Designing for a Blind audience

One of the questions that I’m asked a lot by designers is how do you develop a game for blind players.

I hate this question.

I feel like the question is a trap and leads to thoughts like..

  • What is the maximum board size a blind person can ‘deal with’?
  • What is the biggest hand size a blind person can ‘deal with’?
  • How much text is too much for a blind person?

And so forth. This comes at it with a few assumptions about blind players.

First; That blind players should be catered to in this manner. I disagree with that.

Second; That there is a right answer to any of these questions. The fact is that just like with sighted people, there is a wide range of blind people. There are some sighted people who can track where and how many of every card in their 70 card deck builder is at all times. There are some sighted people who can’t deal with the hand size in Sushi Go. Any answer you give there are people who are going to be able to do it and there are people who aren’t able to do it.

Are there benefits to designing a game with few cards? ABSOLUTELY! Constraints can lead to great innovation in games. It might make it so your game is easier to pick up by players, reduce play time and make it easier to manufacture. But these things should be done because they benefit the game, not because it is going to help this one group.

There are lots of constraints that you can put on your games to make them easier for blind people but it is much better to put those constraints on a game because it makes it a better game.

When I try to make an accessibility kit I try to get as close to the way the game was designed as possible with the least amount of interference. I think it’s unacceptable to rewrite rules or make concessions with other people’s games because I’ve really failed at making the kit at all at that point.

Do I ask myself if this will be playable? Yes and no. I think I could do a kit for Kingdom Builder for instance that would make the game playable for some blind people. I personally don’t believe that a kit for this game though would be fun. I pull out this game as an example because one of the main mechanics is you have to place adjacent to a landscape type if it is possible. This means every single play you do you have to review the entire board state and if you miss one, it’s cheating. This isn’t hard visually but I think it would be a nightmare non-visually. You can do it, sure, but if you spend all that time doing it the game has slowed to a crawl and isn’t fun.

Of course then there’s the flip side of it where some people’s fun is different than other people’s fun. For me for instance I’d rather endure a fair amount of physical pain than play Command and Colors again but that’s me. So I may well do a kit for a game like Kingdom Builder(In that magical fictional future where I have time to do everything) someday even though I am not convinced the end result would be fun because I could be wrong.

Good design for blind players should allow them to get the information in the closest way to the way the sighted players do as possible. Secret information should be secret, players should be able to get information about the board state at any time and they should know everything a sighted player knows. Does this lead to problems with some games? Yes.

Galaxy Trucker is an excellent example of this. Part of the game players scramble to assemble their space ship as soon as possible while watching others do the same. Even with a tactile board there is just absolutely no way that this could be fair because they are playing with 2 sets of rules… the rules for the sighted and the rules for the blind.

When I come across a game like that is where we find the closest thing I do to designing for the blind. That’s designing with blind as a mechanic. You can’t level the playing field by making the blind person see in a game like that but you certainly can level the playing field by making a sighted person blind. Now we have players playing with 1 set of rules. That’s what we did with Yoink and that’s what we’re doing with another prototype I’m working on(and super excited about). What I really like about this is that it’s a relatively unexplored mechanic in a pretty crowded game space. I don’t really want to live in this design space full time as is evidenced by the prototypes I have produced but I can see myself going there periodically whenever I encounter games that it’s just impossible to level the playing field without changing the game because heck, that changed game might be fun.

Open for business!

Our 64 Oz, Games store is now open for business! If you have been waiting to get accessibility kits or braille dice we’re now ready to take orders!

Click on the store link at the top of the page to shop!

Thank you so much!

Shipping out our Kickstarter rewards very soon! Please update your address.

Over 360 braille 20 sided dice

 

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve made enough d20s to finish our Kickstarter rewards and hope to start shipping stuff out next week. That means that if you are a backer you need to update your address now.

Some of our non-physical rewards are still in the works but this is a huge milestone for us.

Thanks!

Demoing Titles at NFB National Convention

NFB National Convention 2014This week we will be demoing a few of our accessibility kits at NFB National Convention in Florida. If you are going to be there, the games we will be bringing are the following…

  • Tiny Epic Kingdoms(2 to 5 players, 1 to 2 hours)
  • Council of Verona(2 to 5 players, 20 minutes to 1 hour)
  • Where Art Thou Romeo(3 to 5 players, 20 minutes)
  • Love Letter(4 players, 20 minutes)
  • Bohnanza(2 to 7 players, 1 to 2 hours)
  • Coloretto(2 to 5 players, 1 hour)
  • The Resistance(5 to 10 players, 1 hour)
  • Tichu(4 players, 1 to 2 hours)
  • Hanabi(2-4 players. 30 minutes)

You can hear all about most of these titles in our podcast.

If you are going to be there and are interested contact me via Twitter or e-mail me and we can set up a time to play. I’d love to introduce as many players as possible to these great games. We will work with single players or groups.

