Ableism in Fiction: My Guest Blog for Disability in Fiction

A pile of books on a shelf, illustrated

A few days ago, my guest blog was published for the Disability in Fiction blog series, hosted by fantasy author Intisar Khanani.

Growing up as an avid reader, I never came across any disabled authors or characters in literature. Before the internet, I only had access to my small-town school library. Seeking out books with disabled characters never crossed my mind; disability was something that I had and not part of my proclaimed identity as it is now. For most of my childhood, abled was the norm, even though I’ve been disabled my whole life. I was the only visibly disabled person in my social circle, and I wasn’t aware of invisible disabilities as a concept.

Read more at BooksByIntisar.com

I want to know what you’re reading! Share your experience with disability in fiction, including any book recommendations, in the comments below.

Overwatch Developers, Don’t Ban Disabled Gamers

Overwatch Developers, Don't Ban Disabled Gamers text over an image of Sombra character page, a cartoon woman in neon clothes

These past three days, I’ve played Overwatch obsessively on PC, now understanding why many love this game. It took me a while to start playing, as I tend to avoid most competitive online experiences; they lean toward inaccessibility and obnoxious alpha players. While Overwatch can attract those sorts of gamers, I have yet to run into any in the teams I’ve played so far. I think it has a lot to do with the matchmaking system; it pairs you with those of similar skill levels. There are also practice modes to learn each character’s abilities and test them out before you jump into an online game. Overwatch is addicting, with beautiful graphics, smooth controls, and unlimited ammo. Each character has unique abilities and user interfaces that you can explore in detailed maps. When your team is victorious, there is a rush to try again, racking up your XP and hoping for an MVP vote from your comrades.

But what sets Overwatch apart from other first-person shooters is its accessibility.Read more…

The Accessibility of Mouse-Only Games, and Five Favorites

The Accessibility of Mouse-Only Games, and Five Favorites

As my disability progresses, I find it cumbersome to navigate a keyboard and mouse simultaneously in computer games. PlayStation or Xbox controllers are inaccessible for me right out of the box, so I’ve gravitated toward mouse-only games in the past few years as my primary source of computer entertainment. I can still enjoy the occasional first-person shooter if the keys are remappable, but even then, it’s hard to manage multiple buttons and engage in quick mouse reflexes. Even worse is when designers insist on using button mashing as a mechanic, like in the Telltale Walking Dead games (seriously, stop), which frustrates abled and disabled gamers alike. While mouse-only is a great alternative for disabled individuals, it also creates a streamlined user experience for those who don’t require accessibility hacks.

Below you’ll find some of my favorite mouse-only games I’ve played recently, all available on Steam. Let me know what you think of my picks, share your own in the comments below, or send a tweet to @geekygimp! … Read more…

Will the Nintendo Switch Be Accessible for Disabled Gamers?

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. … Read more…

Six Board Game Accessibility Fails, and How to Hack Them: Part Two

Board Game Accessibility Fails and How to Hack Them: Part Two, background is a close up of wood tokens and dice

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!

Component Heavy with picture of trains in ticket to rideComponent Heavy

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. … Read more…

Six Board Game Accessibility Fails, and How to Hack Them: Part One

Six Board Game Accessibility Fails, and How To Hack Them: Part One

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. … Read more…

The Geeky Gimp’s Best of 2016

The Geeky Gimp's Best of 2016. Image of Erin overlayed with fireworks.

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

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 are 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 MoonAvailable on Steam. … Read more…

Recap of #CripTrek

#CripTrek Twitter Chat Recap over a starry background

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.

Review of The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987

Erin reading the book, looking up at the camera

Cover of book, looks like a NES gameDo 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. … Read more…

#CripTrek: To Boldly Go Where No Crip Has Gone Before

#CripTrek header, logo on a star background, images of Geordi, 7 or 9, and Melora

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!

Lt Barclay, wearing yellow TNG uniformTweet 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.

CripTrek logo is blue insignia with name below and a wheelchair in the insigniaRead more…