Helping Other Gamers With Consideration for the Visually Impaired

As one of the regular hosts at Games on Demand at GenCon, it was my duty to match games, facilitators (i.e. GMs), and players. Three exchanges of players looking for games stuck out.

One exchange was someone saying “I’m glad I have money so I don’t have to volunteer to get my badge for GenCon.” This left a bitter taste in my mouth, but underneath that derision was a valid point: He wanted to play games. And I happily paired him with a game run by a passionate GM – I think he ended up playing Monsterhearts, which I know was out of his comfort zone; I think he enjoyed it.

Another exchange was with a couple and I assume their teenage child. They were waiting for games and got to the front of the line only to find that they weren’t interested in any of the available games. And they really didn’t want to leave the front of the line. They wouldn’t accept my promise that of all the remaining games, each of the GMs were passionate about running their game. Eventually they left disgruntled without taking a risk.

The third exchange was with a middle aged woman whom had obvious low vision issues – the white cain was my visual clue. I had seen her walking around the entry way, and at one point another host guided her to a place where she could sit and not worry about getting jostled around. And there she sat patiently.

During this particular slot, I was fortunate to have a second person helping with hosting. And as things were brought under control, I approached the woman who was so patiently waiting.

As I sat down with her, I asked about her vision issues, so I could understand how I could pair her up with someone. It turned out that she had something similar to Macular Degeneration – her central vision was gone. I explained that my mom had Retinitis Pigmentosis – my mom has no peripheral vision and only a pinprick of central vision – and was herself nearly blind.

In helping this woman, I thought of my mom, and how she struggles to play games with even the most simple of components.

Clearly any game with a heavy reliance on maps and tactical movement was out of the question. So she was in the right place as most of the offerings were Indie games, in which maps are eschewed; Or more appropriately used as a visual augmentation.

While she was waiting, she had been carefully listening to the tables discussing their games. And she quickly began asking questions.

“Can you tell me about that game over there? It sounds interesting, but I’m afraid I’m not into petty conflict and teenage angst.”  – I explained Monsterhearts, and she said “No thank you.”

“And that one sounds like there is just too many dice for me to manage,” she said in reference to what I assume was Mythender.

We went through a few more, and for one reason or another they weren’t good fits.

I asked her if she had heard of Fiasco, and she said no. Here was a game that required very little in the way of visual information. I then went on to quickly explain it, but it became evident that she wasn’t looking to play a bad person, nor did she want the other characters to be bad.

That greatly narrowed the field; There is something about tragedy tourism that Indie games aspire to. We worked our way through the offerings, and it was clear that she knew what she didn’t want to play.

I had an “A ha!” moment, and went to talk with Marissa of Magpie Games. She was prepping to run a game of Our Last Best Hope. And I asked her for the quick run down of the game and paired that with the woman’s request.

Sure enough, this would work out. The woman was very much interested in playing a character trying to save the earth from a catastrophe – bad things could happen to her character so long as they weren’t inflicted by other non-GM players.

Afterwards, I talked with Marissa and it sounded as if the woman enjoyed the game. And while there are some visual aspects to the game there were others helping, and the game went off rather well.

This exchange left me wondering what other games would work for people with visual impairments.

Other Games For The Visually Impaired

Our Last Best Hope – there are some writing elements, but really this can be handled by other people helping out.

Fiasco – while the setup may be a bit challenging, once the game is rolling, it should be relatively easy for someone to play.

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple – yes you are asked to record your story in one sentence, which may be challenging to write, but why not have another person be the scribe.

InSpectres – While the character sheets are very busy, they can be distilled into something quite compact.

Cthulhu Dark – Each character has two concerns; What is my insanity score and what is my profession. Simple characters. Simple rules.

School Daze – Characters are a simple collection of information; Should be easy to mentally juggle. Not a lot of text to wrestle with.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it may prove helpful for those of you looking for a game to play with someone you know who has vision impairments.

Rules Lite Games and the Open Game License

This is in response to my Hollowpoint Reveiw from 2011; I’m presently playing clean-up on some draft blog posts.

FiascoHollowpointDo: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple are each rules-lite games that could  be summarized in about 2 full pages; Hollowpoint is by far the most rules intensive of these three.

