Original article can be found here: http://plusthreeshortsword.com/2018/09/10/can-the-gaming-community-change-the-world-talking-about-accessibility-in-gaming-with-the-dots-project/
In August 2017, Jack Berberette sat down with his friend D, to show off a new set of dice that he had made – polyhedral dice, numbered in braille. As a blind gamer, D was delighted by the idea of dice that he could use independently, and even more so when he first laid hands on the braille translations of RPG rules that Jack had produced – although that didn’t stop him teasing Jack about his braille skills. The DOTS Project, an organisation dedicated to making tabletop gaming accessible to all, had officially begun. In the last year, the project has gone from strength to strength, with more than 500 sets of braille dice ordered from Shapeways or produced on home 3D printers around the world, and much more still to come. I was lucky enough to get the chance to (virtually) sit down with DOTS social media manager Jess Dempsey and product designer Joey Iovino to ask what the DOTS journey has been like so far, and what the future has in store for them. I learned a lot about what it takes to get products like these into the hands of people that need them, what a gamer like me can do to make sure everyone feels welcome to join my games, and how someone can accidentally end up leading the way to champion accessibility in tabletop gaming. You can listen to the audio of the interview here, or read on for the complete transcript.
Jess: So you have me here, and my boyfriend Joe is here too, who does most of the design.
Sumner: Hi Joe! You said you do a lot of the design, is that the physical design for the 3D printing?
Joey: I don’t actually use the 3D printing programs yet because I haven’t taught myself how to use them, but let’s just say that when I was first introduced to this project Jack put a set of dice in my hands and I asked him about three questions, and changed his entire design in – I don’t know – five minutes.
Sumner: Are you experienced with Braille – do you read braille for example? Or are you coming at this from a design perspective, and just saw how things could be improved?
Joey: I hadn’t had any experience with Braille until we started this, and now I’m probably going to learn it just to learn it, so that I can better help.
Sumner: Jess, did you read Braille at all before you started, or are you learning over the process of this project?
Jess: I’m still learning myself, too, I never – when Jack and I met, it was over dice itself, I was in a facebook group about dice –
Sumner: Dice Maniacs?
Jess: Yeah! I’m an admin over there, and I met [Jack] on there, and we started talking and I said that I can help him when it comes to production, and finding people to support him and all that stuff. Then we met in November last year, and as Joey said he took the design and ran with it, and we’ve been accidentally working on stuff ever since.
Sumner: The way you’ve described it, it sounds like there was a lot of good luck in all the right people coming together.
Jess: It was really… not planned. We met Jack accidentally, we ran into him accidentally at PAX unplugged, in Philadelphia, and we sat down to have lunch and started talking about the dice and then five minutes late there are new designs and new ideas. Everything just kind of fell into place accidentally, but really easily and really organically, so it was a good pairing from the start.
Sumner: It’s great when you feel that click and things just start going. I wanted to ask – one of the first things you did as social media manager for the project was sending out the ‘tweet heard around the world’, and from there the popularity of the project snowballed. What did that feel like, to start getting involved with the project and then have it explode?
