999 Video Game Features Blind Character

I have three major activities I enjoy: reading, writing, and playing video games. I obviously talk more about the former two than the latter, but recently I finally got around to completing a game called 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. It’s a type of game called a Visual Novel, which is very popular in Japan, though not as much in the US.

*note: minor spoilers for the game follow

In the game, you play as Junpei, a young man who wakes up on a ship and soon discovers he’s one of nine people who have been kidnapped and forced to play the life or death game known as the Nonary Game. The gameplay primarily involves solving puzzles as you move from room to room of the ship, trying to escape before the ship sinks, but as a visual novel, it’s heavily story-based, and depending on the choices you make, you’ll end up discovering new things about the various characters and the overarching story itself, as well as experiencing six different endings.

One of the unique things about the game is that one of the nine kidnapped characters is blind. Going by the name “Snake” (everyone chooses aliases at the beginning), depending on your choices, he plays a pivotal role in the game, and you find out that he had actually been involved in the nonary game in the past, when he was younger. I was relieved to discover that the writers didn’t fall into the cliche of his having lost his eyesight (and his arm; Snake is also an amputee who uses a prosthetic limb) in the previous game. No, even nine years ago, he was blind. While his blindness is a bit of a plot device, I was also pleased that Snake is portrayed as a strong, independent, smart character despite his disabilities.

After finishing the game, I decided to do a little research and see if I could find any other video game characters (particularly “important” ones) that were blind. Disability is not something we see often represented in video games (though visual novels are increasingly becoming more diverse and representative). I did find a work-in-progress project called Pulse that features a blind main character who uses echolocation to navigate the world. (You can check out the developer’s website, if you’re interested.)

999 was originally released for Nintendo DS (also playable on 3DS), but is also now available on iOS: find it here.

Do you know of any other blind characters in video games? Or any other characters with disabilities that have significant parts in a video game? If so, feel free to shout out in the comments!


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5 Responses to 999 Video Game Features Blind Character

  1. He110Ne0 says:

    One recent example that comes to mind is Jeff “Joker” – the pilot of the Normandy in the Mass Effect trilogy. He suffers from brittle-bone disease (technical name: Osteogenesis imperfecta). Even in the future he fights to prove himself constantly that he’s not just there as a charity case. He can’t do things like run around with the ground teams, but he is an excellent navigator. In a very tense moment in the second game where he is the only crew member left un-captured, he is assisted by the ships AI to navigate maintenance tunnels to get to a point of safety. It’s one of the most tense moments of the game because you control him and he can’t move very quickly OR risk any high falls. He ordinarily walks with a limp, or a cane/crutch, so when, in that segment, he is forced to move without them it’s not only scary but painful. He is constantly doubting himself throughout but he makes it and it honestly felt like more of a triumph than when wunderkind Commander Shepard takes out a fleet of ships LOL. He never gets any kind of cure in the game, either, so no cop outs.

    • Chie Alemán says:

      Yes! I was actually reading an article recently about characters with disabilities in video games and Joker was one of the featured characters. I’m actually working on a follow-up of sorts to this post talking about Jimmy’s role in Stick of Truth. It’d be great to see more characters like Joker, though, especially in “mainstream” games like Mass Effect.

  2. He110Ne0 says:

    Another game that featured heavily in its main character the impact of addiction (Alcoholism) is Max Payne 3. Instead of making it something that seems like “oh yeah and then he stopped drinking” you see the systematic deterioration of mental state, motor skills, and loss of ability to even do his job (police work/security) well. Since he’s the main character, you are thrust into a state where you get to see the consequences of your actions and it might just be the best simulation of what an asshole you become when you’re an addict. It also shows that there’s hope if you give yourself back a sense of self worth. By the end we see Max make that change, but most importantly, we see how NOT EASY it is. I always thought it was a ballsy decision to make your main character have ongoing addiction issues, withdrawal symptoms, and even really erratic decision making. It makes him entirely unlikable but it also makes you feel that much better when he finally decides to be stronger than the addiction and not let it consume him. Addiction might not always be considered a disability, but once you’re in its clutches – it basically is.

    • Chie Alemán says:

      I remember reading about that game before it came out, but I never played it. That’s fascinating. It makes me think of what Cage was trying to do in Heavy Rain with the FBI agent (but didn’t quite fully succeed). It’s been my experience that many authors tackle addiction but few do it well. I might have to look into that.

      • He110Ne0 says:

        Yup – the game has this filter in its cutscenes where everything looks fuzzy or kinda warped. Everything’s from Max Payne’s perspective. As the story line progresses the image in the main menu changes to show how shittier and shittier his apartment is looking – and the stacks of empty liquor bottles and pills increases too.

        Another way they show his complete lack of caring and self-absorption is that the game takes place mainly in Sao Paulo Brazil (there are reasons, but thats besides the point). Now there, they speak Portuguese. Rockstar made the interesting choice to NEVER SUBTITLE any of the people speaking Portuguese around Max. He just angrily asks his friend “what the hell are they talking about, I don’t understand them.” I’d never seen a game do that before and artistically I REALLY liked it.

        Game-play wise, it’s very hard & has lots of shoot outs – I mean it IS Max Payne after all – but it tells a gritty story that isn’t just saying “Gritty” to sound trendy. It is a pretty rough experience with a quiet personal payoff – the best a man like that could probably get anyway.

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