Disclaimer: I am not a game publisher nor designer, so I don’t have any skin in the RPG business.

Pros to Releasing the Rules

Distill the fluff from the crunch: What are the core rules and what is the product’s identity. I know I prefer to have the lovingly crafted book, with a well thought out layout vs. a webpage with presentation as an all to often after thought.

Easy for third party adaption: If someone wants to expand on the game, providing a clear path makes it easier; Yes they could just ask the publisher for permission.

Product Preview: By giving access to the rules, crunch-minded people can “test drive before buying.”  If you have a highly stylized presentation, providing just the rules might be detrimental to your game (I’m looking at you my most gorgeous Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple).

Cons to Releasing the Rules

The skeleton of your game is now free to the public.  Will it hurt the sales?

What other consequences are there?

What license do you release under? OGL? Creative Commons 3? GPL? MIT? Apache?

Reality of Releasing the Rules

I am not a lawyer, but I’ve done a bit of research regarding the OGL and copyright.

According to US copyright laws, the language used to describe a rule is copyrightable, but the underlying concept of the rule is not.  So if you can, in your own words, describe a rule, then you are likely not infringing on the copyright holder.  Patents, on the other hand, are a completely different beast.

If I had the inclination, I could rewrite the rules of a game and release them.  It would then be a matter of whether the copyright holder of my source material decided to pursue a copyright infringement case or not.

This reinterpretation would be rather dick-ish and is in direct violation of Wheaton’s law.  Besides, would I rather copy someone else’s work, or would I rather work out my own creation.

Licenses for Rules Release

Customer Service – Evil Hat Style – It is Fabulous

As I’ve previously posted, I proudly sponsored the Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple kickstarter project.  I followed the kickstarter while it was seeking funding assisting the the spell-checking/proof-reading.

Daniel Solis and Fred Hicks did an amazing job keeping the sponsors in the loop.  We saw proofs, artwork, etc.  All of which resulted in a wonderful sponsoring experience.

Once the funding wrapped up, Daniel continued to post updates regarding production.  And a few weeks ago, the books began to ship out of Fort Wayne from Alliance Games.  Living 50 minutes away, I received what was likely one of the first copies. And the production was borked.

The pages were in backwards and upside down.  I tweeted @DanielSolis and he pointed me to EvilHat.  @FredHicks got in the loop, and in short order with a snapped picture, a new book was shipped.

I don’t know if a wave of panic hit Fred and Daniel given that I was an early recipient of a mis-produced book, but their response was prompt, professional, extremely helpful.  And as it turns out, I likely have a one of a kind book.

Don’t get me wrong, the book that I received was functional, and I’d be just as happy with it as a properly produced game.

So thank you Daniel and Fred, and all of those that had a part in the creation of this quite interesting game.

Me with my new copy of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

Me with my new copy of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

K is for Kickstart

I’ve been following the guys at Evil Hat in my feed reader (and Fred Hicks on Twitter) and this past Friday I saw mention of a kickstarter campaign for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple by Daniel Solis, and was immediately intrigued.  The introductory blurb caught my eye:

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple is a slapstick fantasy storytelling game. You tell the story of young travelers flying to different worlds, helping strangers, and getting in trouble along the way. Think of it like Avatar: The Last Airbender, but the main characters are Sokka, Momo and the Cabbage Guy. (

Part role-playing game, part-board game, geared towards family entertainment.  Sounds like a winner to me.  But before I was going to commit to backing this project, I wanted to sleep on the decision. That was April 9th, when Do had about $2500 in pledges.  When I woke up in the morning, I decided hey, why not, I’ll pledge my support.  And that was when I saw it had $6800 in pledges.  Not bad considering this Kick Starter project needed about $4200 in pledges to get going.

Take a look at the graph on Fred’s Tumblr; the green line is what they needed for funding.  Needless to say, the design/development team hit upon something rather impressive, and have certainly leveraged social media to stir the pot.  With the volume of pledges they have been adjusting the expectations along the way; Communicating how the additional pledges will affect production costs, print run availability, shipping costs, bonus features etc. All very exciting.