Jess: [Jack] had a twitter account that had maybe one or two posts on it. Jack is not that social media savvy – there’s nothing wrong with that, he’s just not as fluent in social media. So – we met in November and [this tweet] went out around March – because finally, I said hey, you know this thing is a lot bigger than just you, and a lot bigger than his friend D who had passed away. He passed in January, and he was kind of the reason behind the whole thing. Joey’s new design, with the ridged edge on the dice, didn’t come out until March, so D never got to use those, and we never got to meet him. That’s really unfortunate, for us, because here’s something that we’re putting together for a person who we’re now never going to get the chance to meet. Jack had a very hard time dealing with his loss, understandably, and in January and February we really didn’t do anything with DOTS. Then in March the person who works on the 3D files for us – Joey works on the designs but somebody else creates the actual file – he wasn’t done with the files until March, and when he sent them over Jack said okay, what am I going to do with these now? The person that I was making this for is now gone. That’s when I jumped in and said I understand that it’s horrible to have that loss, but this is something that he would have wanted to have out there in the world. [D] was all about helping everybody else, there are countless stories about this guy always helping others. That’s when I said to Jack look, the way of the world is social media, and there is a giant tabletop community on twitter – I’m just going to take this and run with it. 24 hours later, I called him up and said Jack, something’s going on. Right away, one of the first big names that picked it up was Anna Prosser Robinson [ @AnnaProsser ], she’s from twitch, and she’s on Dice, Camera, Action! She picked it up and shared it, probably within an hour, and she has a huge following. Matt Mercer [ @matthewmercer ] was on it the next morning, so we had some big names share it right away, which was great. It was definitely unexpected, because up until then there were a few kickstarters that had tried to braille dice, and there was one company, 64 Ounce Games, but the kickstarters had failed, either they weren’t funded or they never delivered. So, it was something that pretty much didn’t exist in any solid way, shape or form. It was like everybody had had the idea to do it, but nobody had actually followed through on it. Only 64 Ounce Games had, and they had a really nice design, but the way that they created their files were in two halves, so they split the dice in half and then you had to glue them together. It was optimised for 3D printing, but the problem was that that glue seam, in the middle, makes it hard to read the braille. So those got a nice reception because it was a great idea, but in practice it was hard for people to use, so they didn’t end up being used that much. You know, we just put it out there and, for some reason, it was exactly what everyone wanted, and exactly what everyone wanted to support. It’s a different time than it was five years ago – the tabletop community is a lot bigger, the tabletop community is a lot more accepting and inclusive, so this was the perfect time to do this.
Sumner: The combination of the massive resurgence in tabletop gaming, and the growth of the community, and the fact that 3D printing technology has fairly recently got to the point where you can do this.
Sumner: With what you said about 64 Ounce Games and their glue seam making the dice hard to read, it’s an example of a good idea that doesn’t quite work because it wasn’t built with partially sighted or blind people at the focus. I saw the twitter thread you posted a little while ago, where someone asked if you produce braille dice that also had numbers, to which you essentially responded that, while those dice would be appealing to sighted people, they would be more difficult to use for partially sighted people. That philosophy of ‘we are doing this to make gaming accessible’ I thought was a cool way of approaching it.
I wanted to ask, are you working with partially sighted people with the project, and how are you ensuring that they stay at the forefront of what you’re doing?
Jess: We have somebody – Tyler [Tyler Palermo] has something like 10% of vision, they can see objects enough to not run into a table or a wall, but they can’t use vision to actually read, so it’s easier to rely on braille items. Tyler actually works for a company up in Buffalo, New York, which focuses on screen reader technology, so Tyler has been a huge help with things like creating the new website, Tyler got a lot of the early dice to go through and – guinea-pig testing. The good thing is that they also run D&D games, so they’re a gamer as well. It’s much easier to have somebody that’s a gamer that wants to help, instead of just some random blind person who doesn’t understand the nuances of tabletop games. The New York Association for the Blind have an office near me, and I could walk in there and say hey, how do these dice work? Sure, they’d be able to tell me if the numbers one through twenty are legible, and stuff like that, but it’s not the same as getting them into the hands of somebody that will actually use them, and understand the nuances that you may need. So Tyler is probably our primary visually impaired individual who’s helping, we have a few other people that are always – I think I can name maybe five fully blind or mostly blind individuals that are like ‘whatever you need, just send it to me’. This is something that, when Jack started, he had no experience, when I started, when Joey started, we had no idea what it means to be blind – we have no idea what you guys need. The same thing goes for other impairments – right when DOTS first got big there was somebody who had low mobility in her hands, she had trouble grabbing dice to roll them. She sent me a message saying hey, I’m not blind, but I have trouble grabbing dice, can you help me? And I said sure! Okay, let’s figure this out! We made some larger dice – they’re oversized, they’re like three times the size of regular dice – so they’re easier for her to grab. There are also electronic dice rollers, that Joey’s working on doing something with.
