How do I get you to transcribe the games that I want into Braille?

Lets go with the assumption whatever game is transcribable. I think I have a wider view of what is possible than a lot of people but there are some red flags that will make me not want to touch the game.

1st. Very visual based, drawing or pictures are a key component to gameplay(not just pretty, you actually have to see them.) Examples here are Pictionary and Dixit but there are many others. Most people don’t suggest these to me because it’s bloody obvious that they won’t work.

2nd. Speed being a key aspect- If two players have to get information in different ways and speed is key there is going to be a problem. I talk about this problem a lot in my previous post ‘designing for a blind audience’ The same goes for dexterity games. I just can’t fix Jenga or Rhino Hero for a blind audience.

3rd. Too many sprawling things- We can add overlays but at some point it will just become way too much. As 64 Oz. expands and if we get ahold of better 3d printing, better boards and better techniques we might be able to expand this but sometimes the game is just too damn fiddily.

4th An insane amount of work- Yes, people love trivia games. I could do a trivia game but I really don’t want to spend my time copying down pages upon pages of text.

5th CCG- I am working on a possible way to help people support these themselves but don’t expect me to be jumping in here. I don’t know what’s in your deck and I’m not transcribing every card that exists.

Gotten past that point? Great! Let me start off by dividing this into 3 sections and address each one individually.

Publishers, Gamers and Blind Gamers.

1st. Blind Gamers-

Blind gamers who talk to me on Twitter or Facebook or E-mail me I want to have the easiest time having their voices heard. If they mention to me they want a game, I try to accommodate if I have access to it. I’ll be much more likely to if they have bought stuff in the store before and I know that I’ll make at least one sale out of it. If a blind gamer cares enough about to mention it, it raises it on my list. If they are willing to send me a copy to work with it will go straight to the top of my list. (Especially if they are a Patreon.)

After I finish transcribing a game, I will be will return it so it can actually be played.

2. Gamers-

People have their favorite games that they love and want to share. I’m told ‘you should do this’ and I usually don’t disagree. But the fact is that there isn’t a huge market for obscure games and really I should target ‘evergreen’ titles first. I love many games but the flavor of the month isn’t going to be reasonable for me to keep up with and the sales so far don’t even make it close to worth it. If you have a blind friend or know blind people though and are actually interested in getting a kit yourself I’ll put your priority up there with blind gamers. You’re spreading the good word!

3. Publishers(and Kickstarters)-

If you are a publisher I’d love to support your games. I’ll gladly post on my Twitter feed that you want to be supportive to the blind community but I’ll need a couple of things first.

A. Access to your game, at least eventually.

I’ve done versions of games using just PnP files but I always feel nervous about things like card sizes for the sleeves and would rather not take the risk. Plus me having a copy means that I can transcribe it and bring it when I am going to blind conventions and that I will demo it for you. I’ve been lucky enough a lot of publishers have provided me with games however even without that luxury I’m enthusiastically transcribing games by all publishers of great games.

So basically you’ll have to send me a copy if you want to make certain but if you don’t and I love your game I’ll do it when I’m able.

B. A clear plan for distribution after your Kickstarter, specifically a reliable place online to buy the game.

If I’m going to commit to doing a game we need to have a way for people to get the game after the Kickstarter is done. It doesn’t do me any good or you if people don’t buy the game(and the kit.)

C. Time to do it.

Time is a finite thing and I don’t have a huge amount of it hanging around.

I’m going to be honest here. I don’t always transcribe all of the games that I have in my store. I’m just ready to transcribe them when a sale happens.

It is a print on demand service and I don’t think a 2 week wait time is unreasonable. We’re a lot faster than that though. This is especially true of Kickstarter babies. Many of them may never generate a sale to the blind community.

The long and short of it is this:

I want to get as many good games in the hands of blind players as quickly as possible. I’m working hard constantly to increase the selection in our store. With limited time and limited resources I’m adding new games as they are purchased or requested. If anyone has a better idea or better advice on how to add games to our catalog I’d love to hear from you.

Richard@64ouncegames.comads-03

Why such a focus on Braille?

