Thursday, 5 February 2015

Making Games More Accessible

Hello World,

As those who keep up with my antics on Twitter and the blog would know, I have been developing a role-playing game for Kickstarter named of Trials of the Magi. An important component of this development is a custom deck of cards known as the Arcana Deck. Each of these cards has two important values upon it.

                1 – A suit which can be one of the 4 minor arcana [swords, wands, cups and coins]

                2 – A single-word noun which is created and written upon it by the player.

In my original design for the cards I had left a space in the top left of the card for the player to write their word, and had put a unidirectional suit symbol and name in the center. This design worked well in playtests, but it wasn’t until I began designing the official layout that I thought about the accessibility of the cards. While the current card layout worked fine for all of my right handed playtesters, it was very difficult to use for someone who was left handed.

I began looking at how I could make the cards easier to use in the left hand, and I came up with the design shown below. This layout extends the writable area to the bottom of the card and replaces the unidirectional suit information with a bidirectional symbol and name. With these changes made, a left handed player need only flip the card around and right their word in the top right to make it usable in the left hand.

But left handed players aren’t the only minority who can inconvenienced by a game’s design, there are tons of minorities and disabilities that find most games difficult to play. Some can be difficult to design around such as blindness, or deafness, but it still doesn’t stop people from trying. A prime example of this is the recently funded kickstarter campaign “Board games: now blind accessible” where a group of people are working to make board game modifications that can be added to existing games allowing them to be played by a blind person.

There are some minorities however that can be addressed rather easily if considered during the design of a game. Some examples of this are left handedness, color blindness, dyslexia or minor motor skill impairment. By designing for players with a variety capabilities and skills you can make your game accessible to a larger breadth of people. Tabletop games are already more accessible then sports and video games, and I think we can expand our audience even more.

I hoped you enjoyed this article and as always, thanks for reading,

- Patrick Lapienis

If you liked this article I have done a similar post on how inaccessible it is to start playing your first tabletop RPG. And if you are interested in trials of the Magi you can follow me on Twitter @MTTJ_Patrick or check out some of my older posts about the game. Which can be found HERE and HERE.