The expert player who can only hear sounds

One talented player known by the username Rattlehead competes in the cutthroat world of professional gaming. His opponents immediately discover that he, real name Carlos Vasquez, is, as he puts it, “completely blind” at the tournaments he visits in the US. They then let their guard down, mistakenly believing that the well-known combat series Mortal Kombat is going to be simple for them. Plus, he beats them a lot. Carlos uses sounds to guide his attacking and defensive maneuvers rather than visual cues from the game. “I’m able to pick up on the specific sounds of the characters,” he continues.

Carlos, a native of Houston, Texas, began playing video games in 1992 when he was just six years old. However at the age of eleven, he was identified as having a particular kind of glaucoma, which gradually caused him to lose his vision. “It wasn’t an overnight situation,” the 37-year-old Carlos notes. “[During the early years] I could still make out the general shapes of items, but I could no longer perceive their fine details. “But over time my vision became worse and worse, to the point where I was around 24-years-old and completely blind.” He discovered at the time that playing the majority of popular games was nearly impossible. Gamers with visual impairments could not play because there were no gaming accessibility features.

Among these are screen readers, which allow the game to narrate what’s happening. Carlos used to be able to play fighting games, especially Mortal Kombat, back in his 20s. “It wasn’t because Mortal Kombat had accessibility features [at the time],” according to him. It was only that players with my level of awareness could distinguish the [different] noises. It made it possible for us to play the game as much as we could. The character who began on the right side of the screen, for instance, would grunt significantly higher than the one on the left, he realized. He was able to determine which character he was portraying because to this.

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