This is the first post in my Gen Con 2015 miniseries. To access an archive of the posts, including the introductory post, please click here.
Elsa S. Henry “is a feminist scholar, disability rights activist, and burlesque historian.” She was also an industry insider at Gen Con 2015. She led the first seminar I attended: Blind Lady Vs. Gaming.
According to Gen Con, it would be “an in depth seminar about the experiences of playing TTRPGs, LARPs, video games, & board games with low vision & deafness,” and I believe it lived up to that description.
Tabletop Role Playing Games
One of the first things Elsa talked about was how we design character sheets for Tabletop Role Playing Games. They’re frilly, with small writing, and tiny little boxes to check or write numbers in.
Imagine having low vision and being asked to fill in a character sheet that looks like the one pictured. Not only that, but imagine you’re playing this game with people who don’t understand why it’s taking you so long to write down your stat.
Along with character sheets, dice are another issue. One answer to the call for dice that people with low vision can use is to make bigger dice with bigger numbers. According to Elsa, that’s good, but it could use some innovation. Bigger isn’t always better, and who wants to lug giant dice around with them?
Lastly, it’s sad that I have to write this, but we, as temporarily able-bodied folks, need to have more patience. As players, we need to cut side conversations. As players and Game Masters (GM’s), we need to slow down. GM’s need to allow the group to take breaks often and take lots of time for character creation.
Most of what Elsa had to say on video games had to do with needing depth perception and allowing options to change contrast.
LARP (Live Action Role Playing)
Choose accessible locations, and don’t be a stickler about “what is and isn’t period appropriate.” If a gamer needs a wheelchair or their white stick, let them have it, and don’t bug them about it.
Representation in Geek Media
I haven’t watched Daredevil, but apparently, it’s not a good example of a person that’s blind, and it contributes to false ideas about what having low vision or being blind means.
“You don’t act like Daredevil, so you must not really be blind.”
Other Quick Ideas from the Seminar
-To introduce yourself, give your first name, last name, and Twitter handle. Personally, I’m not on Twitter, so I don’t have a handle to give. These instructions were especially to help her recognize people she’s interacted with online.
-Want to know if your game is accessible? Have people with disabilities play test your games, and listen to their recommendations.
-Think of the injuries in your games. Are most of them not just disabilities? Isn’t there an issue when you get this injury, but you can heal or be cured from it over night?
-Think of your language use in and out of game.
-Disabilities aren’t static things.
-See an issue? Have a recommendation to make a game more accessible? Contact the gaming companies.
-Consider having Tabletop Role Playing Games played online via Google Hangouts.
-Easy Hit Points (HP) Method – Have a bowl for each player with chips in them. Take out chips as they loose points.
Short of just saying, “I agree 100%,” I figured I should probably add my thoughts here.
Accessibility is often an afterthought in many situations, including games. By b eing willing to work with and listen to people with disabilities from the start, you can make your game accessible and, “gasp,” enjoyable to begin with.
People with disabilities play games, and it isn’t really all that difficult to design a better character sheet, craft better dice, and provide the tools to make your video game more accessible.
What do you think? Do you know of any accessible games? Do you know of ways to make gaming more inclusive? Let me know!
In addition to being an awesome seminar leader, Elsa S. Henry runs the great website, Feminist Sonar.