These will not be available to purchase at the convention but we are still taking late backers to our Kickstarter via Paypal and when the online store is up this fall.

Hope to see you there!

Kickstarter has finished. Thank you so much for your support.

Today we wrapped up the funding period for our first Kickstarter campaign. We funded to an incredible 270% which means we will be able to offer many products that we had not originally intended to offer! But that will take time and that means the work goes behind the scenes for a while.

This fall after we ship out our Kickstarter rewards we will be rolling out with the 64 Ounce Games storefront. This will be a place where you will be able to buy many add-on kits to make lots of different games accessible titles. We also hope to announce great developments in our own original 64 Ounce Games titles.

I hope in the meantime you take advantage of our forums and learn about games from our podcast. I do NOT want this to be a one trick thing where we produce these games and then we’re done. Accessibility is something that we are serious about and want to continue.

This summer I hope to have the color blind accessibility stickers and I want to continue the dialog that I’ve started. Gaming is for everyone and let’s get the die rolling.

Less than a week left but we’re excited.

We’ve been very fortunate in our Kickstarter. We just passed the 15k mark and are looking to reach the dice mark in the next couple days.

I’ve been churning out podcasts like crazy hoping to get one done for every game we are offering through the Kickstarter done prior to it’s close. Tonight I just finished the one on Gamelyn Game’s Tiny Epic Kingdoms. They’ve been great talking about us in their updates and I really believe their game provides a gameplay type that has never been made accessible before.

As I record them I’m impressed with the with the range of titles and mechanics that I’ve picked to support. It didn’t click entirely until I sat down and talked about each individual game. I’ve got 3 more to record I think and that’s quite doable.

I really believe there is a game in there for everyone.

After I’m done with those I hope to start bringing on some ‘expert’ blind game players to talk about what works and hasn’t worked in blind gaming. Where we go from there is up to you guys in part…

Oh… and I do want to start working on those original 64 Oz. Game titles again soon too!

You’ve Got To Get Your Hands On This Game – St. Petersburg

I just finished updating our stretch goals on our Kickstarter page if you want to check that out but the main reason I made this post was to tell people about the classic game St. Petersburg.

This is a lot heavier fare than Resistance that I described last time but it isn’t too difficult to learn either. I try to describe the basic jist of the game play from my memory but sometimes I might get a term or something wrong. These aren’t supposed to be definitive gameplay how-to podcasts but just to give you an idea of the game. Again I’m only going to do these for games that 64 Oz. Games will be offering accessibility kits for. This is one of the options for large games.

Listen Here!

You can get the game here. It’s crowd funding a reprint right now so it is for sale but will be down in 20 days. It should be sold at retailers sometime after that. The old version was sold by Rio Grande Games and you might be able to pick that up somewhere too.

Podcast ‘You’ve Got to Get Your Hands on This Game’ and our Kickstarter

One thing that I realized with introducing all these new games to blind people is that many have never heard of these games. I decided that I will start doing podcasts talking about what exactly certain games are. They are simple, no thrills rants about why certain games are great.

The first game I talk about is The Resistance by Indie Boards and Cards.

The Podcast called ‘You’ve Got to Get Your Hands on this Game’ is here.

You can purchase the actual game online here and lots of other places I’m sure. The accessibility kit can be chosen as part of our Kickstarter as a reward.

Let me know what you think. I hope to have many of the possible choices for KS rewards up prior to the close so people can make informed decisions. Of course if you want to do more board game research you can always go to Board Game Geek.

Our Kickstarter campaign funded! Now it’s time to reveal some stretch goals!

We managed to fund our Kickstarter Campaign in a very short amount of time and we are thrilled. What we are even more thrilled about is that we might get a chance to do more very cool products. We have a couple of great goals and they all build toward us being able to make dice. Twenty Sided Die with Braille

$10,000

2 additional small and large games available to choose at the end of the campaign. We will vote on which titles will be added as choices.

$12,000

Free Color Blind Print & Play accessibility stickers for Hanabi, Battle Line, Set, and Race for the Galaxy available to EVERYONE! These will be made available to download from our website.

$17,000

Able to produce braille dice for RPGs, King of Tokyo, or Roll Through the Ages. We hope to be able to sell these in our online store after launch.   We have even more stretch goals planned that we will reveal later in the campaign. Stay tuned!

Our Kickstarter Campaign

Board Games: Now Blind Accessible AND live on Kickstarter!

Board Games: Now Blind Accessible- Picture includes cartoon rendering of 'game cards' with sleeves with braille on them.

Today is the first day of our first Kickstarter. We are planning on making it so that blind players will finally be able to play many great games that they have been unable to play.

We want to be able to do this by releasing Braille sleeves that can be used with existing games to make them accessible.

For details please check out our Kickstarter page.

For our sighted backers there will be rewards like a unique Microgame, video documentary and more. Please check out our Kickstarter and consider backing. We would love to have your support. Please consider sharing this on your regularly scheduled social networks.

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