Well-established card based games such as Munchkin and Cards Against Humanity provide blank cards for players to personalise their edition by adding their own customised elements, and in the past couple of years games legacy versions of board games such as Pandemic have been released in which the board and tokens are marked by the players at the end of a game to allow a subsequent game to begin with the end state of the previous game.
While I have been thinking about how games might be adapted for visually impaired people, I haven’t really considered this adaptation as a form of personalisation. Yet speaking to David on Thursday, it became very clear that while adaptations made to assist people with various disabilities can often be used reluctantly or even resented by the people they are designed to help, they can also provide an opportunity to create an incredibly personal experience. One of the games David plays is Love Letter, a game in which each card represents a character and each character has unique rules. In David’s set, each card is marked with a Penfriend tag which contains an audio recording of the name of the card and its rules – read by his wife. The next game they are considering customizing this way is Discworld, based on the series of books by Terry Pratchett. David told me they had discussed recording character dialogue from the audio books onto cards, but that he also quite wanted his wife to record lines of dialogue herself because she was able to do ‘hysterically funny’ impressions of characters.
The penfriend is designed to allow blind people to mark things such as clothes with tags describing their colour, or medicine bottles with their dosage and usage instructions; however in this context it was not only being used as an accessibility tool but also to create an extra, highly personal dimension to mass manufactured games. Unfortunately, the stickers are expensive and thus using it to adapt more complex games is prohibitively expensive.