It has been a pretty trying year
so we've decided to dedicate our channel this December
to letting others tell their stories:
stories of times when games changed their lives and gave them hope
I know it's not what we usually do here,
but we believe that these stories can do some good
and remind us, in this chaotic world, why games matter.
Today we have a story from Sarah Winters
I was three months old
when my pediatrician walked out of the office.
My mother held me in her arms
and wondered why he'd stopped his routine checkup short to walk out
A few minutes later, he returned,
slightly more composed.
"I think your daughter is blind,"
he told her.
My parents were devastated.
They didn't know how to raise a blind child.
They already had a normal son.
But my eyes were moving independently of one another, like an iguana.
I couldn't recognize my parents, and I couldn't track objects.
I was less than a year old when they strapped inch-thick glasses to my face.
I had ocular albinism,
the specialist said.
Rare, rarer still on women.
It meant that I was albino, despite my tiny shock of brown hair.
That going out into the sun would burn me,
even with my olive skinned parents.
That my eyes weren't actually brown either.
Tiny bits of brown pigment,
but large holes between.
in my eyes.
I couldn't walk, I couldn't do much of anything.
I fell a lot.
My body would produce some pigment up through puberty,
but then stop, they said.
So there was a possibility of some improvement.
I was ten years old when they told me I should be playing video games.
I was an overweight kid, and I hit puberty way too early,
so early that I had to tell a neighbor's mom to get me pads in elementary school
before they'd even taught sex ed.
I was in the ophthalmologists office,
My eyes had improved, sure, but this was probably as good as they were gonna get.
I was still legally blind -- just merely, sort of, unable to see.
I could read,
I read voraciously,
but not from any sort of distance.
I couldn't even read a sign from across the street.
With my eyes as they were, I was never gonna drive.
My parents were not happy that I went over to my one-and-only friend's house to play Mario World on her Super Nintendo.
They had confiscated the Game Boy that my brother got from our grandfather as his tenth birthday present two years prior.
Games, they felt, were a waste of time and not useful.
My ophthalmologist saw differently though.
"Is she getting good grades?" he asked.
"Is she having fun with her friend?"
"Then yes, she should be playing games."
I don't remember the rest of that conversation,
but I do remember the prescription that my eye doctor wrote that year.
a trip to Pearle Vision for some new glasses.
just across the street, to GameStop.
My mother was hell-bent on me not playing the infernal thing,
but my doctor suggested it,
so we walked up to the register with a brand-new copy of Breakout,
for hand-eye coordination,
and a copy of Pokemon Red, to practice reading small computer text.
One of those "Ye Olde Magnifying Lens and Light" contraptions were also on the docket.
Unfortunately, with the grey brick of a gameboy that my brother had,
the magnifiers wouldn't work.
They were designed for the newer Gameboy Pockets.
There's no way that I'd be able to read that tiny Gameboy text without one.
Hearing my plight,
and that my mother was not gonna spend another $100+ on a console she really didn't even think I needed in the first place,
the GameStop manager went out of his way,
breaking more rules than I could probably count to at the time,
unhooking a display Gameboy Pocket,
and handing it to me.
"Battery life is probably crap," he told 10-year-old me,
"and you're gonna have to tape the batteries in it, cause it doesn't have a backplate,
"but it's yours, and it's free."
I still have that hunk of junk,
and yes, I will still pull it out once in a blue moon for Tetris.
I was twelve when my eyesight doubled.
It shouldn't have,
but when I woke up that morning for choir practice and I put my glasses on,
I knew that something was capital "W" Wrong.
My mom, worried as ever,
rushed me back to the eye doctor.
"She needs new glasses." He said.
I had gone from 200 over 20, 1/10th of normal human vision
to about 100 over 20.
My eyes hadn't improved so much as my brain finally understood the signals they were getting.
And the only thing that had seriously changed in those two years
had been my regular, controlled diet of video games.
Yes, homework and family came first,
but there was also time blocked out to play.
And it worked!
I wasn't legally blind anymore!
Sure, I was, and still am visually impaired.
I could still never drive a car but,
I could put away the massive, heavy, large-print books that I had to use.
For the first time in my life,
with some difficulty,
I could read a regular novel.
Or the bakery sign across the street if I really strained myself.
I was eighteen when I hauled my PlayStation to work.
I was hired to teach blind and visually impaired kids at a summer home in South New Jersey.
My boss hated this PlayStation.
She, like so many others, thought it to be a waste of time.
With a Wii on the boys' floor, and a PS2 on the girls',
both of which I brought from home,
the kids had one of the most interesting forms of physical therapy I could think of.
The same one suggested to me eight years ago.
DDR on light mode for coordination.
Wii Sports and Wii Fit for safe practice.
One of the boys in that class had the same condition as me.
Ten years old.
I had never met someone else with it in my life,
and haven't met another since.
I have just turned twenty-nine.
Video games have given me more opportunities than I can count.
I was a volunteer moderator for a very popular video game company,
which got me a position at the state department.
Seriously, first day of work, that's why they said they chose me.
One of the projects we were running involved using Minecraft to teach city planning in Africa.
Which worked out great, since that game could probably run on a literal toaster.
I designed a facebook game to teach people how to use a polling booth.
Video games got me to build and to travel.
I became a competition circuit cosplayer,
and my work has been featured on everything from Kotaku to adafruit.
I've used some of their sensors in a talking Mr. Zirkon prop.
I sew by feel, and I even solder my own electronics.
Video games led me to my boyfriend.
Getting stuck in a matchmaking lobby has a whole new meaning for me.
We literally met stuck waiting for our game to start.
But most importantly,
I wouldn't have the vision I do have right now if I didn't play video games.
Game therapy for the visually impaired wasn't a thing twenty years ago when it was suggested for me,
but it is now, and for good reason.
Games are all about exploration in a safe space.
I could read, and fail.
I could shoot and catch and fail, but try again,
And push myself to keep going.
My eyes didn't get better from playing, but my brain took in what my eyes could give it,
and understand those signals to the best of its ability.
and doctors are noticing.
I am proud to be in this community,
and proud to say that video games saved my life.
Or my quality of life, rather.
What will they do for me in ten more years?
Thanks for watching, and thank you to Sarah Winters for sharing her story with us.
See you next week.