Since we started this project to make board games accessible one thing that has come occasionally has been people will tell me the stats on Braille knowledge among the blind community with the concept that I’m wasting my time. Fewer than 10 percent of the 1.3 million people who are legally blind in the United States are Braille readers. A meager 10 percent of blind children are learning it.

The argument is simple. Technology such as voice over in electronics, scanning software like KNB reading software or crowd funded solutions like Be My Eyes, and even older things like closed circuit televisions make it so a blind person doesn’t need this obsolete technology anymore. They can just use their technologies for any reading needs.

Of course few people even with these technologies would advocate no braille for a person with no sight whatsoever. These people believe it is only the ones who truly have no sight that need braille. It’s expensive, hard, and nobody uses it.

The problem is that most people who are blind aren’t 100% blind. This is why only 10% of blind people know braille. People hear ‘legally blind’ and what they hear is ‘this person can see’. And they can.

20/200 vision means what most people see at 200 feet is similar to what a blind person sees at 20 feet.

And a person with low vision like this can read… for a while.

I don’t know if I truly understood eye fatigue 3 years ago, long after my involvement in the blind community. Before that point I didn’t need glasses ever. I was very proud of my eyesight boasting that I was the only person in my family who didn’t need glasses.

This changed when I took some continuing education classes. It was a Web design course and I was trying to copy some code out of the book. I couldn’t figure out if the letter I was trying to copy was an e, a or o. It looked kind of circle like but it was blury.. no matter which I tried the code didn’t work and the longer I stared at it, the more blurred it became. I gave up and put it off to another day.

It turned out to be a Unicode character not a letter at all when I looked at it the next day, clear as day. So I got back to work. A half hour later I looked at it and it was a complete blur like the other day.

People inherently understand ‘I can’t see this’ but they can’t understand ‘I can see this for about 15 minutes and then it becomes a terrible blur’.

The teachers, parents, and blind students don’t understand this either. They don’t understand when they are 20 and taking this class in college they won’t be able to work for an hour without a break. The students are telling their parents and teachers that they can see it and they aren’t lying. They can just use copiers to blow up print to 10X normal size right? That’s a lot cheaper than braille.
So why bother with braille if they can already see? But the fact is sight declines and the duration you need to use sight increases as you get older.

People in this scenario don’t learn they need braille until they are older. Universally I have heard they wish they learned it earlier. If you want to be fluent in braille you should learn it as early as possible. You can pick it up at any age but time is of the essence.

People sometimes act like it is print OR braille, that teaching braille early will be to the exclusion of teaching print. That’s crap. If the kid is able to learn print, they are going to learn print. It is everywhere. They would have to actively try to avoid print not to learn it.

I will be clear, in my opinion, I think blind people should learn braille unless 1 of 2 situations is true.

A. They physically cannot due to nerve damage or mobility issues.

Or

B. They cognitively cannot because of brain damage or memory issues.

Other than that, I just don’t buy it. You’re too old? No you’re not if you are breathing. Do you plan on dying immediately?

Braille is so hard with those dots I hear. Well, print is so hard with those shapes and you learned that!

It might not be the most useful thing in all circumstances but it is one tool in your toolkit and you want to have as many as possible.

But I am a teacher so I pretty much believe you should learn as much as you can about everything. I never see a downside of learning.

From a business perspective Braille is the obvious choice for us even if a lot of people don’t know it. Legally we can copy games that are protected by copyright so long as it is an accessible format. That means braille or a digital format like with the QR codes. We CAN work with companies who own the games but we don’t HAVE to because of the way copyright law works.
If we tried to do large print games we would need to get approval from everyone down the pipeline. Assuming we got the approval we would need to find some way to manufacture and reprint the game. This just isn’t going to happen with us. I think there is room for a print on demand service that does large print games(even if they just enlarge existing art) but I’m not going to be that service because I don’t have the skills or equipment.

But personally I think Braille is the right choice for us anyway.

One thing that we can do here at 64 Oz to help promote Braille is by making more things that are worth reading available. I don’t think that we’re doing great literature or anything but I do think we have the potential to help braille literacy with our product. It is placing braille into a fast paced and repetitive environment, almost like flash cards.
Except fun.
So spreading games to a new audience while improving Braille literacy?
I’m glad I’m doing what I’m doing.

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!

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.