Joey: I’m hoping to have a prototype for that for [PAX] Unplugged, for November. They’re basically something that you can buy, cheaply, but I’m modifying them to fit a set, and I’m powering them so you don’t need batteries. It’s a small glass covering that you lift up, and inside the seat it’s basically a spinning wheel, a horizontally flat spinning wheel. So you could place the die on that, put the cover on, and then there’s a small button that you press that – as long as you’re holding it down – the wheel spins. Then when you let go the wheel will stop spinning and the die will ‘land’ on a side.
Jess: Are you familiar with the game Trouble? So it’s kind of like that, but instead of a popper that silver piece at the bottom will rotate. So there’s still a dome covering it, so instead of pushing down – because if you think about it, pushing down on that thing takes quite a bit of force. If somebody has some sort of physical limitation, if they have a deformity in their arm or something like that, they might not be able to extend their arm to the table, or they may not be able to push down with the amount of force that is needed. So here’s where these electronic ones come in – there’s still the dome, and the thing at the bottom just rotates when you push the button, so it’s like a roulette wheel. And then, the problem with them is that the button to activate it was very small, it was the size of a pencil eraser, which again could be a problem is people have deformities in their hands or something like that, maybe their fingers can’t extend so well.
Joey: Also, with the reach, if you had it on the table you would have to reach your hand all the way up and get it to the table, and then they’re all battery operated, so what if the batteries die in the middle? Or if you only have one of them then you have to constantly change the dice in and out. But they’re a fairly cheap mechanism, they’re like $4 or something like that, so I’m building – basically – a platform for six or seven of them, that you can set up how you want, or just have one die in each one, then routing power through all of them at the same time, then running the buttons to another one so that you can have larger buttons, that just sit in your lap. All the rollers can still sit on the table, and depending on which die you want you can just press down on one button and when you let go you have a die roll.
Jess: Right, and there’s also components that – there are like normal accessibility components – there’s a standard button, there’s a standard – if somebody has no hand movement then there’s that thing that they can blow into to activate it – there’s switches. All of those – all these commonly used accessibility activators, whatever you want to call them – plug into what we know as a headphone jack. So what we can do is have a headphone jack, so whatever this user needs, they’re already going to have those activators that they need, and they can just plug it into the unit, and just go. So – keep in mind – this is something that we never thought we’d touch, because Jack started with braille dice, but there were people that said hey, this affects me, can you help? There’s also a group that I have that are developing American Sign Language symbols for commonly used D&D terms. There’s some stuff like – if you’re casting a spell, some spells are an easy word, some spells are two, or three, or four words that ten or fifteen characters long. Spelling that out, in sign language, is a pain in the ass. So, they’re developing generic sign language symbols for tabletop terms – specifically D&D, that’s where they’re starting. But – this is another thing that blossomed out of hey, let’s make braille dice. There’s a friend of mine, that we met through this, who has put together accessible-rpg.com – so that, so much work has gone into that. I’m not sure if you’ve poked around on it, but it’s how any possible physical or mental disability or handicap may affect somebody’s enjoyment of tabletop gaming. And – it breaks it down for those individuals who may not understand. Let’s say there’s somebody who has muscular issues, or nerve problems – the explanation on there will explain okay, this person might not be able to sit still for an extended period of time. Then the suggestion is, well, don’t have six-hour games, or find a way to break things up. That’s just another thing, that he was already working on, that kind of blossomed from this, and said let’s get this information out to people. If people are at a place where they’re receptive, and they’re extending a hand and welcoming those other players, then by all means let’s run with that.
Sumner: I wanted to talk, in a similar vein, about the DOTS family, because I think that’s something you’ve set up and that you’re running.
