Meet Robert Kingett, Gaming’s Most Inspirational Critic
When a a critic issues what readers perceive to be a poor review, that critic is accused of being “blind.”
Just don’t tell Robert Kingett that being blind means he can’t enjoy – and even evaluate – interactive entertainment.
Kingett, a gamer and reviewer from Chicago, is a motivational speaker (and that’s only one of his interests). Visit his website and check out his reviews; obviously, the latter content is written from the unique viewpoint of an individual who is seeing-impaired. Kingett claims to be the only blind video game journalist in the US and considering the inherent challenges, that’s probably true. For the record, he’s not completely blind, but he is legally blind. He also suffers from cerebral palsy but that isn’t about to stop him, either.
He writes poetry, reviews other things like books and music, and is an Honors student at The City College of Chicago. His aspirations are high and based on this interview, his ingenuity and determination will result in success. Undoubtedly, though, his most impressive feat is being able to play and review games. For more, read a summary of his life story at his About Me page.
As we at VGRHQ are in the business of honoring game critics who work hard and do a great service to the industry, it made perfect sense to conduct an interview:
VGRHQ: As a big part of interactive entertainment is visual, how do you experience a video game? What’s it like to play a game with your other senses?
Kingett: “I experience a video game with a headset on because that really helps me in the environments where I’m unable to see. I’m legally blind; I have 20/200 in the better eye with tunnel vision, and that’s even with corrective lenses that I used to wear. I have to have my headset and or headphones on when I’m playing a game because that helps me experience what I’m playing on a different level than most.
If there’s a game I can’t review and or don’t have the time to review, I read walkthroughs and strategy guides and watch people on Twitch and or YouTube. I learn way more from walkthroughs and strategy guides though, so I have a folder on my desktop with nothing but game guides and walkthroughs of video games that I can’t play because of an accessibility barrier or because I don’t have the system. It’s a great way for me to learn about the game and still appreciate hard levels, and other thrills I’d experience if I were, indeed, playing. Let’s play videos do that also, and even add an extra twinge of comic relief or deep insight but guides help me to understand the game world first and foremost.
When I’m reviewing games, how I experience games is trial and error with the aid of a headset. If there’s something I can’t see on screen, sometimes sounds will aid me. For me, sound and rumble are key factors in all games. It definitely requires diligence, though, and understanding. With every new game, I have to become one with the environmental sounds and the rumbles. I have to place myself in this world and that’s what makes video games so thrilling for me.
I do die a lot in games, and when people watch me live on Twitch after reading my reviews, they may say something like, ‘Jesus, you actually suck at video games. How in the hell can you write about them?’ (with much worse spelling). Well, of course, I’m not the best player alive but I can definitely play. Just because I’m a critic doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to be the best at every game that I play… BUT on the flip side, I am persistent so I will eventually master a game if I spend time on it long after the review. I’d like to think that’s what makes me a proud gamer though, because I’m persistently passionate about this world I’m in and I want to become one with it and so I keep at it until I’m a master in my own mind.”
VGRHQ: When you review a game, what do you look for? What’s most important to you?
Kingett: “There’s a lot of things that I look for when I review a game, and they all have a personal impact on me when I’m playing because I’m appreciating different facets of the video game than others. I judge a game based on many other compellations, such as the musical score and difficulty options instead of the visuals. I judge what I experience, nothing more, nothing less, and that includes the experience of the story progression and writing. I basically write about and judge what I experience in a video game and that’s a wide circle.
I believe I experience parts of a game more than others because my attention isn’t on the visuals. I’m very much in tune with controls and stories, story arc, delivery, mechanics, and playability, meaning why I enjoyed playing this game and that reflects in my reviews. The visuals are just a gimmick for me so I like to focus on the aspects I experience and that means everything from mechanics and interesting NPC’s to glitches, rather than what my good eye is telling me.
