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A new study: tabletop user experience and accessibility

Sir Corvus

Registered User
Validated User
#1
Hello!

I've decided to merge some of my greatest passions: tabletop gaming with accessibility and user experience (UX) design.

What does that mean?

I want to promote better usability design in our hobby. I'm not strictly referring to graphic design or module structures, but the ways that these products are constructed and presented to people; how they're consumed, used and experienced.

It's also about inclusive design. That means keeping in mind people who have disabilities or environmental and technological constraints.

Here are a few basic examples, big and small, of problematic design choices that I've noticed:
  • a lack of click-able links in the index of a PDF rulebook
  • really large PDF file size (slow loading and interactions at the table)
  • crucial rules hidden inside of huge blocks of fluff text (a lack of bolding or use of clear headings)
  • Confusing, poorly organised and overly elaborate rulebooks (I'm looking at you, FFG)
  • Artwork that either doesn't represent the subject matter at all or even misrepresents important information
  • A dice mechanic where players must differentiate between two dice solely by colour (a frustration those with colour blindness)
  • very small or unintelligible fonts that require extra effort to decipher
  • Printing maps with such low contrast that tiny but crucial details are missed
  • Character sheets that are pretty but overly complicated or difficult to scan quickly
  • Not having wheelchair ramps to access the tables at a gaming conventions

This isn't about negativity: it's about learning from people's experiences and finding ways to share solutions with game designers, writers and con organizers so that we can make the hobby a better experience for all.

What this is for


I wish to eventually produce a guide of sorts that would help spread awareness of these types of experiences, along with suggestions on how to make products more accessible and usable by a wider audience. My first step is research: listening to peoples' experiences instead of making assumptions.

How you can help

I invite people to please share any of the following information:

Example(s) of positive designs you've experienced (rulebook, components, convention experiences etc).

Example(s) of negative designs you've experienced: things that frustrated you, confused you or flat out prevented you from enjoying a game product.

If you feel comfortable doing so, I would love to know if you consider yourself as having a constraint or even a disability that the design didn't account for; which limited or inhibited your enjoyment of a product. Examples:
  • Older hardware (eg. Limited technology)
  • Spacial constraints (small table area)
  • Colour blindness
  • Vision or hearing impairment
  • Mobility challenge(s)
  • Cognitive impairment (eg. Dyslexia)

My hope is to use these examples (anonymously and with permission, of course) to discover trends in good and poor design. I want to improve our hobby and share these insights with the community at large.


Disclaimer: I admit that I'm consciously incompetent and possibly insufficiently up to date in terms of terminology and other social issues. I've been working in the field of web accessibility for many years, but as a human being I'm imperfect and I'm always eager to learn more and to correct past mistakes. My intentions are good: if I use a term of idea that is upsetting or offensive, I will sincerapologize in advance. My goal is to listen, not to lecture or condescend. I want to help people and to spread awareness.

Thank you kindly!
 
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celebrityomnipath

Murmaid Murderer
Validated User
#2
Example(s) of positive designs you've experienced (rulebook, components, convention experiences etc).
Kevin Crawford's work. .pdfs with actual usable indexes, hyperlinks, stuff cleerly sumerised at the beginning (Godbound does this so well).


Something I have been hinterested in doing: You can set up highlights behind text in InDesign (note: that link is a kinda work-around, there must be a betterer way to do this), then make the highlight colour something dark blue liek #000088, there now dyslexics can read it.


Example(s) of negative designs you've experienced: things that frustrated you, confused you or flat out prevented you from enjoying a game product.
Hueg dicepools. If people have hand problems then they can't roll that many dice.


  • Cognitive impairment (eg. Dislexia)
Ironically you have misspelled dyslexia.
 
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DarrenE

Registered User
Validated User
#3
Have you seen the work Meeple Like Us are doing on accessibility in boardgames? I suspect they would be happy to collaborate as they are doing similar stuff regarding creating guidelines for boardgames designers & publishers to reduce barriers to gaming.
 

amechra

Registered User
Validated User
#5
Not so much a problem with games themselves, but a problem with a certain type of GM advice:

I have an issue with games that advise people to play music during the game itself. In my personal case (and I'm not the only one), music - regardless of how good that music is - is a distraction. I can either listen to the music or you, Friend GM, and I have issues keeping up anyway.

Also, fancy fonts. Please do some research on whether or not your pretty font screws over people with dyslexia.
 