Jess: That is brand new – that is about two weeks old. I’ve had it on my plan for probably two months now, that this is what I wanted to do, because, as I reached out to publishers to get permission to translate and release their books in braille, I realised that we were hitting some speed bumps because they were concerned that we would be reselling them – making a profit from it. In order to prevent that – the only logical solution – is to say okay, let’s lend them out to people. We can’t – given that ‘we’ is Joey and me in a studio apartment – we can’t mass produce books. We can’t mass produce dice. So, if we put them at game stores, not only does invite those people into game stores that may have never been there before, but there’s already a community developed. Let’s say somebody who is blind is interested in playing D&D, there are countless game stores worldwide that host D&D Adventurers League. That’s a network that’s already built, that’s a community that’s already built, they just need to join in. Then, if they go to the store to participate in Adventurer’s League day, then the dice are right there for them, or the books are right there for them. I’m sure some people would have liked to have the books as personal copies, and take them home, but we’re going to run into limitations with the publishers, and ultimately we need to respect what they want us to do with their property. We’re able to do the braille [translations], because not everybody can use it – where we wouldn’t be able to get permission to record audiobooks of it. Braille is such a narrow audience that we’re going to be able to do that, because they assume that no-one is going to learn braille and go get the book in order to pirate a copy of the book. Nobody’s going to that. The audiobooks or the large-print books, sure, people could steal those and distribute those illegally, but the braille books? It’s such a unique market that there’s really no chance of that.
Joey: It’s such a small niche anyway…
Jess: And you’d have to have your own braille embosser, which runs a few thousand dollars – it’s not something that the average person can do. It’s not the same as copying an audiobook file and distributing it illegally. So, the solution there is to set up a lending library, and the other benefit is that publishers are going to start to see real world application of it. Because right now it’s just me – a stranger that nobody’s ever spoken to or met – saying hey, can I have your stuff and give it away for free? It doesn’t sound great. But – if you think of it from a marketing perspective, they’ll see they have a whole other customer base that they haven’t even touched. And all that means for them is more sales. Yes it’s great, and it’s inclusive, and it’s bringing more players to the table, but at the bottom line it just gets them more money. So there’s really no downsides.
Joey: For the people who can afford it, to have their own copies, then the company will benefit from those sales, and for the people who can’t afford because, unfortunately, they’re working with a smaller budget, or they’re on a stipend, or they can’t work – depending on their disability – they don’t have as much income to spend on things like that – then the free lending library stuff is still available to them.
Jess: It ends up keeping people in the game stores. In this age of Amazon, how many game stores close a year? A lot of people can’t keep their stores open, because people aren’t coming there. It’s going to help the stores by keeping people in the stores and bringing new customers to the stores, they get the brownie points for helping out the local communities, which everyone always loves. The game stores are going to be able to help their customers, the publishers are going to be able to help their customers, which are the game stores as well, so it’s really one of those things where there’s no negative. Which is great, because you never know. There might always be something bad, but in this case it’s – include more people, show the publishers that this is a viable thing that they should be investing in, and who knows – maybe a year from now they’ll be doing it on their own, and DOTS will have planted the seed. If Wizards [of The Coast], and Paizo and everyone are doing it by themselves then that will be great. It’s not about making a name for DOTS, ita about getting the players to enjoy a game.
Sumner: Obviously D&D is a cornerstone of tabletop gaming, and it’s probably the most recognisable brand – have you considered producing rules translations and dice for a system like Fate, where the rules are in the public domain?
Joey: So I’m gonna jump in real quick. [Jess] is taking care of all the rulebooks, dealing with publishers, stuff like that, and I have started – first example, because it was the first one I looked at, and I actually wasn’t all that into tabletop gaming until 8 months ago, when she got me into it, I was a videogame guy – what was the game?
Jess: I don’t know – where are you going with this?
