Today was the most fun day on my project thus far, and also the most insightful. Today I got to play Settlers of Catan – or more precisely, the Seafarers expansion of Catan – in the name of research, in an awesome gaming café near Haymarket called Noughts and Coffees, with a group of visually impaired gamers.
The first member of the group I met was David, whom I had initially contacted by email after Derek Rutherford gave me his address. We discussed some of the games he and the group enjoys and the adaptations they have made themselves to popular commercial games. When he told me they played Settlers of Catan I was intrigued to find out how, and then when Dave and Michael arrived I was invited to play Catan with them.
The game started with the setup procedure I’ve seen many times over the ten years I’ve been playing this with friends back home. Dave, a sighted volunteer, put the board together and laid out the hexes and numbers. Then he drew out a representation of the starting board state on a large whiteboard, in black pen.
For the duration of the game, David held the board, holding it close to his eyes and moving it across to scan the situation. Whenever a settlement was placed by another player, that player called the resource and number of the hexes it was adjacent to and provided further details such as ‘north of…’ and David updated his board accordingly.
While this did allow him to play the game effectively, his manner of capturing the board state did lose some details; it differentiated between his settlements and roads (black) and opponents’ settlements and roads (red), but not between individual opponents settlements and roads. There is also no difference between the marking for a settlement and a city, which generates more resources than a settlement and grants more victory points. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the simplicity of the solution and the general enthusiasm and determination to play popular, complex, and modern games that were clearly not designed with accessibility in mind.
Now to write up my field notes- there will undoubtedly be further posts related to this day, and as they are very keen to test any prototypes I design, further visits to report on.