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Games need more roles for players with disabilities

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Games need more roles for players with disabilities 2

It’s a beautiful day in Ilios, minus the unending gunfire. Two groups of fighters duke it out to secure a point near the sea. Shields have been thrown up, heals slung about, and weapons discharged. Chaotic colors swarm around me, while several red names have me cornered near the edge of a building. I usually play Mercy, but this time I’ve convinced myself Mei’s weapons will work better. I’ve died again, thrown off the edge by a Lucio. At least the fall gives me time to consider my mistakes and remind me why I usually stay in my lane.

I’m legally blind, meaning my vision is still worse than 20/200 after correction. I cannot lawfully drive, operate heavy machinery, join the military, or see detail in most things I view. I use magnifiers or assistive technologies while on my computer, phone, and when reading. My blindness has never diminished my desire to play videogames, but my disability has determined what games I load up and, to a greater extent, my role in them. Whether I want to admit it or not, my disability keeps me from playing the way I would like to.

Plenty of games offer characters with different abilities and let players to customize their own hero. Some of them have existing templates whose loadouts can be tweaked to fit our playstyle. These options sound great, especially if nothing stops the player from enjoying any role offered. You’ve got a lot of options if you can tank, heal, do damage, as well as master abilities like driving, close-quarters combat, long-range firefights, and hacking minigames. In my experience as one of the millions of Americans who are legally blind, however, such abilities aren’t always possible.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

I enjoy Overwatch because it’s an easy game to pick up and put down in between doing other things. I never feel bad if I take a few months off, because the controls and mechanics come back quickly once the round starts. Sadly, it’s hard to get excited about new characters for the roster unless they’re listed as support. Mercy is the easiest for me to play because her heals auto-target a nearby ally and I’ve learned how to use the majority of her abilities without needing to be able to see the enemy. Though an opponent may be hidden far away, hiding out with a sniper rifle or waiting for a skill to recharge, I can focus on the blue names—the people who need me. Almost every button press accomplishes something.

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