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Meeple Like Us
Latest answers

Can I just play Devil's advocate for a moment and...

No. The devil already has plenty of advocates.

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Don't you think your teardowns would be less controversial if you removed the SJW bullshit?

Yes, I do.

I'm also not going to remove this aspect from any of articles.

The upset and anguish these sections cause to a certain segment of the population doesn't make then less relevant or meaningful.

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What would you consider your favourite video game, And why?

DMA

Yeesh, this is an incredibly tough question. Probably my single favourite individual game is Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, but that's going up against other titles like Deus Ex., Monkey Island 2, Pirates!, the SSI gold box games and many more.

I think the game I have probably poured the most time into over my life is Civilization 4 though, although I think it's a bit weaker than SMAC. It's just SMAC Is so old now that its design conventions really rankle.

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How often do you think about your future?

DMA

I'll be honest, not all that often. I'm not really one to worry about the future or brood about the past. I like to keep myself grounded in the here and now.

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hi. what is ur fav boardgame?

nimas ayu

Wow, that's hard to answer. I think the one that I most consistently enjoy and admire is Concordia. Every time I play it I am reminded anew of just how elegant and clever it is.

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Are you a social justice warrior?

I find almost everything that defines the alt-right to be regressive, fascistic and horrible. I believe society has serious structural inequalities that disadvantage many groups of people. I believe as a society we have a duty to ensure that we have as level a playing field as possible, and I take advantage of what platforms I have to agitate for that. In that respect, yes.

However, I also find the extremes of the 'social justice' movement to be unbearably sanctimonious. It's a culture where insufficient piety to the cause is deemed to be traitorous. It's an outrage economy fueled by self-important pronouncements on what is and is not acceptable in discourse. It's fundamentally regressive in exactly the same ways as the alt-right movement. It is unforgiving of nuance, and contemptuous of complexity.

The problem is, as it has always been, extremism. Look at any ideology that is causing harm in the world - it's not characterized by its fundamental tenets. It's characterized by the extremism of its followers.

I've been heavily criticized by individuals in the alt-right ecosystem. I've been heavily criticized by individuals in the social justice ecosystem. I'm too 'right on' for the alt-right, and too insufficiently pious for the social justice movement.

I like to think of myself then as occupying the 'social justice Goldilocks zone'. The good news is, that's where most people are. If you're going to have conversations about the kind of issues I discuss in my teardowns, then that's where you're most likely to find people willing to listen. I'm certainly much farther along towards the 'social justice' end of the zone than I am to the other, but I'm equally repelled by both extremes.

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What's your collection like?

I keep this pretty up to date, although ratings of games haven't yet reviewed tend to be in flux:

https://boardgamegeek.com/collection/user/drakkos

Heres's how my shelves currently look:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/251148745225174/permalink/318329318507116/

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I really appreciate what you're doing with Meeple Like Us. Do you have a Patreon for supporters?

At least at the moment, I consider the work I'm doing with Meeple Like Us to be partial fulfillment of my professional duties. I believe academics have a responsibility to communicate the results of their research in a way that is relevant to non-specialist audiences. While I'm certainly not employed to play board-games and write about them, this all falls into my general research area of 'accessibility in games'

As such, there is no Patreon for Meeple Like Us. Currently everything is done in my free time (such as it is) and as a result of spending my own money on the various board games I look at. At some point in the future, I might open up some kind of funding call to help subsidise that, but that point isn't here yet.

If you want to support the project, the best and easiest thing you can do is help signal boost our existence. Share posts, tweet links, submit interesting content on sites like Stumbleupon and Reddit. Comment on the site. Join us on Facebook[1]. All of that helps us build an audience and brings the topic of board game accessibility into greater public consciousness. Money is, comparatively, less important to the site for the moment.

[1] https://www.facebook.com/MeepleLikeUs/

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Do you have a BoardGameGeek profile you'd be willing to share?

Sure - this is me:

https://boardgamegeek.com/user/drakkos

You can also find the Meeple Like Us geeklist here:

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/208515/meeple-us-accessible-gaming-teardowns

While you're passing, feel free to chuck in a thumbs-up if you think it's of worth.

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Would you be willing to give us a little bit of Kickstarter shoutout?

Generally, no - unless I have a pre-existing relationship with the person or persons behind the game. I'm not a big fan of Kickstarter in its current incarnation - it used to be a way for cool people with cool ideas for cool projects to get some support and funding. Now it's a platform for larger, established companies to invert the burden of risk from themselves onto consumers. For the most part, it would be hypocritical for us to recommend people back a game to which we ourselves have no existing link.

However! We're always prepared to consider guest submissions to the blog, so if you have something relevant to our blog's focus and would like to submit a guest article you can get in touch. I'm happy for you to plug your own kickstarter in that, provided the post is likely to be interesting to our audience.

You can find more of our policy on reviews/shoutouts here: http://meeplelikeus.co.uk/for-publishers/

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Do you review Kickstarter games?

Generally no, unless I have a pre-existing relationship with the person, or persons, behind the game. We're not a blog focused primarily on what's new, and given our interest in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop gaming our remit tends to be with older and proven titles. You can find more info on our review policy here: http://meeplelikeus.co.uk/for-publishers/

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Are these questions just you talking to yourself?

Sort of!

