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UK Games Expo 2021: Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

It has been about a week since the doors closed on the 2021 UK Games Expo and I'd like to share a few highlights with you. This was my first UK Games Expo, and Diary of a Lincoln Geek’s first providing press coverage. I was delighted by the amazing atmosphere of excitement and acceptance in everyone we met. This was particularly impressive considering the events of the last couple of years. Everyone seemed to be buzzing with energy, enjoying the chance to meet and play games in person again. The organisers and staff did a fantastic job of making attendees feel safe despite the current climate.

One of the many subjects of interest at the event was the number of projects (both coming soon and fully realised) that addressed topics such as: fair representation, and those promoting greater effort to make games more accessible and inclusive. We had the great pleasure of interviewing the creators behind several of these.

Autismo – Autism Challenge Board Game

We interviewed Danielle Hampson who is the author of Am I on the Spectrum, and creator of Autismo. Danielle is a counsellor/psychotherapist/psychologist for whom Autism is a subject close to her heart as members of her family have been diagnosed with ASD. For those unfamiliar with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is a complex condition that can manifest in many ways. Those with Autism range considerably in ability; however they generally struggle with social interaction but often have surprising hidden talents. There are believed to be approximately 700,000 people on the autistic spectrum in the UK, however this is exceptionally hard to calculate due to the broad range in manifestation and severity.

In this game players take control of the Autismo superheroes who are partially based upon common high school archetypes. The players must navigate the game situations which deal with morality, actions and consequences, and social rules. The aim is to reach the end of the game having minimised your emotional baggage and maximising overall happiness.

Having worked in the social care sector looking after those with autism and other disorders, it is a subject I remain passionate about. Having not yet played the game I cannot provide insight on its mechanics or playing experience. However, I am so pleased to see such a project that will raise awareness of ASD. While we sadly did not play the Autismo game at the Expo, the premise is intriguing and we look forward to its appearance on Kickstarter. I would personally like to encourage our readers to keep an eye out for Autismo and give the project some support, even if this is just a like or a share which will promote not just a game but a worthy cause.

Hatchlings Games – Inspirisles RPG

We met Rich and Catherine of Hatchlings Games promoting their RPG game Inspirisles. Both are big fans of classic RPGs including D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). They are big believers that role playing is the best hobby as it promotes self-esteem, imagination and socialisation. In a stroke of brilliance, they have combined role playing with the passion they have for their day job as deaf charity workers. Thus Inspirisles was born an all ages tabletop role playing game that promotes deaf awareness and teaches players the basics of sign language.

Players of Inspirisles take on the role of Pendragons, descendants of Guinevere Pendragon of Arthurian legend. Their quest is to heal and preserve the World Tree that is dying, infected with disbelief. Through in game experiences and character development, players learn British and/or American sign language. They will progress through basic finger spelling to simple sentences. While it is not a complete course that will make players fluent in signing, it is a great start that makes learning fun.

In addition to signing and deaf awareness, Inspirisles also considers accessibility in other ways. The all ages friendly rules are all written in a dyslexic friendly font, which makes it easier to read. The games rules manual is currently available as a pdf download, with print copies likely in the near future. However, rules for a great educational tabletop roleplaying game are not the only thing that Hatchling Games offer, they also provide video tutorials.

As somebody who suffers from hearing loss, I can’t speak highly enough of this project and simply cannot wait to play it. There are about 11 million people in the UK who are deaf or hearing impaired, an estimated 24,000 of these use sign as a primary language. Yet, most of the population do not know how to communicate with them. I believe strongly that sign language should be taught to all and projects like this are a great step in the right direction. If learning sign and/or tabletop role playing sound like a good time to you then please check out Inspirisles and give Hatchling Games and deaf awareness your support. There are many deaf charities to explore including Royal National Institute (RNID) and my personal favourite National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) if you wish to learn more.

LVC Games - The Pyramid of Khufu

We spoke with Clare and Steve Cluer of LVC Games, who are designers of The Pyramid of Khufu game. This is an ancient Egyptian themed 2-player duel game that was successfully Kickstarted last year. The Great Pharaoh Khufu is near the end of his life. While his attendants and priests are well prepared for his inevitable passing, the same cannot be said for the architects of his glorious pyramid. In fact it appears that two architects are competing to complete a worthy pyramid for Pharaoh Khufu and claiming the prestige associated with it. Players race to be the first to finish their pyramid, fill it with nine sacred items and finally place the all important cap stone.

