Please, no more games where the playable character is blind...

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iOS and iPadOS Gaming

Before I start my rant I do need to say thank you to all developers who are inclusive in their games, subsequent rant aside. Your work has made many people very happy and feel much more inclusive so, though I'd obviously like you to take notice of my comments, also understand that they are intended as constructive criticism.

Please stop making the hook for the game blindness. I understand why it is such an appealing idea, it explains away the limitations of non-sighted game play, it connects with the blind and partially sighted community and, more broadly, it can let sighted people, or partially sighted people know what it is like to be without sight. All great things but, on a personal level, not good enough.

My issue is, I play games for escapism. I don't want to be reminded that I'm blind. I don't want to be reminded that I'm doing what blind people do. I especially don't want to play games where a blind person is a stereotype because, as we know, we are all very different people, the only common factor being our varying lack of sight.

Now, I know this is a complaint without any real suggestions, but as games like the last of us part II have shown, it is possible to have a game that has nothing to do with blindness that can be played by blind people. Variations can be as simple as, just not mentioning blindness, EG fear is described as "the game of running blind", why not just say, running through the dark... I know it's splitting hairs but slapping blind on something and making it a product annoys me.

For me, "blindness" isn't a culture, it's not a religion and it's not a lifestyle choice. Blindness isn't an experience I wish to explore because, I hope we can all agree, it's a royal pain in the ass. We have been presented with all of this fantastic technology that bridges the gap between those with and those without and yet, even though we can now do most things fully sighted peers can do, smartphone wise, we're still returning to games where we are pretending to be blind. This just seems a bit dumb to me.

Devs, you are creative and wonderful people, think bigger, break out of this trope or idea that blind people want to play games where they are blind... If this were true, flight sims would only be played by pilots, fighting games only played by thugs and civilisation games only played by gods.

We game to be different people, to see the world from a different perspective, to escape the doldrums, struggles and pains of every day life. Take us on an adventure, open our minds to new possibilities but please, please please please, stop reminding us that we are blind. We know. It sucks.

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Comments

Submitted by ming on Tuesday, March 2, 2021

yeah
I am totally agreed.
accessible games/ audio games doesn't mean that the character need to be blind or have to be a blind person.

he/she can be sighted but, have some system or audio effect to let game player to know what happened
or have ability to have good listening as well.

Submitted by Alan on Tuesday, March 2, 2021

stated just this in a recent poll I take about games and accessibility.
In my case, As son as I read: a mighty blind warrior... An amazing game in world of darkness -and they of course aren't talking about the White Wolf role playing game-...
All my interest is lost.
Ok, I accept my condition, I am blind, this is a fact, but please, stop making blind characters just because your game is accessible. In most cases, it doesn't make sense at all, makes your script worse, and as it has been stated: football games aren't only for professional football players, and action games aren't only for special force members.
Imagine a game description such as: in our amazing new game you'll take the role of the greatest ninja ever, Akira, the wheel chair user ninja! Because we know you need a character like that to fully enjoy the experience. Ridiculous, right? Well, it happens in the audiogame world very often.
There are only a few interesting titles every year that we can play, so please, if you are a developer, don't create another blind warrior for us. Feel free to make us dream :)

Submitted by DMNagel on Tuesday, March 2, 2021

My reasoning is like this. When a mane character have no disability, stereotypes won't exist and thus, disabled people will have at least one less thing to moan about. From price to sound, from game play to difficulty, from swiping to tilting, from accents to languages, from voice over to self voicing, from screen reader voices to natural voices, from bad acting to good acting and finally, from character types to stereotypes. Yeah. Let's see if we can hopefully eliminate one.

This is very true though, if you drop the "disabled" from "disabled people" you'd also be quite correct. People complain, irrespective of ability. The only difference is, "disabled people" are expected to settle for less. Consumers will and should always expect better from producers. it's the only way positive change can happen.

Submitted by mich on Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Hi yes I agree just because we are blind we don't need reminding of it when we play games. I would like to play a game where blindness is not menchend or where the main character is not blind. I agree with what has been said all ready make games where we can excape but where we don't have to be reminded that we have disibillides. btw I like first persin shooter and fighting games with a good story.

Submitted by Lysette Chaproniere on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I can understand why you’re complaining about this, but I want to provide a bit of a contrary perspective. I think the problem isn’t having blind characters, so much as the approach game devs usually take to them. Think of all those discussions of media representation, where different groups, whether it’s people of colour, gay people, trans people, or indeed disabled people, call out the lack of characters from that group in fiction, TV, games, etc. If it’s good to have diverse representation in games, then it’s good to have some games with blind characters.

