Thursday, November 12, 2015

64oz. Games { Board Games for the Visually Impaired }

When I moved to Texas last year, never did I think that I would be given the opportunity to work with such amazing and inspiring people. And I didn't just say that for the sake of this review, I really mean it.

Emily, one of the creators behind 64 oz. Games, is so proactive in the Visually Impaired community that it makes me wish I did more for the special needs community. To top it all off, her and her husband spend countless hours behind the scenes of 64 oz. Games to bring board games to our friends with visual impairments... so much so that I wanted to introduce you to the world of board games for the visually impaired!
Our lives have gone a completely different direction from what we originally intended with this. Richard is a huge board game nerd. He has been for as long as I've know him. We own over 300 board games ourselves. Richard is also a hobby board game designer and is working to get his own games published. 2 years ago, when we started this, we were hoping to run a kickstarter for one of Richard's games to self publish one of Richard's games. To set his game apart, we decided that we would make an accessible (braille) copy as well so our blind friends could play. When we were trying to do that, we talked to board game manufacturers and none of them were able to put braille on cards. So then,  we talked to braille production houses and none of them could make custom braille playing cards. It then dawned on us that no one was making games accessible. It was something that should exist but no one was doing it. That was the moment our entire project flipped and we started working to make accessibility kits for existing games. 

We got started by running a successful Kickstarter in April of 2015. We raised enough money to buy a braille embosser and some start up materials. That got us started making our accessibility kits. We finished the kickstarter with kits for 15 different games and now we offer kits for over 70!

The name is another story. We are both huge fans of Game of Thrones, so sitting around with friends one night we were asked what our 'Sigil' would be. In Game of Thrones, a 'Sigil' is the sign that represents a house or family. I said I didn't know what our sigil would be but our friends were quick to point out that perfect sigil for my Diet Coke loving husband would be a Big Gulp Cup. From that moment, 64oz Games was born.
We are Richard and Emily Gibbs. Richard is a life skills teacher for a high school in Texas. He loves using games in his classroom to engage his students and teach new skills. This year he even has a blind student who benefits from his knowledge of braille and accessibility.  I am a Teacher of the Visually Impaired and I have a huge passion for braille literacy. We are uniquely suited for this work because it perfectly combines both our interests and skills.
It depends very much on the game. A basic kit is braille stickers and card sleeves. The customer has to buy a copy of the game on their own and then puts the kit and the game together to make a fully accessible game.
Some of our kits come with specialized pieces because they need them for the game. A good example of this is a dice game called Roll for It. For this game we designed a special dice tray that holds the dice still. This dice tray is included with every kit. 
Some games have too much information to fit in braille on each card. For these games, we use QR codes. The main text of the card is in braille and any other text can be on the QR code on the back of the card. This can be scanned and read with the users phone.
I truly feel like we have affirming moments all the time. For me, when we saw our first kickstarter fund, that was huge because it meant that this dream was something that other people are willing to support. Then just this week when we have received some much love and support for our current kickstarter. We were even featured as a kickstarter staff pick! It keeps reminding me that what we are doing is worthwhile.
I think this is two fold as well. Richard see this as an opportunity to share the games he loves with an entirely new group of people who haven't had the opportunity to play these games before. We've definitely found that when we get games into blind people's hands they love them. We have had many people who have become rabid gamers after playing a few of our games.

For me, it's an way to increase braille literacy. There is a braille literacy crisis in America today with only 10 percent of all blind people learning and reading braille. Studies have shown that braille literacy has a direct correlation with future employment. If I can support and promote braille literacy through games, then there is nothing I want more!
We are currently running our second Kickstarter campaign. This one is to create braille dice for Role Playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons. We've already funded within the first 48 hours of the campaign, which is amazing! This will let us buy a new 3D printer and start producing dice. However, we are working toward additional goals and tools that we can use to make more products. We are working on Stretch Goals now. We want to get a CNC mill that will let us cut out shapes out of wood or plastic. This unlocks more ways we can make games accessible. For instance, with this tool we will be able to make overlays for more complicated boards. We want to start adapting more complicated board games and this is the first step.

Thank you so much for your time! Please contact us at if you have any questions for us! We love to talk about what we are doing.

If you work with any students who are visually impaired, you can visit their website to order kits for over 50 different board games. You can also find 64oz. Games on Facebook and Twitter.

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