Welcome to the second week of November!
As a board game designer, one of my primary objectives is to create a game that will be enjoyed by a large audience of people for an indefinite amount of time. Secondary to this objective is the desire to bring people together and provide them an experience that they will enjoy, as well as one that gets them talking to one another and enjoying being together.
One of the big challenges to these objectives is that not all people are created equal. Some of us have challenges and limitations that can prevent us from enjoying a game that we might otherwise love. What can we do as game designers to alleviate these limitations? We need to design accessible board games that remove as many of the inaccessibilities as possible. Dr. Michael Heron, creator of the website Meeples Like Us, defines accessibility and accessible games as follows:
Accessible games are ones where people can still play your game even if they have extraordinary usability needs. An inaccessibility is any feature of a game that presents a barrier to enjoyment. Mostly it’s about how information is presented and how the game is manipulated, but I also include aspects of cultural inaccessibility and representation.
For this week’s article, I want to look at 5 strategies game designers can use to make their board games more accessible.
Strategy 1: When information is categorized by colour, add different symbols for each colour as well
Colour blindness might be one of the easiest inaccessibility to identify as well as resolve. It is likely one of the most prevalent as well with 8% of men and 0.5% of women suffering from some form of colour blindness. While a colour blindness friendly colour palette makes a huge difference, and even better solution is to associate a symbol or icon to each colour as well. A prime example of this is the trains and routes in Ticket To Ride that have both a colour and an unique icon associated with them.
Strategy 2: Use the largest text possible
There isn’t anything more frustrating that trying to read something that is too small. Using a large font makes it easier for the majority of us, and possible for the rest.
Strategy 3: Make your components as chunky as possible and allow them to be differentiated by touch only
Having pieces that are larger and chunky makes it easier for players who have difficulties with fine motor control to pick up and manipulate the pieces. Adding unique shapes and sizes will help with identification from players who have impaired vision, as well as those with issues with colour blindness.
Strategy 4: Make it easy for people to verbalize their actions if they aren’t able to manipulate their pieces themselves through the use of a grid, prominent landmarks, and/or easily identifiable components
Players who may be unable to manipulate their own pieces often will still enjoy playing games. It can be difficult for them to do so if they aren’t able to clearly explain what they want to accomplish so that another player can take the actions for them. Chess-style grids and/or landmarks on maps can make a huge difference.
Strategy 5: Create a video version of your rule book and include captions and/or on-screen ASL translation
One aspect of accessibility that I don’t see talked about very often, and one that I never considered, are people who are deaf. I first became aware of the issue when another member of the IGA posted about it on our Facebook page. Most think that being deaf doesn’t affect their ability to read text, but apparently English is often considered a second language to people who are deaf. Most deaf children don’t learn any type of language until they start school, and then it is usually ASL which is more like French than English. A good solution is to create a video version of your rule book that includes captions and/or on-screen ASL translations.
Well that is everything for today. As you might guess, I have barely scratched the surface with today’s post. If your interested in learning more, a great resource is Meeples Like Us and their accessibility tear downs. Also, there are a number of other blog posts on the subject if you’re interested. Until next time, happy designing.