Sir Corvus

Registered User
Validated User
#6
Not so much a problem with games themselves, but a problem with a certain type of GM advice:

I have an issue with games that advise people to play music during the game itself. In my personal case (and I'm not the only one), music - regardless of how good that music is - is a distraction. I can either listen to the music or you, Friend GM, and I have issues keeping up anyway.

Also, fancy fonts. Please do some research on whether or not your pretty font screws over people with dyslexia.
Fascinating! I hadn't considered how music could be so disruptive. Come to think of it, my brain somehow knew. It's very true, especially when the music has lyrics.

Thank you for your contribution!!
 

Sir Corvus

Registered User
Validated User
#7
Have you seen the work Meeple Like Us are doing on accessibility in boardgames? I suspect they would be happy to collaborate as they are doing similar stuff regarding creating guidelines for boardgames designers & publishers to reduce barriers to gaming.
Yes! Great crew. Some folks on Twitter (from the UX and Accessibility field) recommended them to me. Glad to hear praise from others.
 

Sir Corvus

Registered User
Validated User
#8
To clarify, I'm reaching out to hear about peoples' experiences. Actual research happens later. I want to hear from people, take in their stories. This work is being done to help the community and spread awareness. Anything helps!

Inclusive design is super important.

Thanks again!
 

MistahJ

Registered User
Validated User
#9
Hello, hi! I'm a person who is visually impaired. I thought that I might mention what tends to be important for me! I typically game with my laptop at the gaming table. :)

I just wanted to mention an example of a pdf that mostly got things right for someone visually impaired! Fun fact: pdfs are more accessible to me as a visually impaired person because I have tools on my computer that can mitigate certain problems in a book. When a hard copy gets something wrong, it means I can likely never use that book! So that's why I'm exclusively a pdf purchaser now.

Belly of the Beast (positives!)
  • Large text size, clearly spaced--not just for the main text, but headers as well. Coincidentally, beyond my visual impairment, this spacial setup was easier on me as a chronic migraine sufferer.
  • Clearly readable font for the main font
  • There is not too much text on each page! I like that quite a lot. It creates a more 'open' look that is easy on the eyes and also makes the book more generally approachable in a general sense to me. I never feel that I am visually overwhelmed or overwhelmed by information with this pdf.
  • Even the 'special' fonts on the cover and just on the inside page are readable because they took care to select ones that do not overly distort the shape of the letters. This was a much-appreciated touch, because it still made the book have some nice textual emotional tone without distorting it beyond readability!
  • Mostly black text on white background, which made for a very clean look, aside from a few reasonable uses of red. This is important to me. Colored backgrounds often make darker text 'blur' for me, and then I have to resort to my text-to-speech reader. Generally, white background with some manner of dark text is exceedingly helpful for me.
  • Links in the table of contents! Yay!
  • Sparse art, but where it is used, it does not detract from the text and instead enhances my experience of the book. It is full-page art, which for me is the best art. This is important to me because art that only takes up part of a page often distorts text for me, especially if that art lacks clear borders/boundaries.
  • I did not need my text-to-speech reader with this book, but I tested it anyway, and it functioned beautifully because of the simple clean formatting!

Belly of the Beast (negatives!)
  • Index, where art thou? Indexes really help someone like me who can get lost easily in a document, and there's no clearly defined index in my pdf. Indexes are typically more in-depth than a table of contents and include specific terms I can look up. Typically I still give a book a thumbs up if it's less than 100 pages and doesn't have an index since I figure that's a small book (I can still get by!), but for any book with over 200 pages, please make an index! An index with terms that have links I can follow would have been grand. However, this alone was not enough to upset me with the product!
 
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Mounrou

Moo?
Validated User
#10
Lingo is pretty darn important. While not every game have the same rules or use the same parts of rules, we do have a slight sort of "same thing described 20 different ways" problem that's never good for beginners anywhere. SRD tried to fix that, but its both 1) Too system centric, and 2) Made people felt its too system centric that non-SRD gamers might even avoid it. Plus copyright issues regarding specific terms add to the need of using new terms to describe existing things...

>There should be an attempt to, instead of an open SRD, have an open industry-standard terms that ANYONE can use, and try to stick to it unless it really is uniquely different, to 1) Make learning easier, 2) To avoid confusions that even veterans might get confused on at times, and 3) Make jumping around systems easier (Though that might not work so well for people who established the copyrighted terms in the first place...) 4) Reduce effort in getting new terms on old things just to avoid the C&D.

Let's just call HPs as HPs instead of Health, hits, LP, Vita, Vitra, etc....
 
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