Joey: The dice I was working on…
Joey: Shadowrun! So Shadowrun uses d6s that – I listened to a podcast and they were playing – basically you don’t need one through six on it. You need the one, which is your negative outcome, two, three and four are generally nothing, and then five is a success, and six is a success that can sometimes have added benefits. So if you 3D print a die that has an x for a one, a dash on two, a dash on three, a dash on four, a check mark on five and two checkmarks on six, or just some combination of tactile – thing – that means you can tell oh, I just rolled three xs and four check marks, and someone who is sighted can look at the dice and tell you the exact same thing, it really opens up the game more than ‘I have a lot of pipped d6s, let’s see what happens’. So that was my first thought in progressing towards that, and I thought well, let’s get a list going of all these different games, and what dice they use, and what would be necessary to be able to play these other games, as well as D&D.
Jess: So, we do have a file available for Fate dice – as far as translating the Fate rules, the Fate system, it just hasn’t happened yet. It’s on the list of all the other things we’re going to do, it just hasn’t happened yet. Aside from those, I’ve had a lot of positive response from some third party D&D companies, the people that you see on Kickstarter that make 5e friendly supplements, stuff like that. We had one, Ebonclad by Dan Coleman, he is someone that I had been in touch with on a personal level previously, and when I approached him with this he said yes immediately – what do you need from me, what can I do to help, so we’re actually already translating his. Translating takes a while, and it’s probably our biggest hiccup right now. So – a very quick rant – braille is not as simple as letters that we know, they also have contractions. You can – I forget exactly what it is – but you can make the word ‘sometimes’, written in shorthand, with just two braille cells – with like an S or a T or something like that. So it’s like the equivalent of what we would call written shorthand, for note takers, braille has that as well. So when it comes to translating things, the translation itself comes through an automatic program, the equivalent of google translate, you stick it in and braille cells come out the other side – but you have to make sure that the things translate properly. Especially with game terms, there may be a word that looks like sometimes, but is really something else – but the braille will get translated as sometimes, and then the word is wrong.
That takes a while, because even if we’re lucky enough to get a word document file where we can copy and paste, the translation still has to be read to make sure the words are correct.
Sumner: So you need someone who’s really fluent in braille.
Jess: Right! Right, we have an individual, Mark, who works as a full time braille translator for California School District, he’s doing a lot of our translations right now. Aside from making sure the words are correct, there’s certain formatting that you need to follow with braille. Like, you can’t do two columns on a page, like we can do with printed text – it’s just one continuous document. If you look inside a D&D book there are countless tables, table formatting has to be done very differently in braille – also spacing, you might have to remove certain words.
Sumner: I remember in the video of Jack talking with D, D ripped into him for doing bold wrong – told him ‘I’ll show you how to do that properly’.
Jess: Yeah, [Jack] spaced it out a little too far, because he saw it and thought – well, the letters are bolded, which means they are physically bigger, so let me put spaces in between the braille – and D was like, what’s with all these individual letters? What are you doing here? Even when it comes to formatting, there are some executive decisions that we need to make when it comes to translating. For example, in the Ebonclad book, there was a list of items that you could pick up, and one of the items was a ‘brown leather belt with an ornate gold buckle’. That’s a lot of words. All of those words aren’t going to fit in one line of braille text, and in order to fit the formatting rules, it’s one line of text per line in a chart, or in a table. So, we had to cut down those words to ‘leather belt with buckle’.
Joey: I think we even took out leather, because belt with buckle implies – like if it’s a belt with a buckle then it’s not made of rope. Then that’s six braille cells that are no longer on that line, so it shortens it considerably.
Jess: RPGs are very description heavy, because they want you to be able to imagine things as the author imagined them, and that’s great – just not in braille. So, it takes a while. Did you happen to see – there was a very, very small book that we translated to braille, that ended up being the same size as the Player’s Handbook? This little book, it was maybe half the size of an A4 paper, and it was 12 pages – not all the pages were filled with text, some of it was tables. Like – it was next to nothing.
