Shinesparkers Feature:

Metroid Through My Eyes

by Danior Snyder

Hello everyone, my name is Danior Snyder and I am a big gamer with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. The long and short of it? I have a rare eye condition which, in my case, has lessened my sight to allow for only the perception of light. To put it another way, I’m blind, and have been since birth. But that has never stopped me from playing video games, or at least trying to, just like everyone else.

My eye condition is a rather rare one; 1 to 2 in 100000 births in the United States get this condition, and even then, the 14 types of it are split even further into genes. Thus, not too much is known about it, nor any way to fix it, yet. Research is being done, yes, but with little to go off of, there has been small progress.

As said above, I am a gamer, and this is very true. One of the franchises I have come to love over the course of my gaming life is Metroid, which I’m certain most, if not all of you have heard about. But I did not start out with knowledge of the series. I technically grew up with the main character present in one of the only games I truly knew how to play in my childhood: Super Smash Bros. Melee. No, outside of Smash Bros. the franchises I knew about were Zelda and Mario, with vague knowledge of Pokemon, followed by others from Melee.

I found out more about Metroid in the next Smash Bros. game, but only a little more than just Samus, such as Zero Suit Samus (which, admittedly, is still Samus). I never could figure out who, or what, Metroid was. Call me a blasphemer, but hey! I couldn’t read the text for the trophies, just who they were, and just barely at that! Anyway, from Brawl onward, I tried to pay more attention to the mysterious, suited bounty hunter known as Samus Aran. However, this tactic did not work very well.

A few years later, I heard of the release of Other M, the first in the series that I really started to want, before I knew of the Prime trilogy. Skip ahead just a little more, and you will notice my first, second, and more, attempts at playing the demo of Super Metroid present in Brawl. This, however, was not the first Metroid game I had played. No, in fact, I had originally tried with Metroid II, and had a little more success, however little that success may have been.

Over the years, I have come to determine what makes games accessible, even though they do not have the proper audio cues to assist people with visual impairments like myself, and I noticed when testing Metroid II, and Super Metroid, that the former, while seeming more primitive in graphics, was more playable because I could identify things on the screen, and actually tell (somewhat) what was happening; whereas with Super Metroid, everything was grey to me. The graphics, for that time period, may have been good, and to the sighted community as a whole, you may like how things gradually became more and more beautiful in the series, but to me, it was all grey. And that’s just one thing that’s different out of the rather large list. Another one, and I will touch on this very briefly, is the dimensions of the game, but Super Metroid and Return of Samus do not differ, so far as I’ve noticed, in this aspect.

One thing that I can enjoy just about as much, if not more than, the next person is the music of the series. Metroid is home to some iconic themes, like that of Brinstar, or the fast-paced theme of Ridley, first heard in Super Metroid, and that’s one thing I’m very glad that I’m able to fully experience.

If there is one thing I’ve aspired to see in my lifetime, it is that both the sighted and visually impaired, as well as many other disabled communities, could all sit down and enjoy a game together! Maybe join in the fun of Splatoon, or work together to beat The Legend Of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes! But for now all we can really hope for are the little things that can be used as a compromise. For example, with the Nintendo Wii, using the Classic Controller, that is often required in some of the Virtual Console games, the left analogue stick can be used to find one’s way across the screen, instead of using the Wii Remote pointer and sensor bar.

Games are fun for everyone, whether they’re audible or visual, and I think that there’s just one little gap that game designers have to cross to make it possible for the different communities to come together to play a game. I believe that’s one gap I’d like to help them cross in my lifetime, which could give the visually impaired such cool games as the Metroid series.

Written by Danior Snyder

Alice Mitchell from Fight for Sight, a charity based in the United Kingdom, has provided us with a quote from Dr. Neil Ebenezer, the Director of Research, Policy and Innovation:

“At the beginning of this year, I was delighted to see research from a clinical trial published in Nature Medicine (1) that showed promising results in preventing sight loss – or even restoring sight – for patients with a type of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). I’m proud that Fight for Sight funded the early stage research that helped enable this finding, which is what our charity is all about.

“LCA is a disease of childhood and represents a group of rare inherited disorders that progressively affect the photoreceptors of the retina. People with LCA have severe sight loss at an early age, and it affects around two or three people in every 100,000.

“Several different types of LCA have been identified to date – driven by mutations in genes that have been shown to be crucial for normal visual function, including RPE65 (LCA type 2) and CEP290 (LCA type10). Mutations in these genes can result in loss of an essential protein leading to visual impairment. Recently, the first viral gene therapy was approved for LCA type 2; it can improve patient vision in dim light, but there are no therapies for the other more common forms of LCA. And that’s why it is so important that we fund research in this area.

“At Fight for Sight we funded initial research that was published in 2016 in Cell Stem Cell (2). The research was led by Mike Cheetham from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. By using cells derived from patients with LCA10 he developed a model of retinal organoids, or “mini retinas,” which he grew in the lab to show that this oligonucleotide approach could efficiently target the mutation and restore function in photoreceptors. Following this proof of concept, Cheetham worked with the Dutch Biotech company ProQR to test potential drug candidates on human photoreceptors in these retinal organoids – research that was recently published in Molecular Therapy Nucleic Acids (3). This work was essential because this therapy is specific to the human DNA sequence, and animal models do not recreate the disease. These mini-retinas could also be used to examine dosing and other potential effects, and have several advantages for studying pathogenic mutations over animal models. The output of this research better informed the subsequent clinical trial, to show potential doses and dosing frequency.”

We want to thank Danior for taking the time to share his story with us, and to Fight for Sight for providing us with some information regarding LCA. For more information about the condition, be sure to check out the link below. Danior is also raising money to buy back the Braille accessible equipment he lost when he left school. Please chip in if you can!

Fight for Sight’s page on Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis

Danior’s GoFundMe