British soldier Ben Shaw lost both of his eyes when he was struck by pieces of a roadside bomb in Iraq. The last thing you'd expect Shaw to be doing is playing video games, but with the aid of some very clever friends, the blind serviceman is able to not just play the incredibly complex online game World of Warcraft but excel at it.
Playing WoW requires precision reflexes, with players constantly being called upon to react to relentless action. To rise to the challenge, Shaw relies heavily on his in-game "guide dog" Owen, a fellow player who helps Shaw find and interact with enemies, move his character out of harm's way, and accomplish tasks such as in-game shopping that other players might find routine.
Owen far from plays Shaw's character for him, though — he only serves to help Shaw understand the action on his screen. It's up to Shaw to use a series of pre-programmed scripts and verbal clues from his in-game friends to maneuver his character, attack the correct enemy, and stay out of the virtual fire. According to Owen, a lot of preplanning is required, but with a little bit of practice, Shaw's performance easily outpaces that of most players who have full use of both their eyes.
Shaw may not be the first blind player to conquer a video game, but that doesn't make his feat any less remarkable — especially when you consider that it's hardly the first amazing feat Shaw has accomplished. He made international news when he learned how to race a Ferrari. Website WoW Insider has the must-read interview with Owen, explaining more about the specific tactics the team devised to help Shaw overcome the challenge.
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