I have fond memories of playing Mario Bros, Zelda, and Pokémon on a plethora of Nintendo consoles. The last time I picked up a Nintendo title was when Ocarina of Time came out; since then, the system became increasingly inaccessible, especially with the Wii. I felt like the company focused on getting people to move around, leaving many disabled people to look elsewhere for their entertainment. Motion-sensing games are not feasible for someone who can’t move their arms or hold up a bulky controller. The size of the N64 was cumbersome too, but my disability wasn’t as progressed at that time to render it completely inaccessible. Earlier systems, like the original Nintendo and the SNES, had smaller, lighter controllers with fewer buttons, but console designers moved away from that user experience.
In part one of this series, I covered the inaccessibility of hidden information, dexterity mechanics, and real-time games. Below are three more game mechanics and styles that prohibit me (and other disabled folks) from enjoying board games to their fullest. As always, please share your thoughts in the comments, or send a tweet to @geekygimp!
The Problem: While component-heavy games could be appealing, especially when it comes to miniatures, they present an access barrier. Some games require different tokens to track a plethora of stats, points, and movements; add in multiple card decks and 20 robot miniatures, and you’re inundated with cardboard and plastic. I have trouble extending my arms, and my table space is limited, making it hard to keep all the components separate and organized. For someone with shaky hands, stackable tokens and exact component placement render many component-heavy games difficult or entirely inaccessible.
I’ve always needed help playing board games, as I don’t have the range-of-motion, strength, or dexterity to do it on my own. There are actions I can do, like roll dice or pick up a card, and others I can’t, like shuffling or reaching to move pieces across the board. Gaming has always been an act of interdependence, much like all my activities of daily living, and something I’ve adapted to over the years with personal hacks.
House rules and small-scale solutions can work, but what if these adjustments were baked into the game? Thoughtful and inclusive design doesn’t just mean more disabled people can play, but it can improve the quality of the game for everyone.
In this two-part series, I point out six access barriers I’ve encountered in tabletop gaming and offer potential solutions that can work right out of the box. These access issues are from my perspective as a physically disabled individual, and the hacks below may not apply or work for everyone, but I hope my words can be a resource and starting point for designers and players alike.
While 2016 has been a difficult year for many, I want to reflect on my favorite things that helped me get through the hardest days. Our joy and entertainment, our binge-watching Netflix or slipping away for a few hours with a good book, will aid us now and in the coming years. I hope you enjoy my Best of 2016 list – in the comments below, let me know what you think of my choices, and what’s on your best-of list!
Best video game: Stardew Valley by Chucklefish
By far my most-played game this year, clocking in at 129 hours and counting. You leave a dull office job and travel to Stardew Valley, a small, struggling community with a farm you’ve just inherited from your grandfather. By growing, harvesting, and selling crops, as well as caring for livestock, you earn enough money to expand your farm and help rebuild the derelict community center. You can also go fishing and mining to level up your character. The game never punishes you too much, and there’s no time limits for the overall goals; this eliminates the boring grind of most farming sims. Despite all the hours put in, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. Pick this up if you liked Harvest Moon! Available on Steam.
So, I recorded more podcasts with Geek Girl Riot:
Did The Walking Dead season 7 premiere go too far? Cindy and I share our thoughts and chat about violence on the show.
I have a story that involves yard sales and Stephen King, and it’s not good. The Rioters share our favorite and not-so-favorite authors in this bookish confab. We talk about Spock smut, too – why not?
Join me October 8th for a live-stream gaming event benefiting The AbleGamers Charity! Starting at 5pm EST and lasting until 10pm, I’ll play some of my favorite video games over on The Geeky Gimp twitch.tv channel. Watch along, chat, and donate if you can! I’m also going to tweet using #SoEveryoneCanGame, so follow me there for more gaming goodness. My goal is $400, and I can only reach that with your help!
