Overland is a turn based strategy adventure game about a road trip across a post end of days America. I had previously picked up on Overland and added it into my Top 10 Indie Games to watch out for this September. That said, Overland is a tough challenge at the best of times. I’ve really enjoyed pacing my way through it although over the first half hour or so I struggled to fully take in and understand the text rolling up on the screen before me.
Soon after by chance in looking at the setting menu, I found an option to trigger the game to use the OpenDyslexic font rather than the game’s default setting.
While the differences are subtle, you can see below in the screen shots I took and posted to twitter the characters have a heavier bottom and greater space between letter. Having made the change the game became a whole lot easier to play.
Following my tweet of thanks to Finji on implementing this accessibility option. Rebekah Saltman also took to twitter to set how and why Finji went about implementing this design choice.
Rebekah was demoing at PAX East last year when a player came up and said, “I want to play your game. This is totally my genre but I can’t play it – I can’t read anything on screen because of my dyslexia. The words are too frustrating.”
Rebekah continued, “I was fascinated by this, I wanted to make Overland accessible. So I asked a lot of questions. I know the science of dyslexia, but at that point I didn’t know the accessibility options.
“I came home and asked Adam [director of Overland, and Rebekah’s husband] to put this feature on the dev schedule.” And he did – it went in the game.
Rebekah went further in saying “I think about this – and other accessibility options – a lot. How do we signal that games aren’t for you?’
“I want people to play. And a lot of play engages with failure – but the way our brains process letters shouldn’t be what we are failing at, the way our eyes see color shouldn’t be where we fail, the way our bodies can use controls shouldn’t be where we fail.”
Naturally I’m ecstatic to see this option added into Overland and the thoughts on accessibility options from Finji’s CEO. Of course, I must mention using this font is not a cure. This is acknowledged by the creators of OpenDyslexic and it won’t work for everyone with Dyslexia.
There’s also a limited number of peer reviewed research on these type of fonts and yet while the science is yet to formulate an equivocal stance on the matter and even if the effect is merely a placebo, I’ll happily take it.
Since I posted the original tweet on September 24th its seen a fair number of others get behind it to thank Finji and to ask what they could do to discover more on how to design games with dyslexic accessibility options.
The story has also been picked up by a few of the main stream gaming outlets. Eurogamer have written a piece as have Kotaku to highlight the work Finji have done within Overland. Perhaps a few other sites will follow in the next few days.
In truth I’m humbled by the attention and potential my original tweet might have in the hearts and minds of other indie game developers. Perhaps going forward we shall see more games using these type of options – that would be of course most welcome.
Overland is out now on multiple platforms including Apple Arcade, PC, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One