How A Man Born Without Eyes Plays Video Games

Toby Ott is 27 years old. He’s been playing video games since he was five, when he first tried out Mortal Kombat in an arcade. Which sounds like a fairly common gaming past, until you learn that Toby has bilateral anophthalmia, a rare condition which means he was born without eyeballs.

While this obviously presents significant challenges to enjoying a medium that’s primarily visual, as the short documentary Gaming Through New Eyesexplains, that hasn’t stopped Toby from playing all kinds of games over the decades.

He loves playing fighting games, and even plays online against human opponents, because titles like Injustice are full of audio cues, which he’s able to use to get a sense for where he is on a stage.

Toby also plays a ton of Final Fantasy, a series he’s into as much for its story and characters as its gameplay. With the help of a friend, who walks Toby through the structure of the game’s menus (so he’s able to memorise how many button presses it takes to perform an action), he’s been able to sink countless hours into games like Final Fantasy X and XIII.

He even enjoys old-school shooters like Duke Nukem and Doom (the latter of which he’s even into modding), though with these games he has to enable a few cheats since it’s almost impossible for him to find objects like health packs and keys.

So what keeps Toby entertained if he can’t see what’s going on? Aside from the story, music and characters, playing a game like Final Fantasy while blind presents a set of challenges that for Toby are seen as part of the game. While beating a boss can be a monumental achievement—he once spent eight weeks trying to get past one in FFX—things we would take for granted, like navigating a menu screen, are just different kinds of puzzles and boss battles to overcome.

Gaming Through New Eyes was made by Berk Icel, and you can watch the whole thing below.