How I play video games with a visual impairment

Following on from our blog last month about VI gaming, we spoke to Kyle, a graduate from Henshaws Skillstep course who is an avid gamer. We asked him questions about what got him into gaming and how his own visual impairment affects the way he plays video games.

“My name is Kyle Nuremberg or BLIND HAVOK 87 as I’m known in the gaming world and I’m writing this post to let others know what it’s like to be a partially sighted gamer and what games I find easiest to play.  

I was diagnosed with Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) at the age of 16 in 2004. I initially found it very difficult and was depressed for about 7 years. At the age of 23 I began to improve a lot and started to go out of the house a lot more. Having LHON has made my central vision slightly worse than the peripheral and my vision is blurry with a lot of floaters.  

I sit very close to the TV which can be a pain at times but I make sure to have a lot of rests instead of being sat in one place for some time.  I find having a 42 inch TV the best option because the position I am sitting in lets me see the whole screen; if I had a larger TV I would have to get up out my seat and look closer.

I have recently finished my first year on a professional music production course for a foundation degree and plan on getting a career in video game development, music production, sound design or making music and sound effects for visual media such as video games and movies.  I have my Facebook page “BLIND HAVOK” where I show how I’m developing as a music producer.

1. How does your eye condition impact your eye sight?

I find it difficult to read letters unless it’s in a 32 size font or I have my CCTV magnifier with me. If I’m using a PC or iMac I use black on yellow stickers which helps me out a lot.  I use the built-in magnifier instead of most magnifying software out there because it’s free.  While I’m out of the house, I take my symbol stick everywhere which has made getting around easier, especially on long journeys where I get some assistance at train stations or at the shop.

computer-magnifier

2. When did you get in to gaming?

I have been gaming ever since I was 3 years old.  I was introduced to the Atari at this age by my uncle Eddie, who sadly passed away last year from Cancer. I have continued to play video games even at the time of losing a lot of my sight. It does become difficult and frustrating at times but I laugh it off at the end. If I’m not playing a game with my brothers or by myself, I will join other people online which is sometime new to them having a partially sighted teammate.

3. What are your favourite games and why?

Before the loss of my sight, I use to play sports games such as FIFA (football) and Gran Turismo (racing) but staring at tiny footballers on bright green grass or speeding cars can be a strain on my eyes.  I do prefer first-person games to third-person as everything is close up and I can see better at what I’m interacting with.  The games I play now are Resident Evil 7, Rainbow Six Siege, Outlast 2 and Minecraft (these are all first-person games), Ghost Recon: Wild Lands, Grand Theft Auto 5, Friday the 13th The Game (these are third person games),  Sonic The Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, Limbo and Inside (these are 2D side-scrolling games).

limbo-game

4. What do you consider to be the most accessible consoles?

I have played games on Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox and out of all 3 of these consoles I would recommend the Xbox One. The Xbox’s main interface is easy to navigate with blocky categories which are more like the Windows 10 interface. It has ease of access which lets you enable a magnifier tool where you can zoom out with the left trigger and zoom in with the right trigger. The magnifier can zoom in while you’re playing a game to enlarge in-game text or mini maps or it can be used within the main interface to browse games, movies and other things to make them much clearer. ‘Narrator’ is a talkback feature which speaks what is highlighted in the main interface such as a game, movies, songs or status/post in the community feed.

Xbox One Accessability

5. From your experience, which are the most accessible games and do you play with other VI gamers?

The games I find easy to play are the games that I can take my time on like the first person crafting game Minecraft.  In this game the controls are easy to remember and there is no objective to follow, other than to craft, build and play with friends and family in split-screen or online.  There is a game/app also in the store called Threes which is a maths type puzzle game where you have to add two sets of 3’s, then 2 sets of 6’s, 2 sets of 12’s and so on until you get the high score.

Unfortunately, I don’t play with other partially sighted games as I’m not aware of any.  It would be great to play alongside other VI games though as I think gaming should be available for everyone.

6. How could the gaming industry be more accessible?

Since technology has advanced throughout many years of gaming, with televisions being flat-screen plasma; a big difference to the older glass TV’s where being sat close to them can bring strain to my eyes.  Recently the gaming industry has introduced virtual reality to PC games and to those who have smart phones.  I don’t own a VR headset as of yet but plan on purchasing the Oculus Rift which I think would make gaming easier than being sat close to a TV.  The new Nintendo console “Nintendo Switch” has a game called 1 2 3 Switch which instead of using a TV; you are face to face with another player.”

If you would like to find out more about what accessible technology is out there for people with a visual impairment, head along to one of our monthly Tech Talk groups. Held in Manchester, Oldham and Liverpool, our groups discuss all the new advancements in assistive technology, tech-related news and tips, and cover everything from apps to audio equipment! 

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Kyle
Kyle
Kyle has Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) and is a recent graduate of the Skillstep programme. He has been an avid gamer since he was 3 years old.