Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Games for Blind People or Blackouts

I was actually wanting games that could be played with the power out, that is, in dim light or darkness. There's one I've heard of but don't own, that uses a candle on the board to cast shadows, trapping little gnomes. It's called Waldschattenspiel (Shadows in the Forest). You can buy it or make your own. (I'd like to have this in my collection.) But it's the only blackout game I've encountered in local-Earth. Terramagne has it as a whole genre. *wist* They're very different than what I'm finding here -- more shadowplay games, more audio games, but also more tactile games that were designed that way not modified.

So let's see ... MaxiAids has board games at quite reasonable prices. You need to know Braille to play most of them. Why are we not teaching everyone to read Braille so they don't die of boredom in the dark? Braillebookstore has multiple types of games, also mostly reasonable prices. Additionally they have Braille rulebooks. A problem I have is that I'm not a big fan of abstract strategy games, and most of what has been rendered for tactile play falls into that category. :/

Once you have tactile dice -- these usually have raised pips or Braille -- you can play any game that only needs dice. There are hundreds if not thousands of dice games.

Similarly, tactile dominoes have raised pips or Braille. This is one I'm considering. They're cheap and it's easy to play. Numerous variations exist. I am not generally a fan of playing dominoes, but the tactile aspect might be interesting, and any way to kill time during a blackout is worthy of consideration.

Dice, dominoes, cards, Looney Pyramids, Piecepack -- they're all game systems. Each one can be used to create hundreds of games. Take Gobblet, which uses two sets of nesting cylinders distinguished by color. Now change that to round, triangular, and square nesting pieces. Now it's as versatile as dice. You could add more shapes, but it soon gets difficult to distinguish. Go back to the cylinders and put Braille, symbols, a color code, etc. on the tops. That gives you as many sets as Looney Pyramids or more. Conversely, use bells of different size and material to create sets of markers. This is especially interesting if the handle includes information different from the sound (e.g. high, middle, and low notes; wood, glass, or metal bells; stem, flat, or forked handles) so that everyone would know the sound but only the person touching the handle would know it. Imagine the inclusivity impact of devising a new game system with tactile or audio distinctions, such that folks could buy one thing and have access to many new games. A challenge with this is that the easiest games to invent tend to be strategy games; storytelling is harder. But look at Shadows in the Forest. With three elements -- light, shapes, and pawns -- you could tell a totally different story about trying to connect shadow shapes. I actually described two game systems, Trine and Fates, in "Chances Old and New." Tuubz appear in "One Wants to Be Together."

Various matching games are listed. Now this is one that anyone can make at home with a bag of wooden craft circles or poker chips or whateverthehell. Put them in pairs. Find a bunch of nonperishable crap to glue on them: pennies, sand or sandpaper, textured fabric like corduroy, buttons, washers, etc. You can either play in a bag, where you draw one piece and grope around for its mate; or lay them out and play Memory. An advantage of Memory is it's very easy to scale up or down difficulty. To scale up, use more pairs or make trios. To scale down, use fewer pairs. Playing the tactile version, I'd probably start with 6 pairs. Plus you can play these solitaire if you like. I suck at Memory but the tactile chips might make it more interesting.

Another way to get very cheap game pieces is ancient. Suppose you need some counters, or several sets of counters that can be distinguished. Use dry beans. Frex, broad beans are large flat ovals, kidney beans are long ovals, chickpeas are sort of spherical, and black beans are small short ovals. Some other materials work too, such as corn kernels, cherry pits, smooth pebbles, melted marbles, etc. But beans are available everywhere and they conveniently come in several shapes.

Oh, and there's one party game I remember, normally played behind a sheet, but you may not need that during a blackout and certainly not with blind players. Get together some unbreakable junk. You drop things one at a time and other players try to guess what they are. Anything else noisy will work too, like the trick where you fold paper over a comb and blow it like a harmonica.