These are replies to questions I've been asked elsewhere, and where the response was a little more substantial. They're genuine responses to genuine questions, just not questions necessarily asked here.

Except for this one.

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I don't think most games have a political slant, so what's with all the political correctness in your teardowns?

It's easy to miss the politics in anything when it's so ingrained into the way we think about things that it doesn't even feature. It doesn't have to be overt, and usually it isn't. But to say 'I don't think this has a political slant' is to assume that such a thing is possible. I don't believe it is. You either reinforce expectations or you subvert them. Both are agenda setting choices. It's not wrong, as such. It's just not avoidable, and in choosing one agenda you're creating subtle inaccessibilities for those that subscribe to another. No matter how subtle, you're reinforcing and normalising a position.

Sometimes it's even baked into assumption as to what 'victory' means. Perhaps the purest example of this is in Sid Meier's Civilization games. There you have a whole pile of victory conditions - military, economic, space, and so on. However, they all reinforce Western conceptions of victory through dominance. Where's the victory for having the happiest nation, for example? Or the most compassionate? Or the least aggressive? Or the most spiritually inclusive?

Including those might make for a boring game - I don't know. But there are absolutely politics being expressed in the choice of the win state of the game. Again, you can't avoid this in design and it's not bad as such. But it is going to be alienating for those of strongly held alternate political viewpoints.

And yet, you can play Civilization without ever noticing it. It doesn't mean that the politics aren't there, it just means the harmonics of each of these design choices resonate precisely with our own expectations.

So too it is with board games, books, movies, TV shows, music. If you don't see the politics in there, 90% of the time it's because you're attuned to the cultural conventions and assumptions at its core. So you'll watch 24 and think 'This is a lot of fun!'. Others will watch it as a vaguely unsettling paen to escalating fascism.

That is an inaccessibility. It doesn't necessary mean that anything has to change. It does mean though that there's a barrier in place to someone enjoying the thing. Maybe not a big one, maybe not even one they'll remotely worry about. But if your job is to talk about those barriers, as in for example an 'accessibility teardown', then you need to confront them. Everyone gets to decide whether or not the issues raised are of relevance to them.

I'm not proselytizing here. But if we want games to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible, we need to know how to have that conversation without simply dismissing it as 'political correctness'. That is a lazy tool for the suppression of meaningful dialogue on wider socioeconomic issues.

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How do you reach your conclusions on the accessibility of games?

It's partially based on research (my PhD is in accessibility, specifically in terms of accessibility for older people where intersectional issues of incremental disability are particularly important), partially based on experience, and partially based on some software tools that let me simulate various kinds of impairment. I post the colour blindness ones, but there are other great tools that let you assess the impact of various kinds of condition. For example:

http://www.inclusivedesigntoolkit.com/betterdesign2/simsoftware/simsoftware.html

For a lot of it though it is pattern recognition and extrapolating from experience - the tools are useful in checking assumptions and picking up issues I may not otherwise have come up with.

The biggest problem with the tools is that it's tricky to chain them together - it's easy to consider, say, macular degeneration or colour blindness. It's a bit of a chore to consider them together. They're very useful, but they don't tell the whole story. Sometimes though they tell a story I wouldn't have thought to tell myself.

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What on earth does the representation of women and non-white characters has to do with disabilities and accessibility?

That's a fair question.

The definition of accessibility shouldn't be just in terms of disabilities - it also needs to encompass a kind of 'sociological' accessibility. It's not just about 'this is a game that I can play' but 'this is a game that I think is relevant to me'. There are games that are inaccessible not because of their physical design, but because they have elements of representation, of content, or of tone that are off-putting.

Accessibility is about removing the barriers that stop people playing. Those barriers are sometimes physical, sometimes philosophical, sometimes economic, and sometimes in terms of inclusiveness of representation. A large part of the teardown we do are about disabilities, but accessibility is a much broader topic than that and I think it's important that a review of how accessible a game is takes this into account with the same degree of seriousness as the other barriers.

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Do you think that every game should be fully accessible?

I don't think it's going to be very common for a game to be completely accessible and with the deep and involving gameplay most of us like - if nothing else, that kind of gameplay tends to create cognitive stresses.

It's not really my intention with Meeple Like Us to say 'Every game should be accessible' - it's a wonderful end goal, but it's not really feasible if we also want games that are fun. A game like Galaxy Trucker for example can't be very physically accessible, but that's okay. What I want in the end from the site is a map of what games people can play, provided in a form that means if you have multiple people in a group you can find something cool that everyone will like.

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Do you have some kind of agenda with Meeple Like Us?

I absolutely have an agenda, and make no attempt to hide it. I want more people to play games, and I want games to be inviting to the widest diversity of people. That's absolutely bundled up in a gender and socioeconomic context. But! All my teardowns are just one guy's views, and not everything is going to matter to every person. If you don't have a problem with it, I'm not going to proselytize - I'm not trying to convince here, I'm just approaching the topic from every angle I can think of. You're not wrong for disagreeing with my stance on this, but I'm also not wrong for having it.

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About Meeple Like Us:

My name is Michael Heron, and I'm a lecturer at Robert Gordon University. This page serves as a container for all the various things with which I'm involved. My research interests are accessibility, games, and especially accessibility in games. I'm also the editor for http://meeplelikeus.co.uk.

Brechin, Scotland

#boardgames #games #accessibility