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Meeple centred design

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Delivered at the UK Games Expo on Friday 1st of June, 2018 . In this seminar, Dr Michael Heron and Pauline Belford of Meeple Like Us discuss the topic of board game accessibility and why support for people with disabilities within the tabletop gaming community is important - not just for its own sake, but for all of us.

Pages referenced here:

Meeple Like Us: http://meeplelikeus.co.uk
The Game Accessibility Guidelines: http://gameaccessibilityguidelines.com/

Eighteen Months of Meeple Like Us:
http://meeplelikeus.co.uk/eighteen-months-of-meeple-like-us-an-exploration-into-the-state-of-board-game-accessibility/

Meeple Centred Design: http://meeplelikeus.co.uk/meeple-centred-design-a-heuristic-toolkit-for-evaluating-the-accessibility-of-tabletop-games/

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Meeple centred design

  1. 1. Adventures in the World of Board Game Accessibility Michael Heron and Pauline Belford http://meeplelikeus.co.uk
  2. 2. Introduction It’s nice to be living in a golden age of board games. But the riches of this age are not equally available to everyone. We are awash in innovation and exciting design. The range of game styles and interactions is phenomenal. But sometimes that can be a problem…
  3. 3. Games are Amazingly Varied Fast, real-time, failure all but guaranteed Tense, argumentative, lies, deceit and bluffing ‘Awkward Conversations: The Board game’ Physical dexterity, binocularity, breath and mobility
  4. 4. Games are Amazingly Varied Vocabulary and inference Potentially everything, with no advance warning Empathy, art interpretation, creativity within constraints Colour interpretation and pattern matching
  5. 5. And that’s only the start… Video games, despite tending towards being more demanding, are an easier problem domain. If you can sort out the connection between the player, the interface, and the game you’re sorted. What is the interface between a player and a board game? It varies from game to game, and almost every game is inaccessible to some degree.
  6. 6. The Social Model of Disability Consider the word ‘disability’ Where is the disability in the picture shown? In the person? In the wheelchair? Or…
  7. 7. The Social Model of Disability Inaccessibility means, literally, not accessible It usually references a barrier that exists between an actor and a goal In the slide before, it’s not the wheelchair or the disability that is the inaccessibility. It’s the stairs, and they were put there by someone.
  8. 8. Inaccessibility in Board Games Board games are full of stairs. Metaphorically speaking. Our problem is more complex than simply avoiding them. The problem is that inaccessibility is fun. Games, by their very nature, are about overcoming inaccessibilities. The trick is to make sure that inaccessibilities are intentional.
  9. 9. Categories of Inaccessibility Colour Blindness Visual Impairment Fluid Intelligence Memory Emotional Sociological Economic Fine motor control Gross motor control Communication
  10. 10. Accessibility is for Everyone Disability is a hugely important use case for accessibility, but not the only one. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances have the same concerns as extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances. We are all getting older, and I assume we all want to be playing games in our old age. Accessibility is how we ensure that.
  11. 11. Permanent, Temporary and Intermittent Impairment Permanent Temporary Intermittent Colour Blindness Monochromacy Bad lighting Inference of Context Visual Total blindness Eye patch Sunlight in eyes Cognitive Dementia Drunk Distracted Physical Paralysis Broken arm Holding something heavy Emotional Borderline Personality Disorder Work stresses Bad mood Communication Deaf Lost voice In a mixed language environment Socioeconomic Ethnicity Cash-flow problem Unpleasant company
  12. 12. Meeple Like Us Meeple Like Us is aimed at mapping out the accessibility landscape. This work is often controversial, particularly because we view inclusion and diversity as an accessibility domain. To date we have analyzed ~150 games, mostly from the BGG Top 500 And we are looking to do more.
  13. 13. Limitations We make no claim this work is authoritative. It’s undertaken from primarily an abled perspective. (Anything else is incredibly difficult) It doesn’t benefit from an embodied appreciation of inaccessibility. Letter grades for categories flatten all nuance.
  14. 14. The Teardown The primary tool we use for accessibility analyses is the teardown. This works from a heuristic framework that creates a consistent set of lenses for analysis. We play each game several times. We apply the framework. We publish the results.
  15. 15. The Philosophy of a Teardown Hugely important here is the philosophy behind a teardown. It does not take a medical approach to the topic. (No-one involved in the site is qualified to do that) It doesn’t address conditions or manifestations of disability. It analyses game systems, not the people that would play them.
  16. 16. The Teardown From this we map out areas of concern or best practice in games. Like olde-world sailors, occasionally we miss hazards or mark ‘here be dragons’ on safe waters. However, these case studies are provided for players to decide for themselves how appropriate a game may be. And to offer designers a comparator against which to assess their own games.
  17. 17. Thank you! Any questions? http://meeplelikeus.co.uk
  18. 18. If you found this useful and would like to support our accessibility, please consider our Patreon! Your support is invaluable in keeping this work going. https://www.patreon.com/meeplelikeus

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