There aren't many games that are entirely or mostly auditory. We need more of these. The whole category is ideal for blind or blackout play.

Certain roleplaying games might work. A few are diceless. The problem is those tend to lean on the rulebook. A few run heavy to storytelling -- that and some tactile dice will get you a long way. What you need is either A) Braille, B) a textreader that does not rely on outlet electricity (for blackout play), or C) rules and characters and stuff that are super easy to memorize. I suspect that with some practice, PDQ would work. You can teach it to people in just a few minutes. A particular asset is the character sheet lends it self to simply listing 5 things you do well (all at Good) and 1 you do poorly. The tables are so simple you can memorize them just by using them. Mostly it would depend on a gamemaster who excels at pantsing and players who like to run off the trail, because you can't rely on lots of notes unless you use Braille. PDQ uses 2d6 so just get tactile dice.

The world needs more vision-impaired game designers. Anything purpose-made tends to work better than adapted stuff. Are any of my vision-impaired friends into this? Because you could market games for blackout purposes to everyone, which should drive down the price and make it more accessible to blind folks. Should work great in a crowdfunding model. Don't expect conventional companies to go for it, though.

Just in case anyone wants a new hobby:

Inclusivity in game design, in case game designers want an underserved category to develop: https://brandonthegamedev.com/how-to-develop-visually-and-physically-accessible-board-games/

This article about universal inaccessibility made me laugh. Modern people LOL. No, you don't need a manual to have a game. That's for super complicated games, and almost all of those are less than a century old. People used to play games with plum pits and rocks and stuff. Go literally boils down to three rules. We didn't bother to write them down at all until recently; games were taught person-to-person. The less complex a game is, the easier it is to learn, remember, and teach. Some will just about tell you how to play them with pieces alone, like tic-tac-toe. So to break the inaccessibility of manuals, design with pieces that imply their uses and/or a very simple set of rules. It's harder than it sounds, but if you do it right, awesome things result.

Similarly, this one is about games as expensive luxuries. Forget it. You can play with rocks and sticks and imagination. You just need junk, if you want it, to provide interest and variability. There is no reason why a game has to cost anything, because humans made them long before we made money. Probably at least 50,000 years before and I would not be surprised if Neanderthals had some. If you want an elaborate game you can spend a ton of money on it. If you're designing for blackout (rarely played) or blind (statistically often poor) players then you want something affordable, cheap, or best of all free. And no, entertainment is not a luxury, it is necessary for sanity, although not everyone loves games in particular. Also, it's not even just humans: dolphins have a bubble-ring game with discernible rules which is probably as old as, well, dolphins.

Most games need parts. There are places that sell game pieces. This one is for game designers and kinda pricey, but with great selection. Wholesale junk is also great, like party favors or swag. Any shapely thing made of solid plastic or wood is a good bet. If making things for your own amusement rather than sale, hit thrift stores or eBay because they often have bags of random game parts.  This article discusses board game pieces for prototyping

A leading distinction is color. Don't use that, unless you want to code it with something like Coloradd or Feelipa. Generally don't use makeshift mods like gluing dots on things if you can avoid it, although drilling a hole through flat wooden pieces works just fine. You want macro texture differences. Chessmen feel different in shape. There is no reason why you can't make a game using a pawn, a knight, a rook, and a queen as markers. However, there are a zillion Braille pieces (e.g. checkers, Scrabble) if you want to buy those. Another option for two-part sets would be a bunch of solid metal circles and washers in the same size. Or pennies and washers. Don't forget toys that are entirely made of different pieces, like Legos or Tangrams.

So if anyone makes new blackout or blind games, I'd be interested to hear about those. Same if you know current ones not listed.

EDIT: 10/28/18: I have posted descriptions of some inclusive games from Terramagne.

EDIT 4/1/21: Nyctophobia is a horror game played blindfolded, so only one player can see the board and the others must navigate it only by touch.
Tags: activism, gaming, how to

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