GOG (Good Old Games) is another popular distribution platform for video games on PC and an alternative to the probably most widely used but infamous (among blind gamers) Steam, similar to Itch.io or Epic Games Store and others, mostly exclusive to specific publishers (Xbox Game Pass, EA Play, Ubisoft Connect, etc.).
If you have so far only encountered those audio games that are bought and downloaded directly from the manufacturer's website, and are therefore not very clear on the advantages and popularity of these platforms (at least from the perspective of sighted gamers), you can read this article on Steam, which explains the concept for the most part.
GOG is particularly interesting to many sighted gamers because, unlike Steam and some other platforms such as mobile app stores, you don't just get a license to play the game or use the program, basically just a loan without any guarantees about what will happen to the game or program if the company that runs the distribution platform or app store goes out of business. On GOG, the purchase gives you the option of using either a client that handles automatic updates to the game you've purchased and allows you to track achievements (trophies) and access community features (communicating with friends, etc.), or you can simply download the installer for the game itself without any additional requirements, obligations, or programs, and install each individual game as a truly standalone application. In this case, you only come into contact with the GOG website and don't install any client, but on the other hand you have to keep an eye out for any updates to specific games yourself.
Should you choose to install only individual games without the GOG Galaxy client, though, you actually own the game and are not restricted by any DRM (Digital Rights Management) antipiracy protection. In this respect, the aforementioned Itch.io works very similarly; here too, you have the option of either using a centralized client to manage all your games, or downloading and installing each one individually and without DRM protection. So, in simplistic terms, you could say that from a blind gamer's perspective, GOG and Itch.io differ only in the specific games that each platform has in its catalogue.
A small digression: from my personal experience with Steam, Itch.io and GOG, I would mostly recommend using Steam, but that's only if you've gotten used to its very large and desperately unstructured and thus only barely accessible website, and managed to set up its client in the ideal way for screen reader users, as described in the article linked above. If you prefer downloading and installing individual games without any client with overhead community features, achievement tracking, automatic updates of all installed games from the given platform, synchronization of achievements and game saves even between multiple devices, etc., Itch.io has the simplest and therefore subjectively most accessible web interface at the moment.
In this article, however, I will detail the process of finding, purchasing and downloading a game from GOG as well as the basics of using the GOG Galaxy client. So, if you are interested in a game available on GOG and couldn't get to grips with Steam, or didn't even want to try that for whatever reason, the GOG alternative could be a preferable option for you, because, as you'll see, getting a game here, at least in standalone form without the client, is probably going to be much easier for many gamers than getting Steam up and running in a satisfactorily accessible state.
The instructions for using the GOG Galaxy client describe only the bare essentials. However, the instructions for purchasing and installing a standalone game should, to the best of my knowledge, be detailed enough that anyone can reliably follow them.
These instructions are current as of May 23, 2023. However, it is possible and unfortunately likely that the GOG website or client will change over time. If you find out at any point that a step of the instructions no longer works, I would be grateful if you could point it out to me so that I can fix it as soon as possible.
All three tutorials are written specifically for 1428: Shadows over Silesia which has been released on GOG in April of this year, being available exclusively on Steam until then, but the same process can be generalized to any other game in the GOG catalogue.
The tutorials were written from the perspective of a NVDA user. I would assume the behavior is going to be pretty much the same with JAWS though.
Purchasing the game
You can find the GOG page for 1428: Shadows over Silesia here.
Deal with the cookie consent banner. You can work with the site even without doing so, but if you do it now, it won't get in the way later. It's at the very top once the page loads. Either click the "Accept all" button or the "More settings" link, and if you chose the latter, proceed accordingly.
For the same reason as above, click the "I got it" button to accept that the game includes adult content and is meant for players of age only.
Click the "Sign in" link - the sixth one from the top of the page.
The sign in process is fairly simple. Look for the Level 2 heading that says "Login" (the first Level 2 heading on the page), which is located at the bottom of the page, under the first group of links in the footer. If you don't already have an account, create one by clicking the "Sign up now" link under that heading and filling out the appropriate form. After clicking the link, the focus (cursor) should jump directly to the "Username" field in the default configuration of most screen readers. The "Login" heading will then change to "Sign up". All form fields and controls are clearly labeled.
You will need to resolve a CAPTCHA challenge in order to proceed. The site does use Google ReCaptcha, but unfortunately in the case of GOG it's an older version, where you must first click the "Get an audio challenge" button and then enter what you hear in the correspondingly labeled edit box. If you can't find the modal dialog of the challenge, look for it at the very bottom of the page. Confirm the whole process and submit the form by clicking the "Sign up now" button.
After submitting the form, you should be logged in immediately. No need to verify your email or anything like that. Once you are logged in, you can set your language and currency or download the GOG Galaxy client for Windows. All of these links can be found in the footer region, just below the "www.gog.com" link. You will receive a welcome email from GOG.
If you just want to download the game as a standalone app without anything extra, just reopen the game's store page after creating an account.
You can always tell that you're logged in by finding your username link among the first few links at the top of the page.