Anyone that tunes in and donates has a chance to win cool, nerdy prizes like a Han Solo pop figurine, Star Wars socks, DC Comics merch, and other surprises. Can’t make it October 8th? No worries – if you contribute funds before the event, you’re automatically entered to snag a prize. Winners will be announced during and after the event as needed. As always, contact me with any questions or concerns.
More on AbleGamers from their website:
The AbleGamers Charity has served the more than 100 million gamers with disabilities in the disabled community since 2004 as thought leaders, accessibility experts, and assistive technology creators. Over the last decade, AbleGamers has helped hundreds of thousands of gamers with disabilities through the various services and programs offered to the disability community. Providing free, customized solutions, expansive resources, thorough consultations and advocating for gamers with disabilities are the top priorities for the AbleGamers Foundation.
Until then, happy gaming!
Hey Trekkers/Trekkies! If you missed the live #CripTrek Twitter chat, you can read the recap below.
We need to keep the conversation going, so please continue using the #CripTrek hashtag to talk about disability representation in Star Trek! You can also share the recap on your own page – don’t hesitate to link to it or tweet about it.
Here is a link to the recap on Storify, or view it in the slideshow below. Thank you to everyone involved! Until then, live long and prosper.
Do you remember the first console game you played? For me, it was probably Video Olympics (with Pong included) or Asteroids on the Atari 2600. Turning that knob to slide the paddles up and down, or pushing that joystick to avoid enemy fire was pure joy for my 5-year-old self. Those pixelated titles ushered in the Golden Age of video games, and it’s striking to see how far we’ve come since then. While we may scoff at console graphics of the late 70s and early 80s, we have to keep in mind how mind-blowingly advanced these systems were for their time. I’m sure 20 or 30 years down the line, PS4 games will pale in comparison to whatever technology has in store for us.
There’s a lot of interesting stories to tell about early console design that deserve attention, and Brett Weiss’ book, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987, zooms in on this revolutionary era of gaming. It serves not only as a trip down memory lane, tapping into that nostalgia we so longingly crave, but it acts as an archive and provides a definitive history of popular titles.
Hey disabled Star Trek fans – let’s let CBS know we’re here and we want disability representation in their new series, Star Trek: Discovery! Using two hashtags, #StarTrekDiscovery and #CripTrek, share an idea, picture, video, audio recording, piece of writing, or other digital representation of YOU and your love of all things Trek. Maybe a pic of the Vulcan salute, a poem confessing your Spock and Bones ship, or a video acting out your favorite scene – be creative!
Tweet at @StarTrekCBS and tell them why you want a disabled character in the cast! Post your contribution with the hashtags on Twitter or Instagram to make sure everyone sees your creation. You can also just share overall thoughts about disability and Trek using #CripTrek – we will keep the conversation going.
On September 1st at 7pm EST, I’ll host a Star Trek and disability Twitter chat along with Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project. The Disability Visibility Project™ is a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture.
To join that chat, log onto Twitter and follow @geekygimp. Starting at 7pm EST, I’ll start posting the questions below, and you can answer using the #CripTrek and #StarTrekDiscovery hashtags. If you have any questions or accessibility concerns, please get in touch with me through the contact page.
Thanks to Mike Mort and his design skills, we have this awesome #CripTrek graphic! Feel free to grab the image and use it as your social media profile pic of choice. The background is transparent to use as you wish. If you have trouble downloading, please contact me.
What does it mean to be disabled and exist in a society that purposely excludes you? What are some comments or micro-aggressions disabled people encounter in their daily lives? #ShitAbledPeopleSay (pardon my French) is a hashtag that answers these questions with honesty, bluntness, care, empathy, and humor. It was a tweetstorm of epic proportions.
We need this hashtag because it exposes our truths; it gives us space to communicate and empathize with each other. We need it because it’s time folks know how pervasive ableism affects our sense of self-worth, self-love, mental health, and position in society.
You can check out the Storify below, which contains a sample of the important and much-needed discussions happening around this hashtag. I encourage everyone to read, reflect, and share. If you have something to contribute, please do – the conversation is still going strong.
Edited to add: If the slideshow below is not accessible, try visiting the Storify’s permanent link.