Continuing the accessibility discussion as part of Indiana Disability Awareness Month, I want to return to a topic I discussed earlier on Making Games More Accessible. At that time, I suggested people and companies you could go to for advice on accessibility in gaming. Now, after years of proofreading and editing board games and playing lots more games with my wife who has accessibility challenges, I have some specific areas to recommend for making games more accessible to a wider audience.
- Color palette – The colors chosen for games have more impact than just aesthetics and marketing. Color can impact the playability and enjoyment of a game from many people. “Colour (color) blindness (colour vision deficiency, or CVD) affects approximately 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women in the world.” (http://www.colourblindawareness.org/) Even those who are not color blind can struggle with color palettes that have colors that blend together. This commonly happens with pastels and light colors. 64oz Games have great resources for enhancing a game for those with color blindness.
- Symbology – Following close on with the color palette is symbology in games. Where symbols can help compensate for color blindness issues, symbols that are too similar or confusing can have an impact on people with vision impairments or dyslexia which can blur or invert symbols, making them difficult to decipher. Using symbols that are symmetrical and distinct can really assist with identifying them. For example, artistic looking clubs and spades on cards can be very difficult to differentiate in low light of if you have impaired vision.
- Font size and color – Continuing the topic of vision impairments, font size and color come into play. As I get older, I find it more difficult to read small fonts on cards, boards, and in rulebooks. And if the fonts are in a color that blurs into the background color (brown on tan, grey or black on green, etc) it becomes even more difficult to distinguish the words precisely. Whenever possible, large fonts are appreciated. Even people with good vision appreciate large, distinctly colored fonts, especially in lower light areas like cafes and pubs.
- Component & Card Size – The size of components and cards affect age groups as well as those with physical accessibility challenges. Younger children do not have the dexterity to manage smaller components. And as we age, we struggle with our manual dexterity as well. Add to that challenges with arthritis, neurological disorders, injuries, and just larger hands/fingers, then small components or the tiny card sizes can really be challenging. Games with large chunky dice, poker chip size counters, and oversized components/playing pieces are wonderful for all ages and abilities. It might add some cost to the game, but it opens the audience and enjoyment of the game to many.
- Cardboard standees or color coded minis – While we are thinking about components, let’s talk about miniatures. We can all agree, miniatures can be beautiful, especially when painted. But for those with vision impairments, it can be really difficult to differentiate between a lot of grey miniatures on the board that only have slight differences in design. Consider offering a cardboard standee version of your game or at least offering the miniatures in player/team colors to differentiate them from a distance on the table.
- Insert – Gamers have mixed opinions on inserts vs baggies. But, a well designed insert really can make a game more accessible. Components that are organized and easily identifiable help with game play. This organization can assist with vision, mental, and physical challenges as the components can easily be determined and kept in the proper place.
- Video how to play – Videos are so helpful for those with different learning styles, difficulties reading, visual impairments, and comprehension challenges. Being able to watch and listen to someone explain a game means the impact of challenges of rule book colors, fonts, and symbology are reduced or perhaps even eliminated in the game.
- Tearaway strip on new card packs – This seems trivial, but it really is difficult to remove the shrink wrap on card decks, something even leading to damaging cards. Please add the tearaway strip to any card packs in your games. That little addition makes it easier for everyone to open cards, and is such a blessing to those who struggle with manual dexterity.
For those that struggle with these challenges like my wife, are there other suggestions you would recommend for publishers and game designers? Leave a comment below.
To publishers and games designers, thank you for considering these suggestions for making your tabletop games more accessible.