64 Oz. Games is a company run by Richard and Emily Gibbs that focuses on making blind and vision impaired accessibility kits for board and card games. While their original products were the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, 64 Oz. Games are constantly working to create accessibility kits for a wide range of tabletop games.
Richard was gracious enough to spend time answering questions for TechRaptor recently. Read below to find out more about 64 Oz. Games, their motivation to create accessibility kits and the challenges that they face when attempting to find games to create kits for.
TR: Please tell us about yourself, 64 Oz. Games and your experience in the board games industry.
Richard: My name is Richard Gibbs. My wife and I run 64 Oz. Games, a company that specializes in creating accessibility kits for existing games. These kits allow blind and sighted players to play games together. The kits usually consist of transparent braille and transparent sleeves for the cards.
When we started our company it was to produce the games that I had designed instead of doing anything to do with accessibility. I had about 3 games which I thought were ready to publish.
My wife is a Teacher of Blind Students and I had personally taught braille and worked with people who were blind in many different programs across the country. Because of this we had made a lot of blind friends and one thing that always came up with me being as into board games as I am was the fact that we couldn't play them with our blind friends. So when we were looking for a way to differentiate ourselves as a company we decided that it was important that we made our games blind accessible because we had run across this problem ourselves.
When I was looking for manufacturers who could produce even card games with braille I came up empty. We decided that we needed to do it ourselves and ran a Kickstarter campaign.
Once we established ourselves as the accessibility company, it kind of took over. We decided that it would be too much to take on publishing our own games too. Although I love my games and really want them to see an audience I think opening up games to the blind community is a far more important thing for us to spend our resources on.
TR:What was your inspiration for creating blind and vision impaired-accessible kits for board games?
Richard: This mostly came from first hand experience trying to play games with blind friends. While it was possible to braille a game with a braille writer or slate and stylus it was a lot of work and work that would need to be repeated by hand if anyone else wanted to play the game. We actually still have a copy of Apples to Apples and Bohnanza that we hand brailled ourselves but they have a lot of typos.
TR: How receptive have games designers and publishers been to your kits?
Richard: They have been pretty receptive whenever I talked to them. Only one company even mentioned violation of copyright and licensing and they dropped it as soon as I pointed them toward the exceptions for accessible formats like braille. Many publishers have actually sent games to us so we would braille them. AEG in particular has been supportive providing copies of Love Letter for contests.
I think one of the things I need to start communicating right now is how little work I'm making it on the publisher end. If they send me the game I've pretty much worked toward making a kit for it.
I have been working with designers of Kickstarters too. A few have reached out to me recently such as Matthew O' Malley with his Kickstarter for Knot Dice which should be soon and Sarah Reed with Project Dreamscape, but there have been others. The main thing that I want to make sure is that I can do the game and that there is a plan for distribution after the campaign so people can buy the game and the kit after the fact.
TR: How do you decide on games to create accessibility kits for and do you take suggestions for which games will have kits made for them?
Richard: The main thing is that I look on the shelf and see what I own. We also have a Patreon account setup that allow direct feedback.
A few times someone has been excited enough to actually want to send me a game. If someone cares that much then they certainly want that kit. To me that is a higher priority than a Kickstarter campaign or a publisher that people may or may not buy a kit for.
That being said, I have promised to make some kits for Kickstarter games during their campaign to hopefully earn them some backers. To be completely honest I don't always actually transcribe them until someone purchases it. There are a few KS games that I have done this for that are for sale in my store I haven't sold a copy of.
TR: What is the biggest hurdle in making an accessibility kit for a game?
Richard: Time. It takes me hours to put a game in the store. I have to literally type every bit of text on the card and decide how to represent gameplay important graphics. If there is a lot of text I also have to make QR codes for the game.Beyond that the actual mechanics can sometimes get in the way. Visual mechanics can be tough or impossible like with Dixit. Another thing that can get in the way is speed. If two players are getting information in different ways even if you braille it, it isn't fair if speed is a main mechanic.
Large sprawling boards can be bad too... but they are possible I believe. The biggest game with a sprawling board I've attempted is Pandemic but I plan to do more.
TR: What resources would you recommend to people who would like to learn braille?
Richard: I wouldn't be an expert there. I would recommend that you fight for braille for your kids with the school district no matter what degree of residual vision the child has. It is much better for the kid to have it in his/her tool chest when they grow up even if they don't use it.
As an adult I would recommend taking the time at a rehab center. I can't speak highly enough of the NFB Louisiana center in Ruston having personally spent a lot of time there. There are other centers run by many different agencies around the country but the main thing is to demand direct braille instruction. I know these centers pull people out of their lives for months at a time but the difference in independence you see in a trained individual is amazing. Of course not all centers are equal and many are downright bad with low expectations. Do your research. Sometimes bad training is worse than no training... but no training is bad.
There are other options to learn braille specifically such as Hadley's transcription program but that requires a lot of self discipline to do successfully and I have heard a lot of mixed results.
TechRaptor would like to thank Richard for taking the time to answer our questions. If you have questions for Richard or would like to know more about 64 Oz. Games and the accessibility kits that they currently offer you can find Richard on Twitter, head directly over to 64ouncegames.com or visit their Patreon page.