Accessible Plot Writing Workshop

 

Nine Worlds Review

This was the first outing for the workshop but over all I think it went well. We had a group of 24 I think which was excellent, split in to four groups.

We started with a short talk through of the basics of accessibility which those who have been to my previous talks will be familiar with. We discussed what accessibility actually is and who it is for. I like to open these questions up to the group as I think we often know more than we realise and it’s good to share ideas like this. I then ask people to think about why we need accessibility for LARP in particular. The answers people usually come up with are “so that more people can play” and “to help people join in”. These are absolutely correct and are summed up by the central maxim of Access:LARP:

“It’s not about making it easier for disabled players, it’s about making it no more difficult than for everybody else.”

We took a couple of minutes to discuss what that means in practice and to look at some of the core concepts of accessibility that people should keep in mind when thinking about making their game accessible. Specifically this is:

  1. Even if you are a not-for-profit game be aware of and keep in mind the Equality Act of 2010.
  2. Think of accessibility from the very start of your planning, it’s easier and more effective than trying to make changed later.
  3. Accessibility is for everybody including those with invisible disabilities.
  4. People with mental health issues and/or who are neurodivergent may also need accommodations and shouldn’t be forgotten.

We spent a little more time talking about mental health and neurodivergence because these are often subject areas that people are less familiar with. The language around mental health and neurodivergence is less well known by the general public and can shift as people understand more. Just because it is an area that is less well known doesn’t mean they can’t be issues that impact people’s games and may need accommodations.

Following this brief introduction the groups were reminded that accessibility needs to start at the beginning. The next step was to come up with a plot idea. Keeping in mind the workshop was only an hour long this was an opportunity to discuss those ridiculous ideas we all have or even to rehash an old game. After a few minutes of frantic idea generation each group was invited to share their basic premises: Hogwarts with birds, space pirates, drunk zombies and, [*]punk were unveiled. It was eclectic and exciting to see that creativity come out of a few short minutes of discussion.

What was encouraging was that, already at this point people were thinking about accessibility and who might want to play their game and who might struggle. At that point we moved on to the next phase: thinking about how your plot works in play. It can be easy when writing plot to get caught up in just creating a great story, but we’re not aiming for a story that can be read but a story that can come to life and that means thinking about how it works in practice. This is usually a great place to start thinking about accessibility as you have to figure out what things you may, with some effort maybe, be able to make happen in real time.

Again the groups shared their ideas and it was great to hear that people had indeed started to consider accessibility and that it was helping to form their ideas: from how you can run plot through multiple rooms and be accessible to those with mobility issues to how you can make a document heavy game suitable for people with impairments.

Now we started to hone in on accessibility. I asked groups to briefly discuss what accessibility barriers they may face – since they’d already started to consider this it was a quick and lively discussion, but it did give them to a chance to think outside of the box. The final stage was to think about methods for overcoming these barriers, accommodations and alterations to the proposed plot.

Again we got some great input from the groups highlighting how diverse access needs may be. One great example was a plot involving drunken zombies who craved the brains of drunk people in order to get the alcohol buzz. It was considered that there may be people with anxiety of PTSD related to alcoholism and drunken behaviour and that, from a plot point of view you can make sure that there are aspects of plot that do not rely on these themes and that players can still access plot without having to face things that may trigger them. While there are other rules and mechanics that can be used in this situation, it’s great example of how the first steps of plot design ca have a positive impact.

We had to wrap it up there as the session came to an end but I was pleased with how creative the participants had been both in terms of exciting plot and of course how they made it accessible.

For future workshops I think it would be a good idea to bring in the discussion of accessibility earlier in the workshop as it is inevitable that in a workshop called Accessible Plot Writing people will get right down to it. However I was pleased that the workshop achieved its aims and got people thinking creatively about accessibility and how it is an integral part of your early plot design.

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