Products and Design

Helping the Visually Impaired Get in the Game

People come to 3D design from many different places. For some, it’s a profession. For others, it’s more like an altruistic calling. Jack Berberette falls into the second camp.

He started out as a fan of Roleplaying Games (RPGs), which are decidedly more than just games. They allow players to participate in a collaborative storytelling environment. Players are given agency in creating their own characters, while connecting with a larger community. Its unique narrative structure creates more than mere escapism into fantasy worlds. It builds bridges between different cultures, fortifying social skills and forging strong friendships.

Berberette was inspired by a friend, De Juan Daniels AKA “D”, to make Roleplaying Games more accessible to the visually impaired. “Roughly nine years ago, I attended my very first gaming convention in Richmond, VA. I signed up for a Changeling role playing game session, and that’s where I met D.,” says Berberette, “D absolutely blew me away with his amazing storytelling ability and fluidity with the game rules. Man, he was one of the best game masters I’ve ever played under… and D was completely blind.”

Through his bourgeoning friendship with D, Berberette learned of the challenges that visually impaired players face. There were no accessible roleplaying books available, and most of the game book PDFs were not properly tested for accessibility.

As Berberette explains, “I taught myself braille and raised money for a braille embossing printer and translation software. And I began translating small gamebooks and other gaming aids into braille. This was a great start, and was definitely raising awareness, but I discovered that braille dice weren’t really available. And let’s face it… gamers need dice! So, I started designing dice and my 3D model guy, Sterling Pittman created the files needed for 3D printing.” And the DOTS RPG Project was born.

The project is a labor of love for Berberette, and it shows in the clean design of the dice. The DOTS RPG dice 3D model files are available on Thingiverse and there’s no markup on the dice in his Shapeways shop. “This is a purely altruistic project… I don’t make a single penny of profit, and honestly have no desire to,” he says, “I don’t have the funds readily available to go through the injection mold process to mass produce the dice. But, I still needed a means to make high-quality dice.”

“I taught myself braille and raised money for a braille embossing printer and translation software. And I began translating small gamebooks and other gaming aids into braille. This was a great start, and was definitely raising awareness, but I discovered that braille dice weren’t really available.”

Though he lacks 3D printing experience, Berberette was able to bring the project to life through Shapeways. “Shapeways made it so easy to upload and sell 3D designs. So, I uploaded our first set and placed an order to see how they would turn out. I was shocked, in a good way, when my dice came in. If someone had handed these to me out of the blue, I never would have known that they were 3D printed… I mean, the quality is amazing! The other great thing about Shapeways, is they have great support, and a wonderful community that makes designing and selling things very easy.”

The Shapeways green d20 die is noticeably cleaner than competitor’s prints.

And the dice have been thoroughly tested by Berberette, even to the point of comparing the accuracy of rolls with a traditional injection-molded die.

“Basically, I rolled the Shapeways printed d20 and a Game Science d20 500 times each through a dice tower,” Berberette states, “The results were pretty amazing. There is a 5% chance for a d20 to land on any side, and based on my rolls (which are not scientific) the Shapeways dice (probably due to a larger surface area) deviated from the 5% by only 0.58%. Meanwhile, the Game Science d20 deviated by 0.82%. Again, I’m sure the Game Science die is way more precise, but the Shapeways die performed really well.”

“Shapeways made it so easy to upload and sell 3D designs. So, I uploaded our first set and placed an order to see how they would turn out. I was shocked, in a good way, when my dice came in.”

Berberette’s hard work is really paying off, as a blind player attests: “These dice are fantastic! I’m totally thrilled with the amount of time and effort you put into the designs. I’ve got a couple of blind buddies of mine who play various RPG’s, and I’ve been introducing them to your dice as well. This is really groundbreaking stuff you’re doing!”

The response from visually impaired gamers has been overwhelmingly positive. This tweet was retweeted over 7,000 times and got over 9,000 likes!

Sadly, D passed away in February. But Berberette is helping to keep his spirit alive through DOTS and helping other visually impaired players. “I am extremely grateful that before he passed, I was able to place braille gaming books and dice in his hands for the very first time.”

And as for the future of the DOTS RPG Project? “Currently, our main goal is simply raising awareness. I’m hoping to get the news out to the entire gaming industry that there is a huge need for accessible gaming materials,” says Berberette, “I want to create accessible materials and tools that enable visually impaired gamers to play roleplaying games without the assistance of a sighted player. The key to that goal being accomplished, is raising awareness so that making accessible products becomes part of the normal game design process.”

Berberette is working hard to take DOTS to the next level… “We are currently on our third revision of the braille dice based on feedback from visually impaired testers. And we have some incredible design ideas from my friends Joe Iovino and Jess Dempsey.”

“I’m hoping to get the news out to the entire gaming industry that there is a huge need for accessible gaming materials.”

Want to help? Do you know a visually impaired player that could use some dice? Berberette says he’ll do whatever he can to get them out to them. “We have a Dice Sponsor program. Through this, people who would like to sponsor dice can simply order dice from our Shapeways shop. And they can mail them directly to me, and I will get them to those on the waiting list. We also take PayPal donations and any funds we raise will go to the design, purchasing, and distribution of accessible gaming materials.” Details can be found on the DOTS RPG Project “Heroes Wanted!” page.

For more information on DOTS:

DOTS Dice Shop at Shapeways

Twitter & Instagram: @DotsRPG
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DOTSRPG/
Website: dotsrpg.com

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