Ever heard the expressions, “A blind person could do better,” or “What are you, blind?” Be careful if you say that while playing Call of Duty, because you could be talking to TJ, a visually impaired gamer who, if we’re being honest, could probably whip my ass at any given FPS and yours too.
TJ, who streams on YouTube under the name “tj the blind gamer,” is an avid Call of Duty player who is, by his own admission, getting back into games after losing his vision at the age of 18. Judging from his play, he’s got less rust on him than most. He currently has 7,600 kills and is aiming for 10k.
In an interview with Kotaku, TJ said “There are several settings and perks with in Black Ops III that function as accidental accessibility to many disabled players,” and detailed how some mechanics in the game help him get his kills via audio cues.
It begs the question: Is there more game developers could do to accommodate the visually impaired in games. The medium is a visual-heavy one, so I get there’s only so much they can do to divorce gameplay from what the player sees. But, judging by the number of groups and resources online for visually impaired gamers, TJ is far from alone. And, while those gamers have gone to some truly stunning lengths to make popular games accessible for them, there might be more developers could do on the front end.
Could games be offering better audio or feedback options? TJ suggested an audio mode for Call of Duty specifically which would give constant feedback for visually impaired users to find points on the map.
Some games are more accessible to the visually impaired than others. Fighting games for example: Blind gamer Brice Mellen once literally beat Mortal Kombat series creator Ed Boon at his own game. In an interview with IGN, Mellon proposed either “a talking program that could give you directions and read menus to you, read what’s on the screen” or a Braille screen in which they could follow along on a whole map.