When I first saw that “Accessibility in Games” was going to be the March 2016 RPG Blog Carnival topic from Jacob Wood at Accessible Games, I knew I’d have to come up with some things to say. Why? Because I suspect I may come at it from a slightly different direction than other folks…
And Jacob didn’t disappoint with his kick-off post. It offers tons of great ideas on what to explore in these carnival posts! I’ll probably even hit a few of them. 🙂
But let me get started…
Accessibility is one of those words that is really context-dependent when you start defining it. I spend a lot of time designing user interfaces for software development tools in my day job and “accessibility” refers to a whole host of abilities such as having keyboard shortcuts for mouse actions, offering ways to change font size and text color for maximum contrast, and many other things. For a list you can check out this Section 508 site for tons and tons of details. Ultimately, those details help more people use your software effectively.
More users means more contracts and sales, which means that you’re really expanding your market in a good way.
The same thing holds true for games. But applying accessibility to games, specifically tabletop roleplaying games in my case, has a slightly different spin. It’s less about the interface and more about the presentation.
In a printed document, you can’t really change the font size. So you have to make sure that your font is big enough to read, that it’s readable, and that the colors don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. I tend to try for at least 10 point fonts everywhere, especially in body text, with a good standard reading font (like Minion Pro in Adobe InDesign). Since I generate PDFs for print and for online reading, that seems to be a good lowest common denominator. When you open a PDF in a reader like Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can zoom to increase size as needed.
As far as colors, again – in a printed document – it’s a non-starter. Black and white is the way to go, with occasional gray accents for boxes or other things. I simply don’t have the budget for a full color print run, so I rely on a generous use of white space to help along with the stray line here or there.
And lastly today, I think adding hyperlinking within documents read online in a reader of some sort, whether on the web or in PDF form, is very important. It’s something I haven’t done enough of, quite honestly, and am working to improve in Moebius Adventures products this year. Being able to link terms, indices, and tables of contents makes the document that much more useful, not to mention usable.
Though accessibility is a great term, I think usability is something we should also focus on in our products. For instance, providing cheat sheets of commonly used die rolls, a glossary of terms, a printable worksheet to go along with creating a character, and so on. That’s more about information design and making your content more digestible to your readers than true accessibility – but I think it’s just as important.
For some great tutorials on choosing the right font, check out the Fontology series over at Fonts.com. They have a great overview of font-related terminology and what to look for.
Obviously this was a more technical article than I usually write here at Moebius Adventures, but I think it’s an important discussion to have as a writer and publisher. Jacob has hit upon a great topic to discuss this month!! Be sure to check out the Accessible Games website for a ton of great information and some fun games!
Don’t worry – I’ll be back to more game content next week!
Interested in contributing to this blog carnival or hosting your own? Johnn Four of Roleplaying Tips fame is hosting the carnival archive these days and has a list of what’s coming next!