Joey: It was like a 7 x 4 inch book.
Jess: And that, translated into braille, was physically the same size as a Player’s Handbook.
Sumner: Have you done a full braille translation of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Player’s Handbook – how big would they end up being?
Jess: We’re waiting on legal stuff to get those officially done – technically we can get away with it, but I don’t want to risk upsetting anyone.
Joey: I imagine it’s going to be the size of a dictionary though – an unabridged dictionary.
Sumner: I saw that you have the ‘DOTS heroes’ section of your website, where it lists things people can do [to help the project], and it says one of the things you’re looking for is braille translators, and also just people to transcribe things into a braille translation engine.
Jess: Or even just transcribe it into a word document, you know. If we’re thinking FATE system, D&D, whatever, if we end up not getting word files from those publishers but they still allow us to do it – like, some publishers might not want to give that raw of a file. Which is understandable, you know, that’s their intellectual property, and they may not want us to have that. So, if that means that we have to take the time to type out every bit of text that’s in a book – okay. That’s where other people helping comes in. If I get a hundred people working on a book, a couple of pages a piece, then that will be done in two days.
Sumner: Obviously you have that section on your website, of things people can do to help DOTS specifically, but do you have any things that game publishers, players, game shop owners can do to make their spaces more accessible?
Jess: That is actually something that I will be putting on the website soon. So, i am working on a document that ideally is going to go to vendors at game conventions, on how to make their booth more accessibility friendly. We were at PAX Unplugged last year, and that is primarily tabletop, there is no digital- so that’s either D&D type games, or board games or card games, that kind of stuff. Pretty much every booth – save for maybe 2 or 3% of the booths – had waist high, bar height tables for display. If somebody comes by in a wheelchair, they can’t even see what the game is.
Joey: They were like, bar height tables, almost chest height.
Jess: So, I’m going to be putting together something that I hope many conventions will include in their – every vendor gets a packet, that includes things like ‘here’s what it means to be an exhibitor, and ‘here’s what you need to do with your booth’, all that information – and I hope to have this included in that for all of these conventions. Just stuff like – bring a little folding table with you. Keep it tucked away, but if you see somebody come by in a wheelchair, sit down with them, and demo your game to them. Something else is – have a plain black and white piece of paper – without any graphics and without any colour – for, not necessarily blind people, but people who have trouble reading, people that have dyslexia, who maybe will mess up letters. Something that’s just plain text, that explains what your game is, can make or break a game to somebody.
In regards to colour blindness too – when developers are creating their games, there are settings in things like photoshop, and illustrator, to simulate a colour blind mode. If you have, let’s say, a game that focuses heavily on red and green, somebody might not be able to tell the difference between those two – and if you’re not sure you can use one of those example areas in your design program to see how it would look to a colour blind individual. So that’s something where you can say okay, maybe the red area gets polka dots on it, and the green area gets squares on it, so that a colour blind individual can still use and enjoy the game. So there are going to be things – like I said, this was originally planned for conventions, but a lot of this can extend to game stores, you know – make sure you have a table that is away from the wall enough to be welcoming to somebody that may be using a wheelchair. Have a quiet space – maybe there’s somebody who is autistic, and has problems with crowds – so have a quiet space where somebody can go to decompress, and just get away from the crowds for a little bit. There are a lot of things that can be done, and a lot of that information is going to come from Accessible RPG as well. So that will be on the site, once I get it out to conventions, and that will also be part of our info packet for the stores that join the DOTS family. Just little – hey, you don’t need to go out of your way or do anything huge, but something small like an extra folding table or a bigger walkway in a game store could literally change someone’s entire experience.
