Accessible Games Day: Building Successful Community Engagement

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Daniel IretonAngie Brunk

Abstract: As games and gamification have become more intrinsically linked to both education and libraries, two librarians at a public university developed a tabletop gaming event in part to raise awareness of how games can be developed or modified in order to expand access to a larger population by addressing accessibility of play. While games work very well in building communities, much of the tabletop gaming industry does little to mitigate exclusionary design for individuals with disabilities. The vast majority of games use color alone to distinguish player pieces from each other despite the prevalence of various types of colorblindness. It is estimated that 8% of the male population experiences some form of colorblindness, and a lack of accommodation eliminates and alienates these players unnecessarily, as the simple addition of patterns, shapes, or textures corrects the issue. Using their expertise in game design and human factors, the authors carefully reviewed and play-tested multiple games for inclusion in the event. While no individual game can be created or modified to have universal accessibility, playing games with an eye toward accessibility is the only suitable way to best determine what games have better design. Providing descriptions and write-ups of what specific games do well (or poorly) along with tested modifications prompt players to consider how design can be improved for accessibility.Key to reaching a broad audience and ensuring a wide variety of perspectives, development of programming such as this requires cross-departmental partnerships. Faculty, students, and community members offer differing insights. Critical among these partnerships are disability support advocates. In Universities, this often takes the form of student services geared toward accommodations in class. In another successful partnership, the authors were able to promote the event within the structure of a university acculturation class. Student attendees were asked to write brief reflection papers, promoting greater engagement with the event and its educational goals. In developing events like these, the greatest expense comes from building game collections. While more familiar board games are generally quite affordable, these are generally among the worst when it comes to accessible design. That said, certain companies have created modified versions, including large print, braille, and tactile modifications. While these do expand human diversity in playability, most of these are post-market modifications which increases costs by as much as 500%. With the rising prevalence and falling costs of 3D printing and makerspaces, replacing or modifying the pieces and parts of existing games is far more effective, if the right facilities are available in your area. The authors will also share informational resources, including informational sites that will help in growing your own list of games suitable for playtesting, with factors such as popularity, time investment, complexity level, and design mechanics. 3D printing files are free or inexpensive, and multiple online communities devoted to accessibility in games can be found through both gaming and disabled perspectives.

Keywords: games, accessibility, libraries, outreach

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003649

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