It’s been a while since I’ve made a blog post, but today Mojang released a video that really hit me and I wanted to get the words out while I had them. I would strongly recommend watching that video, it’s extremely short but it does a great job of capturing a person’s experience with Minecraft and their disability.
The video tells a story about a person by the name of Join Chris who was born with underdeveloped corneas which are what focuses the light into your eyes so you can see. His story about how Minecraft assisted in his adaptation to his disability is incredible and amazes me to no end, so I don’t want to downplay the differences between what he did and is doing by telling y own story. However, I feel it’s important to bring multiple angles up in this conversation because Minecraft, and games in general, have so much to offer.
The idea that games can be more than just something fun to do is something I strive to live by, and I feel Minecraft is such a perfect example of that. It’s so open to interpretation and the player that it can be a great stand-in for things the player may be in danger doing otherwise. I think that’s why I love it so much, I’ve mentioned before that Minecraft is what taught me how to control a character when I was younger and I always get laughed at about it (not in a bad way lol), but it couldn’t be more true. Like most people with autism I have/had a very poor spatial sense and would manage to hurt myself by trying to make it better. Minecraft gave me a place with known limits and a way to try something again with my surroundings exactly the same as they were, meaning that I could make mistakes and learn from them without injuring myself or others.
I don’t think I’ve ever been in as bad of a situation as Join Chris was, at least not one that can be attributed to what Minecraft taught me, but with how basic of a skill that perception is I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that what I learn in-game is what gave me my IRL reflexes Well… what little I have. When I was younger (<10) I was attending Physical Therapy 3 times a week so that I could learn how to write, run, catch things, throw things, or even walk without hurting myself. There are so many situations IRL that can result in extreme injury if you can’t remember how to move properly, and that was me.
When I turned 14 or so my best friend at the time got me into Minecraft. Up until then, I had been playing basic flash games that didn’t require me to move a character. Every time I would try a game that had a character to control I wasn’t able to move the way the game wanted me to and it just resulted in my frustration. But I took on to moving in Minecraft quicker than anything I ever had. Every limit was visible and static, I knew what I was looking for and I could track it as I moved.
If you’ve never had to re-learn how to walk or had issues with moving in general you may not know how essential of a thing that is. When you move you have to keep a visual in your head, however unconsciously, of your body and the area directly around you. Everyone has a different amount of skill with that, being good at it results in a good sense of direction, and being poor at it results in clumsiness. I was on the very low end of that spectrum in that I couldn’t keep track of myself at all, I basically had no balance and would always slam myself into things because I forgot something about where I was. Always covered in bruises and marks from missing my target.
With how simple Minecraft is, even in 3D, I was able to learn how to think relative to what I saw better than what my Physical Therapist could explain. That’s not to say they didn’t help me at all, not in the least! But Minecraft is what made it click for me, and I feel like it was a similar situation for Join Chris. You can tell someone that the sun rises in the East and that you can use that to orientate, but you never know how to use that information effectively until you get the chance to put it into practice. Minecraft was the perfect place for me to do that and I still do to this day.
Even watching my content, you wouldn’t notice how much Minecraft has changed my life. Most of the struggles I had when I started I’ve learned to work around and if you didn’t know me then you wouldn’t be able to see the difference. If you are interested in seeing how Join Chris plays Minecraft through his disability with other blind Minecrafters he does have a YouTube channel where he does just that and more. I’ve only watched a small amount of his content but he seems like an amazing person who is taking a challenge I could never imagine in stride.
Also, check out the video Mojang posted, they do an amazing job at making Minecraft accessible to people who need it.