Sumner: Could you say what the ultimate ambition of the DOTS project is – I don’t know how long you see yourself working with the project – but where would you like to end up? Is it something where you’d like to work with lots of publishers, producing and translating their stuff, is it something where you’d like to go into full scale production and have a set [of dice] in every store, or would you like for DOTS to not be necessary at all, and have publishers doing this stuff for themselves?
Joey: Either one.
Jess: Let’s go with both. Something that I realised very quickly- something I said earlier- is that, once DOTS got big on twitter, and it was only about braille dice, people with other disabilities started reaching out for help, and DOTS sort of became the only person that would listen to them. Even just from the perspective of a blind person, there are plenty of blind gamers that have been struggling to get in touch with publishers, and saying ‘we want to enjoy your product but we can’t, please help us’. Blind gamers have been doing that for years, and getting nowhere. For whatever reason – it’s no fault of the publishers, no fault of the individuals, it just hasn’t happened. I’ve been just cold calling publishers and saying hey, here’s this thing I’m doing, what do you think? I’ve gotten responses – I’ve gotten great feedback from every publisher. It’s just a matter of waiting for license paperwork and stuff, but there has not been one publisher who’s said ehh, I don’t think this is for us. For whatever reason, it’s the right time, the right place, the right situation, the right – everything. For some reason, DOTS is being heard, and I don’t want to take that away from people. Sure, it would be nice if publishers did all this on their own in five years, but if the people that need to be heard see DOTS just kind of fade away, maybe they’ll feel that they don’t have the connection to the game industry anymore. Maybe they’ll feel like ‘we’re back at square one, where nobody is listening to us’.
Joey: I think – based on the way that you’re saying it – I think that the best way to put it is that the ultimate goal would be yes to having the game industry doing this stuff for itself, but also yes to having DOTS pioneer the new techniques that come up in the next few years. To continue expanding upon what is actually needed, and bring that to the game industry, so that they can be normalised, and everything can continue progressing forward. So we want the companies to be doing this on their own, but they still may not be – for lack of a better way of saying it – listening to the little guy. So they can come to us, and we’ll figure out a way to do it, and we’ll go to the game companies. Braille dice might become a huge big thing, and all the game industry is doing it, so what need is there for us? Then someone comes out of the woodwork and says ‘well I need this now’.
Jess: If, five years from now, our only purpose is to listen to people, and offer help, then I’m okay with that! Right now we’re in paperwork limbo, hoping to become an official charity, but that’s a few-months-long process. I don’t know what’s going to happen next month – I’ve got no idea. I don’t know, what’s going to happen a year from now –
Joey: You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow!
Jess: I don’t! The point is, we’re just going with it. We’ve got the traction, and we’ve got the support of so many people who are interested and dedicated, and willing to help. Maybe it’s thinking a little big, thinking that we can change the world, but why not aim high? If it’s the gaming community, that changes the way that the rest of the world is made accessible, then that would be really cool. The worst thing that can happen is that we’re left with nothing – we have no other ideas, we have nothing left to do, and even so, our footprint has been left – there are braille dice out there in the world now. People that had no access to dice have access to them now – which is really the gateway drug of getting into tabletop gaming, getting your hands on a set of dice. If you get your hands on a d20, you think – ooh, I want to play with this! I realise that I didn’t answer your question, sorry, I don’t think there’s a solid plan. I think that was evidenced by my rambling. We have two new dice models that are coming out – different versions of the polyhedral dice, which may or may not be easier to read. The orientation edge was changed a little bit, so they’ll be easier to print as well.
Joey: Just small changes.
Jess: I think I said it in one of the tweets, those dice aren’t perfect. They’re not going to be perfect. We’re going to keep improving them with suggestions of changes from people, and then if people decide hey, this works better – then they can print that file, instead of printing the other file. Then we’re going to have the files for – what Joey was saying – those Shadowrun dice, we’re going to do the Star Wars game – those are all just symbols. I know that they’re specific symbols for each game, but we can just do a checkmark, an x – it doesn’t matter, we just have to make some tactile symbols. We already have the Fate dice – there a few different dice models that we have our guy doing.