One thing that makes my reviews unique is the fact I’m writing about accessibility features or hindrances for mainstream publications instead of going exclusively for the disabled market. As someone with two disabilities, naturally I’m going to write about what playing with two disabilities, blindness and cerebral palsy, are like. I focus on accessibility barriers without shame because publishers should hear it because they need to know that disabled gamers are out there so I don’t sugarcoat any flaws I find, such as illegible, VERY tiny, menu sizes and fonts.
Something else that makes my reviews unique is my personal encounters I inject into them, for example, I may say something along the lines of,
‘Feeling as if I weren’t taken seriously because I chose to become a mage with blue hair, I decided to do a morality shift half way through the quest and soon blossomed with evil fervor throughout the town, experiencing the solid musical score composed by Patrick…’
I believe that gives my reviews a personal touch because people can appreciate what I’ve done and what I’ve didn’t do while reading about the game at the same time. I think it adds a layer of depth to my reviews. Besides, the video game experience will be different for each person so why shouldn’t you tell your readers what you experienced while talking about the game at the same time?”
VGRHQ: Has there been any push by developers to create more accessible games for the disabled? If not, do you think there will be more accessible games in the future?
Kingett: “No there hasn’t and there should be. Some people may classify making sites like able gamers ‘pushing’ but I don’t, because there are people still making games without colorblind options. There are games, even today, that don’t have closed captions; there are games that have very tiny print so there isn’t a push. I think it will change though; the more reviews come out in regards to video game accessibility, money talks and disabled gamers make up a bigger market than publishers assume. Publishers will soon realize that disabled reviewers will ask for a review copy and then all bets are off.
On the flip side, I don’t think it will happen if we disabled video game journalists stay within our own disabled circles and making our own disabled websites and disabled Facebook groups. Publishers read sites like Game Informer and stuff so we need to start publishing there. That’s why I publish on mainstream sites because people need to know what’s accessible or not even if they don’t have a disability.”
VGRHQ: What is your least favorite trend in gaming today? And whatever it is, do you see it continuing?
Kingett: “The touch trend and motion movement. That’s my least favorite because it shuts me out of the gaming world completely. As a personal aside, everyone seems to be into first person shooters. Perhaps I play so many games and review so many games that first person shooters are getting stale for me.
I’d wish more gamers, even gaymers, would branch out more and dive into new genres and try new games, even if the game isn’t designed by big studios. Some of the funniest rides I’ve ever been on have been crafted by independent developers. The trend seems to be locking into one genre and I don’t think that’s good. Even if you don’t like racing games try a few, have a few racing games in your collection. Have variety.”
VGRHQ: Do you often read reviews from other critics? If so, in what way do you think most critics can improve?
Kingett: “I do read a lot of reviews from a lot of different publications. I have my favorite reviews and reviews I hate; I don’t have a favorite website or favorite reviewer, because everyone writes something different every time.
This is just personal opinion but I’m beginning to see that reviews are too stale. I like to read about people experiencing the video game rather than just a rehash of the blurb and a copy of the manual. This is just me, but I want to know what you were doing that made the online experience so epic or what you were aiming at when a game glitches. Did you rob a bank and get chased by the cops in GTAV only to perch at the bottom of a highway and giggle like a schoolgirl as they zinged over your head? Is that why the online experience was so much fun? Who did you see? What did you see? Why did you talk to the people you talked to?
I just think reviews would be just a bit more entertaining if reviewers injected experiences into their reviews. Not opinions, as that’s totally different, but I’m the kind of person who wants to read about your experiences too. If I want to read how to do something and a plot synopsis, I will just read the strategy guide and the blurb in the online store.”
We’d like to thank Robert for taking the time to answer our questions. We’d call him a “brave young man” but we imagine he’s heard that ten million times and to be honest, we’re certain he already knows it. What this interview really proves is that when it comes to artistic expressions (which games most certainly are), you can experience them in different ways.
Seeing helps, sure. But for determined, talented guys like Kingett, it’s not essential. And that’s worthy of everyone’s attention.