Blind gamer speedruns Zelda with help of 100,000+ keystroke script

A group of gamers from around the world created a 100,000+ keystroke script for speedrunning The Legend of Zelda, which was used by a blind gamer in Ontario complete the game. Jordan Verner, who is blind, posted a video of himself playing Zelda and asking for help to complete the game. This inspired other gamers to spend two years composing a script that Verner could follow, and at last he did:

So Williams and thee other diehard gamers each took different parts and copied down every single move.

"Every time we make a move, we roll, jump, do anything, we type down on the computer exactly what we're doing," said Williams.

Verner would then take the script and have his computer read it to him as he played.

An average gamer will take about a week to play through the entire thing, but this project took almost 2 years and more than 100,000 keystrokes. Finally, Jordan beat the entire thing.

"I felt great," said Jordan. "I felt strong. I felt like the sky's the limit."

"I'm glad everyone can see and learn from this that just because a person has a disability doesn't mean they can't do a normal thing, like play a video game," said Williams.

Camden man's project helps blind man beat video game (via Neatorama)


  1. i guess that depends on what kinds of meanings you attach to playfulness. i’d say he played the holy living fuck out of it.

  2. He’s still playing a game, it’s just more akin to a Zelda-themed Guitar Hero. Anyway, it being a game, isn’t it more important what he got out of the experience than anyone else’s perception of it?

    1. If you were blind I’d be pretty damn impressed if you did a paint-by-numbers.

      This is entirely awesome. If you disagree I hope that some day you’re part of something awesome and have someone crap all over it, just so you know how it feels.

      1. Heh, I think you meant to reply to the comment below mine (seemed to happen to a few, actually). I think it’s a pretty awesome accomplishment, one that most people would have difficulty replicating. The fact that others came together (unpaid) to help him do this is also great.

  3. Not to belittle the efforts of all involved, but to me it’s analogous to completing a paint-by-numbers piece, or filling in the crossword by copying from the answer page.

    If he really wants to play a game blind then he could have better spent his time and effort on a game that could be played blind – like the thousands of text adventure games that are out there (and more still being made), or any one of the thousands of text based MUDS MOOS or MUSHES, which predate the MMORPGs like World of Warcraft; and actually have real roleplaying involved.

    Heck, with a screen reader you could even play any of the Rougelikes (Yendor, Nethack, ADOM).

    1. It’s more analogous to a couple of people spending two years creating a giant paint by numbers mural to help a blind man achieve a goal.

      Life must be hard being so pessimistic.

  4. I find stories like this quite depressing. The message always seems to be, “I proved that I can do what people who don’t have my disability can do.” But, he didn’t, did he? He proved he could do something rather different.

    There are many games that sightless people can play well. Even chess, in some cases. That would impress me more.

    1. I’m sure Jordan Verner spends a lot of time worrying about the best way to impress you. In between setting other difficult goals and then achieving them, of course.

      I’m a gamer myself, and I’ve never played any of the Zelda games to completion. Way to go, dude!

      1. “In between setting other difficult goals and then achieving them, of course.”


        I am astonished that people are down on this awesome dude; sure it’s not exactly the SAME thing as playing the game…

        … but isn’t it um…. HARDER?!

        Quick, list the top 5 most difficult games YOU have solved blind-but-with-support. Didn’t think so.

        Ok, instead name all the other blind people who in their spare time demonstrate how easy it is to solve long rpg video games with help. Heck, or text games! Whatever. Didn’t think so.

  5. I can’t really see the point of doing this, Kinda impressive, but nonetheless.

    Surely, you’d get a much, much better experience from something that you’re able to experience to a greater extent.

    I know I didn’t find music anything but frustrating when I was deaf, albeit temporarily (yay brain damage).

    I’d’ve thought for someone unable to see, playing a game like Zelda OOT would just be an exercise in frustration and really annoying noises, along with the fact his experience would be reduced to data entry. which doesn’t appeal to me.

    Personally I’d be considerably more impressed if he’d done something playing to his abilities, or not directly into something he’s not actual able to overcome without a massive amount of assistance.

    I’m all for helping people with disabilities do what they want, but this is akin to claiming you’ve run a marathon, when you’ve been pushed by someone else all the way in a wheelchair.

  6. I’m kind of surprised at the negative comments… this is awesome! Granted he’s following along, but come on, can you imagine the sense of accomplishment?

  7. Actually, in my opinion, playing one of those horrible text based games with the text read out to you would be significantly easier than this.