One problem here is the stereotypes and cliches about blind people, or stories that are all about the character’s blindness, or where the character doesn’t really have any other traits. These should be pointed out where they are found, but I don’t think having stereotypical blind characters is worse than having no blind characters at all in the gaming world. Another issue is that one reason why we might care about diverse representation in media is so that people can learn about different groups, and so that minorities don’t seem quite so weird to people. That doesn’t apply here because audio games are usually marketed just to blind people, so they’re not an opportunity for the world to learn about/get used to blind people. We might want more mainstream games to include blind characters, but there would be something wrong with a game about a blind character that was inaccessible to blind players. (I vaguely recall a game like that being discussed on AppleVis).

So the best approach might be, instead of making games for blind people, to make games that are accessible but potentially aimed at anyone. I don’t buy this idea that sighted people don’t like, or can’t play, audio games. Audiobooks and podcasts are popular enough. I think the other reason why audio games usually don’t make it in the mainstream world is that people who don’t require accessibility have so much more choice, which makes it a lot harder for a game to get popular in the mainstream than for an accessible game to get popular with blind people. And, of course, we could have games that have visuals but can be played just as easily without them. So having lots of accessible, mainstream games is the ideal, but that might not be very helpful to a developer working on an audio game, who knows that realistically it’s going to mostly be played by blind people. There probably should be some blind characters in those games, because if there were none, there would be people asking why we’re not represented in the games created for us. But we should have blind people with lots of different personalities, in lots of different scenarios. And not all audio game characters should be blind; as this thread demonstrates, not all blind people want to play blind characters.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A very good and welcome perspective. I completely agree that representation is important, it helps to normalise the idea that we, as blind people, exist, have hopes and fears and are, for the most part, like everyone else. In this way, proportional representation in fiction is important though it also needs to be plausible representation too, EG. not just wedging in a blind character for the sake of 'incsluivity', what ever that is...

From the consumer side, I really don't have to have a character be a 39 year old English writer who is blind, to connect with them. In fact, it is more enjoyable when they aren't anything like me which does support the concept of writing interesting blind characters for sighted players or readers or watchers to empathise with and understand but, and this is the big but, they need to be interesting characters. As our blindness and accessibility needs do not define us as people, blindness should not define a character in a game, or the experience of the player.

I realise that games such as the Blindfold series are very popular but, to me, they feel like a showcase of ideas rather than anything more complete. Maybe we do need such games as The Night jar and Papa Sangre to explore ways in which we can play games and games such as the Blindfold series to show mainstream developers that there is a market. My fear is just that, as with too many things in the 'blind community', a concept itself that I find uncomfortable, games and content creation can become an echo chamber.

Whilst beyond these walls the world is full of wonders we explore only the intricate details of our own existence.

So, in conclusion, more blind people in mainstream media, and more mainstream media for the blind. I'd like it done by lunchtime, thanks.

Submitted by Jesse Anderson on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Interesting discussion so far. I was actually just talking about this very topic on a recent game stream last weekend with some people. Lysette has it pretty much spot on.

It's good to have blind characters represent blind people in media, including games. But these characters' blindness shouldn't always be the core focus for said media. A story can be told about a blind person with very little emphasis on their blindness. Sometimes it's a key part of the story, but often it doesn't need to be.

I'm also very interested in playing audio games that have nothing to do with blindness. I listen to many audio books and podcasts regularly. Very few of these have little to nothing to do with blindness, but I'm still consuming them audibly. Audio games should aim for this as well.

I think the trick is to get a mainstream game developer to really create something unique in audio form, that could be just as compelling narratively or through gameplay, in audio only form. If sighted people are willing to regularly listen to the radio, podcasts, and Audible, then games, if done well enough should be just as possible. Getting away from simple, gimic gameplay, and blindness tropes will help with this. Having a mainstream public audio game focus also makes it more likely that a broader audience will enjoy the game, buy the game, and we maybe won't have as many audio game developers go under after a short while. Both sighted and blind players can fund the games.

I think within the next few years, we will start to see more mainstream games, indie and AAA, that may be playable by the blind. The Last of Us 2 set a very high bar, and I want to see other developers try to create something equally as playable. Ubisoft is making good progress with many of their games. Microsoft is also making progress toward this. As are several indie developers.

