The progress that large video game publishers are making with low vision or sightless accessibility is impressive. High profile titles like The Last of Us Part II and Microsoft Flight Simulator are inspiring and exciting. However, games designed from the ground up for players with low vision or without sight offer many a more satisfying experience.
We’ve worked with Aaron Spelker on this list of games that offer a bespoke experience for low-vision or sightless players. This has expanded our database search for Play Without Sight and added a new Play Without Sight with VoiceOver criteria. These games offer experiences that entertain, intrigue and challenge players through spatial audio, text to speech and voice-work. We’re excited about the games here, but first, we want to share Aaron’s story.
Aaron is an author (The Bubonic Reorder), commentator, accessible game reviewer and father. He runs the Apple iPhone iOS Voiceover Compatible Games Facebook page where vision-impaired members discover a wide variety of games, swap tips and answer questions.
He has loved console games his entire life. But two and a half years ago, he lost his sight in an accident. “One day I was sighted; the next day I was blind,” as he puts it. He soon sat down to play The Last of Us: Part 2, in the hope of finding an entertaining accessible game but found that the “gameplay felt hollow and unsatisfying”.
“The Last of Us: Part 2 has done something exceptional with its extensive accessibility efforts. In fact, I feel guilty that I failed to have a fun experience with the game,” he told us. “But I realized that I was comparing my blind gameplay with my sighted gameplay from earlier years. Playing graphics-rich games as a blind person ultimately made me feel inadequate and depressed. I was so distraught by the interaction that I packed up the controller and have not played a console system since.”
However, my desire to play games did not dissipate. I longed to get lost in a game world. With the loss of my sight, I needed that distraction from life’s daily struggles even more. I began searching the internet for accessible video games for the blind and vision impaired.
He found a deep pool of accessible games on smartphones such as the iPhone and started to work through its catalogue. “While playing these games, I became thoroughly familiar with the iPhone's VoiceOver screen reader. This accessibility tool allows a blind person to have any text on the phone screen read out loud through a series of swipes and taps.”
There were games that went beyond the commonly accessible text adventures, word puzzles and dice games. They were immersive games with 3D Worlds, like A Blind Legend and A Detective’s Demise. Or adventure games where the vision-impaired gamer fought enemies, like A Dark Room. There were also action games where you drove cars (Blind Drive), manage sports teams (Football Chairman Pro) and fight dragons (Swordy Quest).
“They allowed me to reestablish my love of video games because they are primarily focused on the gameplay rather than high-quality graphics. Therefore, vision-impaired players do not feel left out or left behind. The vision-impaired player can have the same game experience as the sighted player. For me, this was what I needed. It increased my gaming confidence and enjoyment. While I loved 40 years of sighted gaming, I have now found a rich community of non-vision games and gamers to engage with for my next 40 years.”
This list includes 18 games from the last 9 years, with 56 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to play without using your eyes.