Communicating With No Barriers
Hello fellow wizards and pirates, my name is Kelsey Fireheart and I run Stars of the Spiral, an official fansite for both Pirate101 and Wizard101! I was asked to write a short article on how it’s like being a deaf player playing KingsIsle games. I was quite honored by their kind request. So first, here’s some background about me. I was born deaf into a hearing family because my mother had german measles while pregnant with me. It destroyed the hair in my cochlea in my ear which prevented me from hearing. But I was always told that I was like everyone else and was treated just the same. My uncle would place my hand on his guitar and he would play. Even though I couldn’t hear, I was encouraged to love music. I can read lips and speak when I have to, but I mostly use American Sign Language to communicate with other people.
I was born in a generation that had no computers, modems or any internet connection. I grew up riding on my bicycle, spending a lot of time outdoors and chasing my brother when we needed the exercise. But when we received our very first Nintendo game console and playing Super Mario Bros with my brother. That was the start of gaming for me. Many years later, I saw Wizard101 in an ad online and I decided, why not? I loved the idea of a continuing game. One that will keep me on my toes with new content. So I created my very first wizard, Kelsey Fireheart. She is a proud redheaded Pyromancer who was ready to go on a grand adventure! Once I completed Triton Avenue, I was confronted by a choice. Buy more crowns, buy a membership or quit. I decided to get a membership to see how I did within a month. It only cost me ten bucks for 1 month? Sure! I remember questing in the Pyramid of the Sun of Krokotopia and I bumped into a fellow wizard named Diana Wildheart. We chatted as we helped each other through the battles. She mentioned that she was deaf and I gasped in astonishment. I replied, I am deaf too! That’s when I realized that I could meet fellow deaf gamers through games like Wizard101. She was my first ever in-game friend that I still keep in touch with. We even created our accounts in the same year and month with only a few days apart. That made me decide to continue my subscription to Wizard101. I loved the idea of being able to be able to meet new friends in-game that you could connect with.
That experience also made me want to show others what deafness means. I also wanted to disprove some ideas and thoughts on what deaf people can do as well as can’t do. I knew that this game is full of people who do not understand what “deaf” or “deafness” means. This game is an wonderful educational tool that I can use to teach countless others and it gave me a way of communicating with no barriers. In fact, it gave me a greater purpose within the game!
For example, some people think we can’t hear anything. That’s not true. We can hear things to a degree. For myself, I can hear motorcycles, airplanes and large dog barking. I can hear music if it’s loud enough. But the thing we love the most is the vibrations. Also I try to advise people not to apologize to deaf people that they cannot hear. There’s no need to apologize to a deaf person as we are very proud of who we are! Like I wouldn’t apologize that you can’t speak klingon. We are used to being deaf and we can’t miss what we don’t know.
Since I can’t hear, the visual aspect is really important to me. I love KI’s use of colors and textures that create the beautiful worlds that we know and love like Zafaria in Wizard101 and Mooshu in Pirate101. Even the Pirate101’s stormgates is amazing. I may not be able to hear the amazing music or the character’s goofy voice overs, but I am still part of the quest because of the captions! But what I love the most is the way they managed to make the worlds’ look evoke emotions either good or bad. For instance, before we finish the very last dungeon in Azteca, the world looked beautiful like the paradise it should be. But once we finished the dungeon, the way the entire world’s look changed really made it hit home. It became grey and overcast with characters gaping at the darkening sky above. Yes, Azteca is really being bombarded by meteors and you can see the effect in the entire place. It made me feel sad for the characters in that world. I didn’t need the music to feel that, that was enough for me.
Even though I know it’s practically impossible, but I would love to see sign language being used in-game. After all, some sign language is universal like the “I Love You” sign which should be spread to every corner of the world. But I can keep dreaming.
If you ever wanted to know how to spell Wizard101 or Pirate101, here’s a guide.
If you seek adventure, all you need is a wand or a ship.