Joey: It’s easy to expand on those, because we’ve been doing those so far, but it’s also always about new context, and new ideas. So, whenever anybody has an idea, or needs help with an idea, we encourage them to email or tweet us – or whatever – so that my stupid brain can start working on it. And – there are plenty of people out there that a lot smarter than I am, so if there’s anyone else who has any ideas then – please.
Jess: We are trying to put together a braille, modifiable character sheet. We are also going to be experimenting with Magic the Gathering cards themselves – and card games in general.
Joey: Magic is an easy place for us to start.
Jess: I’m trying to get together volunteers right now, who are really just getting addresses for me, for game stores, because I’m going to be sending out letters that I wrote, that I’m going to hand sign, and hand address to game stores, explaining everything about DOTS, and inviting them to join the DOTS family. I have people that I’m trying to get together that can get me game store contact information, so that I don’t need to do all that legwork myself. I don’t think we have anything else huge in the works…
Joey: Not today.
Jess: Tomorrow might be a different story! We’re making very loose plans, for next year, to attend different gaming conventions. PAX Unplugged is probably going to happen again, because it’s very local to us –
Joey: New York Comic-Con –
Jess: We’re probably going to try and be at the PAXs, at least on the East Coast, and we do want to make a point that we’ll attend GenCon next year – possibly Gamma – you know, we’re making plans. I think one thing that’s going to make it easier is that, on a personal level, we know the individuals behind Die Hard Dice, and they have been nothing but helpful this entire time – not only on a personal level, but also on a business level. They are going to be producing some merchandise for us, we have dice trays, dice bags – there are going to pins. There are going to be a few merchandise type things that we’re going to start selling, because we’ll take that profit to continue making the dice.
Joey: Get another printer, sponsor some sets – get them out into the hands of gamers, stuff like that. Stuff that we don’t have deep enough pockets for.
Jess: We’re going to make a point to still not be making a profit off the dice, because that’s been the whole point – we’re not in this for money, we’re not in this for profit. We want the individuals who need these items to be able to get them on their frequently low paychecks –
Joey: For the cheapest possible price we can get them to them – which includes free, if possible.
Jess: The whole point that Jack had, and that we’re continuing to have, is that we don’t want to make profit off the dice. Thanks to some very generous donations, we were able to get a new, resin based printer – which is the one that we set up today. Did you happen to see the picture of the old printer and the new one, and the three different qualities of dice?
So the grey one is what the $200 printer did, which – they’re usable, they get the point across, they’re just not perfect. Shapeways, on $10,000 printers, printed the red d20, which is basically pristine.
Joey: Then the blue-ish resin one, is the [printer] that we just got. It’s much better than the grey one.
Jess: So it’s definitely going to be easier to start making sets again, and better quality sets. Going forward, all the sets that we do are going to be donated to stores. You know, if John Smith lives down the street from a game store, then we invite him to the game store community, instead of just giving him a set for himself. As we continue making them, maybe it’ll be easier to donate to individuals as well.
Sumner: If someone wanted to come to you and say ‘I love what you’re doing, can I donate $15 so you can donate a dice set to a shop’, is that something people can do?
Jess: Yes! We have our paypal set up to take donations, and we do have – if people don’t want to do that, because some people are iffy about just donating money to random strangers – we also let you sponsor a dice set from shapeways. They just go and place an order, but then mail it to us. There doesn’t need to be any money changing hands, and they don’t need to worry where their money went – it’s just you buy it, but send it to us, and when we get a call from somebody who needs it then we have stock to send out for free.
Sumner: Thank you so much! It’s been amazing talking with you.
Jess: Thank you!
You can find out more about the DOTS Project, and how to support them, on their website, and follow them on twitter, facebook and instagram. If you’d like your own set of braille dice you can order them from Shapeways, or download the files to print your own here.