Submitted by Remy on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

There's a lot of great discussion on here so far. I agree with quite a bit of it. I'm the kind of gamer who will play any character, regardless of gender, race, even species. My only qualification is a compelling story. Hence why I loathe silent protagonists. I do play mainstream games, so perhaps I'm a bit spoiled. For me, I can't help immediately rolling my eyes whenever I hear the word "blind" in a game's title. or dark, or black or anything else that alludes to sightlessness. I don't have any trouble playing a sightless character, but there has to be a compelling reason for that character to be sightless. When I first heard of the recently released Blinded Chef, my first thought was "well why is the chef blind? What happened to them? Was it an accident in the kitchen?" I mean it wasn't even Blind chef, it was blinded. That game Could have stripped the blindness out entirely and just been an audio game. The same thing with A Blind Legend. This game had decent combat, competent voice acting and decent production values. It had the bare bones of a compelling story too. But the warrior's blindness never came up for anything but gameplay mechanics. I can suspend my disbelief quite a bit, but the idea of this warrior fighting off all manner of foes while his daughter practically leads him by the hand is a bit much without some really interesting lore to make it believable. Gold Gun is another example. This is a game with some really interesting ideas. But the Blind tropes were panned so hard by people that the game was cancelled. It could have been very interesting if they had only made the character less of a walking stereotype.

Then there's perception, a mainstream horror game where you play Cassey, a girl who is blind, but has this amazing ability to somehow sense stationary objects like coffee cups just by tapping her cane. She gets summoned to an old abandoned and creepy house to investigate its truly disturbing secrets. She used her phone to take pictures and send them to her boyfriend for description, an OCR app to scan documents and was independant enough to get to this creepy mansion in the middle of no-where. She's even got a pretty decent personality, lots of inner monologue and observations about her surroundings. Despite the "superblind" tropes and the fact blind people can't actually play the game, it was a really interesting idea which, if the Last of Us 2 is any indication, could absolutely be made accessible.

There was another game whose name escapes me. The protagonist wakes up, and the whole world has gone blind. You need to escape your apartment and make your way across a city crawling with some form of murderous creature. The game was short, and the voice acting and story a bit cringy, but it also gave plausable cause for its blindness gimic. It was actually a mainstream adventure game too. It had a few really interesting ideas and a few pretty intense sequences.

All this to say blindness, just like any other character trait, when done right can make for something compelling. It doesn't have to be the defining characteristic or a gimic. And an audio game without blindness can work just as well. The Girl Who Sold the World, despite its odd pacing issues was a fantastic experience which I'm so sad seems to have been put on hold. Timecrest too, despite its micro-transactions and only text interface was also a really cool concept. No blindness there either.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Thursday, March 4, 2021

I personally could care less. If the game is good it's good, weather the person is blind, sighted, or has pokadots. That's just me though. I personally do not see the big deal about this

Submitted by Ashleigh Piccinino on Thursday, March 4, 2021

Hello,
Recently, I majored in psychology with a minor in Disability Studies. in the latter, we learned that it's always better to put people first, not their disability. I'm noticing on here that the latter is true--I'm not liking it. We're people first, regardless of whether we're blind or not. The people with disabilities--PWD as often shortenedto--should be portrayed positively and not with funny simulators which tend to dumb down the disability. This is also true of gameplay. I think this thread's gone on in here long enough/it needs to be taken out and discussed privately somewhere else. Also, I looked for the Nightjar or however it's spelled in the Apple App store/not there any more. It sounded like it'd be a cool game though.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Thursday, March 4, 2021

Yeah, sadly these two amazing games never made it past 32 bit, or so I understand so are lost to the mists of time. They were audio games that were brilliant, hands down some of the best games I've played in the last couple of decades. The Night jar even had Bendict Cumbbatch, or however you spell his name, voicing one of the characters.... For any who don't know or who can't understand my terrible spelling, Sherlock/Doctor Strange etc, so pretty cool stuff.

I'm slightly confused as to why you think this thread should be canned. It serves as a good resource for IOS game developers to know what a demographic is looking for. To kill it would deprive them of that and the effort that has gone into expanding on what works and doesn't work in current offerings so, in this case, I respectfully disagree that the conversation is concluded. A conversation doesn't need to be conflict, it can be a gentle search for a mostly mutual conclusion, a rarity on the internet, I agree. :)