  8. From the title I was thinking script as in “click a button, wait, finished!” and was all set to join the “but he didn’t really play it” crowd.

    But this is something else entirely; Jordan played through the game with a walkthrough (which I think is a better word for it, than “script”), one that just happens to be extraordinarily detailed.

  9. I’m not sure what I think about this but I am really considering replacing my furnace…

  10. While I agree this isn’t the same as playing the game without help…..give the guy a freaking break already.

  11. three words. water temple, blind. come on negative nancies. this is pretty incredible.

    1. And there are blind men who could beat you up.

      I’ve been beaten up by a blind bloke – a sightless brown belt judo player. He’s probably black belt by now. Impressive, and slightly painful.

  12. I’m afraid I’m with the more pessimistic crowd, at least in the sense that he didn’t show that sightless people can play Zelda. He showed that sighless people can follow direction.

    What he did is an accomplishment of sorts, but it’s in no way related to his disability.

    And the only skill he learned and improved is that he learned how to follow a script. It’s not transferable, as a slight variation of 1% in the game would render all that work useless.

    However, as he and his team apparently had fun doing it, why the heck not? There are quite a few sports (racing, for example) where the driver blindly has to follow the directions of his navigator, as he can’t be bothered with anything farther away than 10 metres.

  13. If he was doing it to try and prove that he had certain skillz, or to create something that could be transferred to others then I guess I might be able to get why some of you are such downers.

    As it is, he wanted to complete a game, he asked for some help with it, some other people clubbed together to help, they completed it – it’s fun, it’s obviously been quite a project for those involved and they feel satisfied with what they’ve done and had fun along the way. And it shows that the internet and gaming can bring people together, a community, which certainly is nice. total win.

    No wonder people get down if EVERYTHING we do should be so serious and applicable to the rest of life, jeez. Lighten up! Enjoy the little things and the fun and the silly.

  14. I have to say that my first reaction was: why would a a blind person want to play such a game? However the follow-up question then has to be: why does *anyone* play computer games, sighted or not? In the grand scheme of things, would a fully sighted person completing the whole game without such a script be able to claim any world-changing ‘achievement’. Of course not. It’s all about the mental challenges we set for ourselves, and that’s what this person decided to do – set himself a goal, a REALLY difficult one, and through sheer determination, and with some great team work from those who created the script, he achieved his goal. It’s not world changing, but to him it IS empowering – it sets him up for the next challenge, which might well be in the ‘real’ world. He now knows that incredibly complex tasks such as this are not beyond his reach. Great job.

  15. I’m puzzled. I’ve played this game many times, there are lots of bad guys that bounce and leap around to attack you. You can’t comprehensively script how they’re going to attack. Similarly there are sections in dungeons where a monster can at random knock you down to a lower level or snatch you up and deposit you right back at the start. I just don’t see how he could have done it entirely on his own even with the script

    1. “I’m puzzled….there are lots of bad guys that bounce and leap around to attack you.”

      It’s been a while since I played Ocarina of Time, but I think Z-targeting brings up your shield, and keeps your attack focused on the baddie wherever he jumps. Throw in some luck, timing, and audio feedback loops and I think you could take Volvagia blindfolded, too!

  16. With many video game console emulators, one had the option of executing a script of moves. The game essentially played itself to your script of buttons strokes and timing. I don’t see a difference between the emulator and the blind gamer.

    I feel like this is an accomplishment for the scripters, though. That is a lot of work – putting together a script of moves, as a team, so that someone can beat the game without small tweaks and corrections aided by sight.

  17. Slightly off subject, but at the bottom of the article:

    “Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.”

    Yet if Boing Boing had not posted about it, I (and many others) would never have known about this story or WIS10 and their website (which coincidentally included a cookie that tripped my AntiVir with a warning). I’m pretty sure that this post increased their traffic a bit. Yet they make sure to cover their site with warnings. It’s almost as if companies and media outlets don’t want people to see their work. I would think that eyes would be more important than dollars…

    That was probably a comment for a post about the blind, but you get my point.

  18. I knew a blind kid growing up that could play fighting games using sound. That’s what I consider playing a game blind.

    He could also play the side scrollers of the day, which was mostly memorization, but also some real-time reaction.

    One time we were talking about fps games and I stopped myself short of saying he couldn’t play. Who knows what this kid could do.

