Interview with James (BlindlyPlayingGames) on Gaming with Disabilities
Today, we present another interview around the theme of overcoming obstacles when playing World of Warcraft, with James (
). He mains a Mistweaver Monk, and does a variety of content ranging from keys to arenas without vision.
You can catch him on stream every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at 6 pm central time, Sunday being a bit more IRL-centric.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What drew you to World of Warcraft?
I was born legally blind with my vision being 20/400. Then, when I was 18, I lost the rest of my sight.
While I had vision, I liked to play games for the social aspect rather than the story. For example, a lot of my school friends and I would play games like Halo 3, multiple Call of Duties, and World of Warcraft. I was also interested in the automotive industry even though I could never drive because of my vision. Thus, I played racing games like Forza Motorsport 4.
Once I lost my sight, I lost some of my motivation to play games because I didn’t think they would be enjoyable to play anymore. I eventually learned about audio games (games made for the blind), but they didn’t interest me. However, I started to learn about Blackjack and memorized basic strategy so I could play it in bars and casinos with friends.
After a few years of being blind, some of my friends were talking about going back to World of Warcraft for BFA. This mildly intrigued me about the BFA story; therefore, I started checking out a lot of WoW videos and I kept getting more and more enthusiastic about playing the game again.
A MMO requires precise interactions and visual cues that we take for granted. How did you manage to overcome these challenges?
I initially started researching about if the game would be playable for me. I came across a couple of people that were blind and have played the game, but they didn’t say much about the specific addons they were using, macros that would be helpful, or scripts that would make things easier. Even though I didn’t have much information from those blind players, at least they gave me hope that the game was playable.
Then, I started thinking about everything I used to do in the game and tried to find a way to do it with no vision. For example, I thought about how I’m going to be able to repair my gear, but there is an addon for automatically repairing. Similarly, interacting with NPCs can be covered by target keybinds, the hardest part being knowing which NPC to interact with.
Then, how do I click the accept button in the dialog box? I came across an addon for accepting most dialog box popups and there is a macro as well. I kept going through this process for everything I could think of.
Along the journey of compiling everything that I needed to make the game more blind-friendly, I thought I would make a comprehensive guide as a resource for any other blind people that would want to play the game. Therefore, I put everything in a Word document and eventually
posted it on Reddit
, and the post received a ton of support by the community. Furthermore, I wanted to stream my experience of playing the game blind, so I did on my Twitch channel.
What do you play in World of Warcraft? How do you do it?
I started as a hunter because DPS seemed the easiest at the time. Also, hunters are great for following someone because all of the abilities for BM hunters are instant cast so there is nothing to get interrupted if the person you are following starts moving while you are attacking.
However, one of my friends started to push me to try healing, but I didn’t think it would be easy to do. Thus, we started talking about how we could make some kind of system to tell me the health of party members, and began to talk to some people in the WeakAuras Discord.
We gradually built a basic healing WeakAura and it worked pretty well; therefore, we kept tweaking it until it got quite complicated for a WeakAura. Later, I came across someone in the comments of a Reddit post I made saying they could help with making the WeakAura a stand-alone addon, and it just kept getting better from there.
Ultimately, I switched from DPSing to healing because I found it much more engaging, and now I main MW monk. With it, I do arenas and Mythic+ between +10 and +17.
What add-ons do you use?
will say numbers between 1-5, 1 being my health, and 2-5 being party member health. Once someone drops below 90% health it starts saying their number. The lower they are, the faster it repeats. In raids, it functions similarly but calls out the lowest 3 people. If somebody needs a dispel, the voice changes from female to male.
provides audio cues when you are following another unit, swimming, diving, provides the name of the map, and provides a lot of environmental information through audio cues, with
backing it up for situations where casting is not possible such as CCs, line of sight, interrupts and more.
allows me to use the space bar or any other button to interact with prompts such as group invitations. It also conveniently allows the selection of quest rewards and other dialog prompts with number keys.
I use F1-F5 to cycle between party members, and normal keybinds to heal.
There are a couple more addons that I use to complement those; they are more thoroughly described in the
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
Even though addons and addon developers have helped tremendously when it comes to accessibility, the core game still has a long way to go. For instance, it is impossible to interact with most chats as there is no way to read them via text-to-speech, and most of the menus require a mouse to navigate through. All this also applies to classic and can be a very difficult barrier to overcome, as all of those UI elements are impossible to target with add-ons.
A lot of work has been done in Shadowlands regarding controller support, and I'm hoping this will allow players to use this to interact with menus and provide a better interface towards the game. The ability to use text-to-speech for all areas of the game would also be a great addition. All in all, I am looking forward to it!
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