Well another double XP weekend has come and gone and I hope everyone achieved the goals they have set for themselves and had fun. Many of us thought we would never see another double XP weekend, but luckily for us two things came together to allow us to enjoy double XP once again. The first reason is Jagex is taking ‘power to the players’ very seriously and actually had a poll on how the RuneScape community would celebrate GameBlast. The second is something that is very close to my own heart, Jagex teamed up with a very worthwhile charity called SpecialEffect who was hosting an event called GameBlast. SpecialEffect helps give disabled gamers the ability to play video games again and GameBlast was an event to raise awareness and money for the charity. For all the criticism that is levied towards Jagex, this time they deserve praise. I am a disabled gamer myself so I thought it might be nice if I shared my own story about how I started playing RuneScape, namely because of its accessibility for the visually impaired.
When I was 15 years old I was diagnosed with Stargardts, which is a very rare genetic disease affecting my retina. Basically, if you were to take a picture of my retina, it would look like a bull’s-eye and where the dark rings are, I have no vision. I have severely limited central vision and I have to rely on my peripheral vision to see. This also classifies me as legally blind and I have had to learn to use assistive technology much like the people SpecialEffect is striving to help. I have always been an avid gamer going all the way back to my first Atari in 1984, so along with learning that I would never drive I also had to deal with the challenge of finding a way to continue my favorite hobby. That is where RuneScape came in.
In college I began to learn how to use screen magnifiers, screen readers, and book scanners to help me with my research, however, gaming especially on a PC, was next to impossible. At that time the screen readers and magnification software wouldn’t work with any game I wanted to play. Finally I met someone that told me about RuneScape and how it was browser-based and that it just might work with my software. I looked it up and gave it a try and low and behold it did work. I was so excited I was back in the game.
After a few years Windows 7 came out and alleviated the need I had for the special software because it had a built in full-screen magnifier that was compatible with virtually any program or browser. RuneScape continued to change and actually became more accessible over the years. I was always amazed at how an update developed for the general community would have such a large impact on me by making the game more accessible and giving me a richer gaming experience. I want to take you through a few updates, some recent and some older, but they all had a huge effect on how well I could play the game.
The first update I want to talk about is a little bit older. A few years back Jagex started voice questing. As you can imagine this really helped me by being able to hear the dialogue rather than having to struggle to read. Jagex brought voice questing to bring the characters to life and to make questing even more engaging, but the effect it had on me was tremendous. I was never a quester before this. I pretty much did what a lot of players do which is complete a quest for a specific reason or item that they want to unlock in the game. Now I love when new quests are released and I am totally enthralled with the lore of the game. It was a very simple update, one in which helped make the game better for everyone, but I am especially thankful because it’s one that changed the game for me.
The next update that has had a tremendous impact on my RuneScape experience is the new interface system. I spent many years only being able to see one section of the game screen at a time. When my magnifier is on it enlarges the screen, although that also means that I can only see a portion of the screen at a time. What this meant in game was, if I was doing combat, I could not see my inventory, chat box or the minimap. I could only see one of these things at a time, however, with an adjustable interface system I can move anything I want to, where ever I want to, and still be able to see all of the things that I need. For example now I can move my action bar directly underneath my character and make combat much easier. I can also move my chat boxes so that I can socialize more easily. This has been a huge development for me because socializing has always been difficult given the fact that I basically had to choose between it and whatever action I was doing at the time. The new interface system has been revolutionary for everyone but for me it’s indispensable.
Lastly one of the things that has had the biggest impact on me has been the community. When I first started playing I was very reluctant to socialize or do any activities that required a group of people. I thought people wouldn’t understand why I was so slow and the difficulty I had talking to them. For the most part my fears were not totally unfounded, I did run into insensitive people from time to time, of course this made me withdraw even more. Things are no longer like this anymore, like I said in my previous article, the game and the community has matured and people are much more understanding than they once were. My friends list is full, and my Clanmates are great, and I’ve learned to utilize voice chat much more. Now when someone asks me if I want to go bossing I’m excited instead of being terrified.
I can never know what people are going through who have lost their mobility, I only know how I have had to adapt and how challenging the littlest things that people take for granted can be. I’ve worked with people with all kinds of various disabilities in college trying to help find ways assistive technology could improve their lives. What SpecialEffect is doing is truly remarkable. I am so happy that Jagex is joining them and participated in GameBlast. I am also proud to be a part of such a generous gaming community and I thank the players very much for all that they donated over the weekend.