Meet Christy!

Hi. I’m Christy. I do visually impaired reviews for Switch games. And I wanted to introduce myself a bit and tell you why I play games and why I decided to start writing for CIPT.

I have albinism, which is a genetic condition that means I don’t produce pigment like most people. I have very little pigment in my skin and hair. I sunburn really easily, so I try not to go outside too much. I also have no pigment inside my eyes, which means I have impaired vision because light doesn’t refract quite the way it would if I had more pigment. People with albinism have nystagmus, which means my eyes constantly move back and forth, which also makes seeing things harder. There are three major causes of nystagmus: albinism, being so drunk you need to go to the hospital, and having a really bad concussion, but most people only know the last two. My interactions with doctors and police are fun.

In addition, I’ve survived a surprising number of bombs for your average person, and I have some minor hearing damage because of it. So please don’t talk to me about how blind people have amazing hearing. We don’t. We just have to use what we have more. I use a guide dog to get around. She’s a yellow labrador named Bramble, and she’s sassy as fudge. She likes to steal my seat on the sofa.

I started gaming on the original Palm Pilot when I was very young… like probably 3. As my dad upgraded his palm pilots, I got his old ones. The games weren’t much better than NES games, but I could play bricks for hours. And by the time the first color palm pilot came out, the graphics were actually good enough to bother with. Bejeweled came onto that first color palm pilot, and I was hooked. It’s a simple game with basic mechanics and great auditory and visual feedback that really gets the reward center of your brain high. All of the palm pilot games were like that. There were some really amazing games… There was this top-down space shooter game that had epic boss battles. There was a game where you played as a paramedic who had to bounce people jumping out of a burning building on your little gurney thing. …come to think of it, that’s kind of weird. But it was great!

My biggest limitation visually has always been distance. I am near-sighted. I can see almost anything within reason if I can get it close enough. I was terrible at arcade games because the screen was too far away, but I could see the palm pilot because I could hold it so close my nose touched it if I wanted to.

When I was about 10 or 11, I started dog sitting for people in my neighborhood. My first major purchase was a Nintendo DS Lite. It was pink. I loved that thing. I played hours upon hours of Mario Kart (plz bring back mission mode) and New Super Mario Bros. (half of it was that stupid minigame where you sort the red and black bob-ombs) and Kirby and Yoshi and Nintendogs and Super Princess Peach (hey Nintendo, please please please make another Super Princess Peach. Also add it to Mario Maker. And make Yoshi playable. Actually, just give me all the DS games on the Switch. I don’t care how. Just do ittttt). The DS saw me through middle school and bullying and being super confused that I didn’t like boys. It got me through the school not providing appropriate accommodations for me. It got me through discovering that not all boys are nice.

When the Wii came out, I got one of those, but it was never the joy that the DS was, though I was the best Wii bowler in the church youth group. The DS focused mostly on 2D platform games that were much easier to see than the 3D games on the Wii. The Wii was also on the TV… and that was an issue. I couldn’t get close enough to the TV. Even though it was bigger, I still needed to be the same distance to see it. For me, just because something is bigger doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to be further away from it and still see it. That said, I loved Guitar Hero. I remember getting Guitar Hero when I was sick with pneumonia and the family dog had just died. It didn’t make anything better, but it was something I could do.

I don’t play hardcore video games. I’ve haven’t owned a non-Nintendo system since the palm pilots. I never had any interest in home consoles as a child because I couldn’t see the TV well enough to play and that has continued into adulthood. The colors on the more realistic games are hard to see, too. They may be realistic, but they look like a muddy mess to me, whereas bright cartoons are simpler. I can’t stand violence in video games. I’ve had enough of it in my life that I don’t want it in my escapism. I’ve yet to play a game rated higher than E10+, but that doesn’t limit me much at all when it comes to Nintendo. I watched my cousin play the original Doom and had nightmares for years. That’s been over twenty years and I still refuse.

I spent several years only playing mobile games during college when I had no disposable income. Even if I had wanted to, I felt like I had moved on from DS games. I sold my DS when I was a teenager to buy something… probably an iPod or maybe my first digital piano. Other things had become more important to me. My vision had also gotten worse, which isn’t typical for albinism. I had some bad experiences with contacts and wound up with corneal burns a couple times. Home consoles appealed to me even less with my reduced vision. But with that reduced vision, I did qualify to get a guide dog, which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She may have saved my life this morning for the umpteenth time when a car skidded into the crosswalk by my office.

When I graduated college, I moved to DC. I love DC because there is adequate public transit, which is imperative if you can’t see to drive. I can get to work, the grocery store, pretty much anywhere, without having to beg a friend for a ride. I can take the metro or a bus. I love the metro. But it’s crowded. Sometimes sardine-level crowded. And my commute is over an hour each way. I get anxious when I’m boxed in. To combat that, I read on my phone. However, there’s only so much indecent fanfiction in the world, and phone batteries only stretch so far. My phone is critical for my safety as a visually impaired person because I need GPS to know where I am. I also need to be able to call an Uber if I accidentally get on the wrong bus or otherwise get lost. If I get lost when my phone is dead, I have to wander into a store and ask them to call my girlfriend to come get me. And hope I remember her number.

I thought about listening to music, audio books, or podcasts on the metro. But since I can’t see the station signs, I really need to be able to hear the announcements. And with hearing that already isn’t super great, having headphones in and making it even slightly more difficult to hear the announcements would be bad.

Enter the Switch.

I can hold it close to my face! I can bring it on the metro! I can be sucked into a game and not even notice that some dude’s crotch is inches away from my face. It’s amazing. When I can’t do anything, I can play games, and then I’m not left alone with my thoughts. And sometimes that’s all I need. Sometimes I just need to avoid my thoughts for an hour before I’m ready to deal with them again.

Like most Nintendo fans, I have an overactive sense of nostalgia. I don’t have a palm pilot anymore and I can’t find anywhere that has the old games (please tell me if you know where they exist), but Bejeweled is still around. Sadly, it’s produced by EA, so it’s not on the Switch because… EA. I tried downloading it on my phone and it drained my battery in two seconds, which brings up the same safety issues again.

So this is what led me to a hunt for a Bejeweled clone on the Switch. And… it sorta exists in Jewel Fever 2. But it could be so much better. Just like most games.

Games do so much for me in managing my anxiety on the metro and stress about nearly getting run over and just general ability to function. That’s why I play.

And lazy ports like Jewel Fever 2 are the reason that I decided to start writing reviews.

Not really…

Sorta.

I write these reviews because I was really on the fence about getting a Switch. I didn’t know if it would work for me. I was worried that I would spend a bunch of money on it and then not be able to use it. I really wanted to play games. Games help me even out drastic emotions by taking away my attention for a little bit until I’m not as activated. Mobile games are fine, but they’re not as distracting as full-fledged console games. But I didn’t know if I could access them. Games are a very important tool, but I wasn’t sure if I would be barred from using them.

I am so grateful for Can I Play That because it was the only place that understood that I really wanted to play but just didn’t know if I could. I’m sure the visually impaired Nintendo fan market is fairly small, but if that’s you, feel free to tweet me if you have questions about any of the games I’ve reviewed or if you want to check if I’ve played a game. Games are an important part of my life. I’d argue they even got me a girlfriend because I took my girlfriend to play virtual reality Mario Kart for our first date. I’m pretty sure that’s what hooked her. Or maybe it was the cute dog.

Keep playing, y’all.

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Christy Smith

Christy Smith is a visually impaired gamer whose main goal in life is to snag a seat on the metro instead of having to stand so that she can play Switch on her commute. She/her/hers or They/them/theirs