My First University Gaming Convention!
I recently went to NerdKon (a gaming and comic convention) for the first time. It is set up by my University and has run every year for the past five years. I decided to check it out not only for the cool technology and card trading games – but also to see how much thought people put into accessibility for an event like this. I won’t comment on the name of the event!!
There were a lot of film screenings going on throughout the day that I wanted to see. I did notice that there weren’t any subtitles (aside from those films that needed to be because they were in another language!). This would have made access a bit difficult for those who are hearing impaired. None of the films had audio description on either which, whilst disappointing is understandable. With films when they are on DVD, everyone else can hear the AD too so that would have been boring for my sighted friends! Also, as it was independent people setting up the film screenings, rather than the Union itself, this could have been a factor in how the accessibility was handled.
The films were on big screens so everyone had as much chance of seeing as much as possible, which I appreciated as I am lucky enough to have some sight. Although I didn’t see anyone who was a wheelchair user at the event, there was plenty of space in the venues for the screenings so wheelchair access would have been fine. Overall, the film screenings were good but could have put a little more consideration into access arrangements – but then maybe I could have called up first!
The set up of the event was very inclusive which was lovely to see. Stalls were positioned around the room with enough space to walk between them and there would have been enough space for a wheelchair to come through. This was probably due to the accessibility standards at my University Students’ Union, which has almost always been very inclusive of people’s differing needs. The only one snag I had was when we got to the comics – they were arranged in alphabetical order with tiny letters marking boxes. This was not the best way for a VI person to navigate comics! I gave up on that one quite quickly! I ended up buying a cute drawing of Link from The Legend of Zelda which pretty much made my weekend!
As for trading cards, I asked which ones were the best for art work and explained that I am visually impaired and enjoy the art and people were very helpful and approachable with suggestions of what was best. Whether I could actually read the writing on the cards was another matter! Luckily I don’t actually play the games so that wasn’t a problem but may have been for others.
Playing the Games
The majority of the event consisted of people playing, or watching other people play games in tournaments. There were different games being played, from RPGs (Role-Player Games) to trading card games like Magic:The Gathering and even a Pokemon tournament on Nintendo DS systems! As I don’t play the games myself, I was interested to see whether I would be able to have as much fun as my sighted peers when watching others play. A friend and I watched some people playing trading card games but I began to find it boring after the first round, and my friend who is sighted completely agreed!
What I wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did was the Pokemon tournament. At first I was very dubious, as the game is played on tiny DS systems that I struggle to see anyway. But it was more about the atmosphere and the players shouting things at each other! Hearing them all yell ‘That Pokemon’s MINE!’ gave me and my friend a good laugh! It was very exciting to watch even though we couldn’t see everything that was going on. The only thing I’d say about accessibility here is that if it could have somehow been put onto a big screen with the sound amplified then everyone – sighted or otherwise – would have got more out of it. I was still surprised how much I got out of it though!
My Students Union has good disabled access including a lift up to all of the floors, so access to the event would have been easy. The one thing I might do differently next time would be to ring up the Union in advance to check out the film screenings and speak to the right people about accessibility features – I would have done this for the gaming tournaments as well. I’ve learnt that if you ring up and let people know in advance, accessibility becomes easier for them – and you – to manage! Overall though, NerdKon was a great event. Bring on next year!
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