You may be thinking what do pyramids and pharaohs have to do with this article? The reason behind including this game is charity. Clare and Steve's game proceeds go to Velindre Cancer Centre Wales. Money raised for this cause funds research, clinical trials, treatments, specialist nurses, support services, therapies, equipment and so much more; so donations really do have a significant impact on patients and their families. The battle against cancer is a hard road for all - those who have the illness, their loved ones and the medical professionals and support staff involved with them. There are approximately 367,000 new cases of cancer in the UK each year, and it seems that almost everyone is (directly or indirectly) affected by this disease by the time they are an adult. Certainly over half of the DOALG team have been. So please check out this game, Velindre Cancer Centre and cancer charities in general. You can buy a copy of The Pyramind of Khufu directly from the LVC Games website, and even include a donation as part of your order.

The Party RPG – The Role Playing Party Game

We interviewed Ben from Party RPG who gave us a brief overview of the role playing party game. The Party RPG merges together classic tabletop role play games, which are often rules heavy, and the easy to follow light hearted fun of party games. The result is a rules light story telling party game with classic tabletop themes, and simplified mechanics. While there is a small amount of mature content, the game can be easily adapted to young audiences.

While tabletop roleplaying games are very popular, and a great hobby that can develop the creative and social skills of players they can be hard to get into. One of the inherent flaws in most RPGs is the complexity of the rules needed to portray the worlds and people within them. A typical set of core rules is often 300 –400 pages, not to mention the almost inevitable 1-5 books of specialised additional rules that can be just as large! Many people looking to get into RPGs can be discouraged, as they feel they cannot absorb enough of the information to run or play the game. Indeed, there are many avid RPG players who still feel that the role of Dungeon/Game Master is beyond them.

Hence why I feel that The Party RPG has a place in this article. This game makes tabletop role playing accessible to all ages/abilities and could be an excellent gateway to more complex games later on. I myself have played a range of RPGs, but find the idea of learning the rules sufficiently to run a game session myself intimidating. Therefore, I was very pleased to find The Party RPG and can’t wait for a chance to try it.

Strata Miniatures – Dungeons and Diversity

We spoke to Dan and Sara from Strata Miniatures about their Dungeons and Diversity product range. These are a range of miniatures depicting various character classes in battle wheelchairs. Not only this, but Sara has created the rules for using battle wheelchairs even for starting characters for D&D 5E. In tabletop role-play games players have many approaches to designing their characters. Some choose to create a pure fantasy often enhancing their weakest real life attribute. However, many do the opposite. They may use their careers, physical appearance or other parallels from their own lives as a starting point.

There are roughly 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK. Whilst only a fraction of these are will be geeks that play D&D it is fantastic that they now have the option to play a closer more personal representation of themselves in game.

Strata Miniatures have already released three waves of beautifully detailed character sculpts and if the amazing quality and inclusive nature of these wasn’t enough of a selling point, 25% of profits go to the Ehlers-Danlos Support Charity. There are 13 types of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), most of which are quite rare. The Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes are heritable connective tissue disorders affecting the quality of collagen in the body. Approximately 13,600 people in the UK have one of these conditions, meaning they live with joint and muscle pain, easily dislocated joints, digestive problems, fatigue and heart valve problems, among other symptoms.

Research and treatment of rare conditions is often underpublicised/funded. What is more, people who are alternatively able or disabled are regularly overlooked and under represented. The fact that Strata Miniatures now offer wheelchair-using game enthusiasts the option for true representation and that it supports charity is brilliant. So once more, I would like to encourage you, our readers, to check out Strata Miniatures and The Ehlers-Danlos Support Charity and give them some support in any way that works for you, such as buying, donating, or liking and sharing on social media.

In conclusion

While there were probably more projects present that were involved in accessibility, diversity and inclusion in gaming with so much to see and do, it would have been impossible to even attempt to see and do everything available. I hope therefore that you have enjoyed the few spotlighted here in this article, and hope that they inspire readers to think about some of the great causes out there that need more attention.

We here at Diary of a Lincoln Geek are so humbled to see such worthwhile causes being promoted and look forward to trying out and reviewing these games. In the meantime you can watch back our mini interviews with these and many other brilliant exhibitors from UK Games Expo 2021 on Facebook, Youtube and Twitch.

Additionally, if you have or know of a game or gaming related topic that resonates with the topics of accessibility, diversity and inclusion in gaming please get in touch.

Until next time, keep playing games, stay safe and continue to get your geek on with DOALG!



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