If you want to buy the game after logging in, just click the "Add to cart" button on the game page under the heading "1428: Shadows over Silesia".
After adding the game to your cart, the button will change to "Check out now". Click it and continue.
You can see the total value of your order under the level 1 heading that says "Your order". There is one more level 1 heading on the page, namely "Your payment & gifting details". Here you need to select your payment method. GOG does not support cryptocurrencies. Of the most commonly used payment methods, only PayPal or direct credit card entry is supported. The payment method checkboxes read only as static, clickable text, so you will have to find the desired payment method by using the arrow keys or by searching for its name in the page text.
After selecting and confirming the payment method, the rest of the order process is a standard affair. If you have selected direct payment by credit card, the page will dynamically update and the form will appear under the clickable text "Credit card" as soon as you click it.
Downloading and installing a standalone game without the client
After ordering a game, the easiest and fastest way to download it is, again, through its store page. When you load this page after you have purchased the game, a "Go to library" button will appear.
Then find the image labeled "1428: Shadows over Silesia" and click it.
Next, search for the heading "1428: Shadows over Silesia", which will appear somewhat unexpectedly on the same page, but above that image.
Click the static text that says "download offline backup game installers".
Finally, two direct links to the downloadable files will appear below this text. The installer is divided into two parts. Download both.
Of the downloaded files, one has a ".bin" extension and the other is a typical ".exe" installer. Open the latter. Note, however, that only the destination directory can be changed accessibly. The other installer options are unlabeled checkboxes. By default, the installer creates a game icon on the desktop and in the Start menu.
Click the "Install" button. The window title will change to "EULA". Check the unlabeled checkbox and click the "Close" button. After that, clicking the "Install" button again should work and the installation process should continue. Alternatively, it should be possible to check the first of the series of unlabeled checkboxes on the main installer screen and click the "Install" button immediately after the program launches initially.
The "Finish" button on the final screen of the installer doesn't seem to do anything. Only the self-explanatory "Launch" and "Exit" buttons work.
Both versions of the game, the Steam and the GOG one, can coexist on the same computer and under the same user account. They run completely independently of one another, but both have access to the same settings and game saves stored in the same location.
Getting started with the GOG Galaxy client
Unlike standalone game installers, installing the GOG Galaxy client is really simple, straightforward, standard and accessible. Just click the "Download GOG Galaxy 2.0 for Windows" link in the footer, which will directly download the installation file. Run that and follow the on-screen instructions. As for the client itself, though, expect a not-so-accessible interface that, like Steam, will require some advanced screen reader user skills, technical proficiency, patience, and sometimes good old trial and error.
Once launched, either automatically after the installer is complete if you so choose, or manually, a web application will appear, but it's relatively simple and accessible. Many of the controls (links and buttons) are not read as such and look like just static clickable text, so you may have to explore the page layout using the arrow keys to get familiar with it, but everything has meaningful labels. The login form when you first launch the app is a real form and also has clear labels.
The main window of the app consists mostly of a carousel with the latest news and newly released games, etc. and possibly a few pop-ups. Many items in this carousel start with actual level 2 headings, which helps. Interesting controls are located at the top and bottom of the window and most of them are real buttons. This way you can discover new games, see your library of current games filtered and sorted in various ways, etc. Don't forget to click the static pseudoheading of the "Games" section to then be able to navigate to its subcategories ("owned games", "installed", etc.). In most cases, the main content of the currently selected page, window or view can be quickly found by jumping to the banner/header region of the page. Note: It is not denoted with an actual heading.
I recommend to carefully go through the application settings (the "Open settings menu" button sometimes incorrectly announces its expanded/collapsed state) and configure everything to your liking. In particular, I'd recommend setting the app's home screen on the "GOG Galaxy client ➡ General features" tab to "Owned games", as it can sometimes be difficult to get to owned games from the default main screen, and setting all notifications to "Desktop only" rather than "Desktop & overlay", or just disabling them altogether if you so wish. You can also link the app to other platforms like Steam, Xbox Live, etc. Owned games can also be accessed via the app icon context menu in the system tray. If you have the app set to terminate when you close its window, it only seems to work when you actually click the "Close GOG Galaxy window" button at the bottom of the page, and not when you press alt+F4. Using alt+F4 does close the window, but the app continues to run in the background and display its icon in the system tray regardless of the set behavior.
If you have the client set to automatically log you in when it starts, you need to find and focus its main window only after you hear "Desktop notifications window class". Otherwise (earlier) the client window will behave unreliably and nothing will probably be read.
The owned games section - unlike most others - is not implemented as a baner region, so you can quickly find it below the account and settings buttons. Once you click a game here, the game page itself does start with an actual level 1 heading already.
The action buttons available for a particular game, including the "Install" button, are at the bottom of the page. After clicking this button, you must confirm and start the installation process by clicking a new "Install" button, this time displayed at the very bottom of the page. After that, the installation options are read as standard controls.
There are no heroes without courage!
1428: Shadows over Silesia by KUBI Games