessibility Features

Anytime I say I’m a blind gamer, people are perplexed and don’t understand why I would even want to attempt playing video games.

The first thing people need to understand is that the word blind encompasses a broad range of visual disabilities. Being legally blind and completely blind are two different things, but both come with challenges and frustrations. Prevailing public perception is that gaming is limited to those with sight.  

It’s only within the last six years that the gaming industry has seen an increase in AAA games featuring accessibility options. I recently played three of PlayStation 5’s popular titles and will discuss them from the perspective of a legally blind gamer. 

Having just completed a play-through of the original 2002 game, I can attest to how far Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart has come regarding accessibility. Rift Apart brings new accessibility options that make it accessible to those gamers with some sight retained. Unfortunately, this game is not playable for those totally blind.  Let me highlight the accessibility options. 

Upon confirming your save slot, you’re able to select game difficulty. Depending on what you pick, the game boots up with certain accessibility options enabled. I appreciate this because there is no menu narration available to assist blind gamers for setup.  

The Heads Up display option displays way-markers on screen, and the Look At Waypoint feature turns the camera in the direction of your current objective. Game traversal is made easy using simplified traversal segments.  

I struggle with assessing in-game environments, like the difference between myself and my enemies. That is why color contrast options are a favorite setting. Here I can make Ratchet appear with a blue highlight and select alternate colors for enemies, interactable elements, hazards, and collectibles – allowing me to progress through the game confidently. 

Combat is one of the most accessible features. The game employs aim assistance and auto-targeting and is capable of adjusting camera speed and weapon reticle (the circle and lines of the sight), keeping enemies center screen. The game can also turn the camera towards the nearest enemy when shooting. 

Additionally, the game can automatically lock onto enemies while aiming and Melee attacks (close quarters attacks) are performed automatically. Though easy for me, some will struggle with a lack of navigation assistance.

Out of all the games highlighted in this article, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the best at helping visually impaired players with game progression – using game dialog. If stuck or you don’t know what to do, listen to your fellow guardians to get hints. 

Additionally, game protagonist Star Lord’s visor allows for items to be interacted with and scanned, which provides additional object information. This functions as a high color contrast mode, allowing objects and structures to be highlighted in blue, pink, and yellow. Unlike Rift Apart, the visor cannot be toggled indefinitely, limiting its usage. 

You have complete control of how combat takes place.  Whatever combat experience you’re looking for, you have control to tailor the game to your style of play.  I do want to highlight one feature of this game that is better than Rift Apart. While both bring impressive auto-aiming and targeting options, when destroying structures, Guardians of the Galaxy excels at targeting destructible elements. 

Far Cry 6 had the potential to be playable by any gamer regardless of their disability, and I was excited about the accessibility options, most notably Menu Narration.  Sadly, from the moment I started using this setting my excitement dwindled.

The poorly optimized text-to-speech features were a letdown. I appreciate that tutorial text and changes to objectives were narrated, but there were instances where user interface elements were not. On several occasions, I was prompted to press ok but had no idea what for. 

I appreciate the high color contrast mode as I find this setting crucial to my play style. Additionally, I like the ability to turn off camera shake and blur. I am a big fan of motor presets, so it was awesome to disable weapon sway, increase weapon reticle size and change color, allowing me to manually aim weapons. 

Auto-drive and aim while driving took this game from ‘no way I can play’ to, ‘ok let’s try’. Sadly, the lack of relevant navigation assistance limits accessibility settings and blind gamers wouldn’t get past the opening. 

Developers are actively trying to understand accessibility but may not fully understand that vision loss needs to be looked at as a spectrum.  Each individual living with vision loss has a different level of visual acuity. Visually impaired gamers want more games like The Last of Us Part II and not Forza Horizon 5.  

We do not want the game to play for us. Visually impaired gamers want to play as manually as possible, with the right mix of support to enable proper gameplay and progression.

At the end of the day, we want to feel like we earned our victories and progress through our own actions.

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3 replies on “Playing Games in the Dark – One Blind Gamer Reviews Accessibility Features”

You did an excellent job explaining how the games either make it easy for you to play and love the way you express how they can improve to help make them easier for those with vision problems.

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