  19. to the people who are judging the merit of this achievement, or suggesting that it was a waste of time, it’s lucky that he WASN’T doing it to ‘prove’ something to people like you. that really would have been a waste of time.

    it’s a game, and he was ‘playing bits of it anyway’. he sent out a request for help because he clearly wanted to experience more of the game (that he was PLAYING), and there were some nice people who wanted to help him with that.

    the key here is ‘playing’. you know – moving left, right, attacking, hitting combinations of buttons, getting out of the way when you know there’s a special attack coming, the satisfaction of killing a monster or completing a challenge, unlocking the next part of the story, etc, etc.. just like when anyone else does it, only his version (the version he has to visualise in his head) might possibly look a lot better than the 64bit one that you see on the screen. and erm, neither of them are actually ‘real’ anyway, by the way, and your experience of playing it is in no way ‘more real’ than his. it’s also not about aquiring a transferrable skill set. for anyone. it’s a computer game.

    maybe he’d rather play zelda than some text adventure because he finds it much more fun and challenging, and maybe, shaneleslie, you should have better things to do with your time than telling blind people what they should do with theirs.

    awesome achievement all round. i’m sure that everyone involved got a huge amount of satisfaction and fun from it.

  20. A) Ocarina of Time is a fun story, even if you aren’t the one in control, exploring the world. I’ve beaten the game several times, and it’s still fun to watch someone else work their way through the interactive narrative. It should be just as fun for someone who experiences the story with the aid of a script. And just because the kid is blind, he shouldn’t be deprived of experience the rich story.

    B) Video game makers have a long history of ignoring handicapped people’s needs. Even otherwise able-bodied gamers with color-blindness have a hard time enjoying what so many of their peers spend free time with. Obviously video games are primarily a visual experience, but I hope that efforts like this one help game developers keep in mind people with different needs.

  21. I wonder if someone could mod a game like Zelda to do 3d sound combined with force-feedback controllers. Still have the visual element, but really give the spatial sound cues.

    Also — as someone pointed out: water temple. blind. I’m curious how they dealt with the real-timeness of Zelda. It’s not like a turn based roguelike. (then again, roguelikes are random). Did they find the timing of the patterns and tell him precisely when to move in order to avoid the octorocks? Is the timing always the same every time?

    Otherwise I still don’t quite understand how they can do that with merely noting steps.

  22. It wasn’t for a speed-run. Speed-runs are mentioned briefly, but they’re completely different.

    This was to allow him to complete the game. Speed was not a factor.

  23. He might not have solved the game in the traditional sense, but what he did was waaaaay more difficult than the original game. Possibly not as difficult as Ocarina of Time: Master Quest, included with Wind Waker for GCN.

  24. I was reading about the Jalalabad fab lab a second ago, two people mentioned it brought a tear to their eye. This brings a tear to my eye, I’m not sure why either. And yea, leading a little character you can’t see to the end of something difficult is awesome. Try it before you cry about it or do anything else that would indicate you understand the situation.

  25. So, I agree that this isn’t “playing a game” in any sense that I would typically recognize. On the other hand, it is a frickin amazing feat. I mean, wow. Seriously wow. He seems to have had a more profound experience, and he connected with people online who all worked together to achieve a very difficult goal.

    Honestly, this guy got more out of Zelda than I ever have.

  26. That is so incredibly touching. How could you fault a blind boy for not playing a videogame through totally on his own? Are you a psychopath? It was a really sweet thing and one of those stories that gives you faith in random masses of internet people

  27. It seems a few commenters have wandered over from Sure, it’s cool this guy has been able to do this, but the really impressive thing is the guys who took two years to write code for someone to play the whole game.
    And no, it’s not actually playing the game.

  28. “A group of gamers from around the world created a 100,000+ keystroke script for speedrunning The Legend of Zelda”

    I am somewhat ashamed to say I have absolutely no idea what this string of words means.

  29. The description actually makes it sound as though the blind person was essentially nothing more than a macro programming running the script. Albeit a very happy one.

    That said, it’s got to be easier to say that than to actually do it. I mean it is an action game, so even the most detailed walkthrough/script has got to have spots where it pretty much says “now fight the monster”. It may tell you how to fight the monster, but even the best description won’t be all that helpful when the target is moving around.

  30. There is a famous thought experiment called the Chinese Room that pertains very closely to the question “Did he really play the game or not?”. In fact, this is probably one of the most direct examples of the Chinese Room in real life that you could create.

    1. That’s a very interesting take on it. Of course, in that case, we know he himself isn’t playing the game – in the Chinese room the question was if it makes sense to say the system knows Chinese when the operator doesn’t.

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