A player approaches a game at a way unique to them. Xavier Quintero, being blind, approaches games from an alternative perspective than most. The ideas of accessibility for games that support blind players are very unique approaches to game design. I interviewed Xavier and asked about what makes Killer Instinct a game he can play with ease, ways to improve it even more, and how other games can use Killer Instinct as an example of accessibility for a very specific player group.
Brian Conklin (Unstoppable Gamer) – How long have you been playing fighting games? How long have you been playing Killer Instinct? Do you play it competitively? Is that the main fighting game you play, or are there others? What other sorts of games do you play for fun?
Xavier Quintero – Fighting games have been in my life ever since I started playing games. Being blind, I feel that fighting games are the best fit for me to be competitive. I first played Killer Instinct on the SNES with some help from my family and friends, because audio was not the greatest back then. My favorite variant of KI was Killer Instinct Gold for the Nintendo 64. I could play that game for hours! I would love to play KI on a competitive level. To attend tournaments and see how a blind man stacks up against the best in the world is one dream that I want to make come true. KI is my main fighting game, however, I do play Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat from time to time. I play all types of games as long as there is really good audio and I have some help, I’ll try any game out on the market. It takes me a while, but if I set my mind to it I will learn what I can about the game that I am playing. For example, the MOBA SMITE took me quite a while to learn but I feel like now I can play on a casual level.
UG – What hardware do you use for KI? Do you have multiple sticks, or any adaptive sticks?
XQ – I currently use a HITBOX, it is a variant of a standard arcade stick. It just has buttons instead of the traditional ball or bat top stick. I have also used a Quanba Q1 fightstick. I have not used an adaptive stick but I would love to try one out.
BC – Who do you play in KI? How do you learn new characters? Why do you main those characters?
XQ – When I play KI my main character is Shadow Jago. When a new character(s) come out, I spend my time in practice mode trying to understand the audio of the character. Other than that, I just do what everyone else does. I try to understand the notable normal and special moves the character has as well as look through a lot of videos of people talking about the character and more or less try to find a solid game plan for myself on how I think the character should be played. Many people say play a character that looks cool.. well, seeing is not one of my strong suites, so I play characters that I feel are for me. I just kind of pick and try out the character. If I like how I am feeling, I will play that character until I either lose consistently or just become bored.
BC – Is there something about KI that is easier for you to play being blind? Are there any other games in the genre you don’t play because of your blindness?
XQ – KI has some of the best audio cues that I have heard in a game. It is really easy to know when I have resources, such as shadow meter and instinct meter, due to the separate dings the make. I play all games regardless of sound. My blindness does not get in my way. However, poor audio design and a lack of accessibility in games can limit and stop me from playing them all together. I will always try out a game, and if it has decent accessibility I will stick with it. If not, then I move on.
BC – Is there anything developers can do to improve the accessibility for you to play Killer Instinct?
XQ – It would be amazing if they could improve the audio cues on TJ Combos audio barrage ender and his auto doubles so I could tell the difference between light, medium, and heavy. Also for Mayas daggers, if they could add a sound while they are laying on the ground. It would be helpful to know where they land. The last thing I could think of is providing online leaderboards and ranking on a website or something similar, so I could go see how I am doing. As it stands right now, I have to ask a sighted individual to tell me how many points I have and what rank I am in ranked matches.
BC – What can developers do to improve the accessibility for other fighting games? What can developers do to improve other games for you? What does video game accessibility mean to you?
XQ – Developers should take a look at Iron Galaxy and the way they did audio in KI. I understand that positional audio is a difficult thing to implement. If more developers take advantage of 7.1 surround, it would be super beneficial to me and others that want to game who are blind. Video game accessibility means a great deal to me. I feel that everyone should be able to do what they want and playing video games is no exception. Gaming for me is fun, relaxing, and competitive. I love gaming and I will find a way to play, that’s just who I am. I grew up blind I had to make things work for me and my gaming career no matter what.
BC – If someone wants to find out more about you, follow your KI journey, or see you fight in action, where can they do that?