Friday, July 20, 2007

Font Wisdom

A concern has been growing in my mind over the past few months. This is something that could threaten the enjoyment of gaming for a large percentage of the gaming community. I am, of course, talking about font size.

I guess there is no way to convince anyone that this is not a geezer issue so I’m not going to try. I’m getting older, and so are my eyes, and I don’t like squinting at small print on cards and game boards. And I suspect that there are quite a few gamers with me in this boat. Hobby gaming may be a relatively young hobby, but gamers are not an especially young population. Some sub-groups within the gaming community (I’m thinking of wargamers) seem to have more than their fair share of gamers that I will call experienced and mature. Out of a regular group of Appalachian Gamers of six or seven members, there are at least three of us who are near or past fifty years of age.

At first, I thought that font size wasn’t an issue worth worrying about. There was only one famous font-size issue that I was aware of. I’m talking about the notoriously small print on the cards in War of the Ring.

But lately I’ve hearing other gamers voice similar concerns. At Origins, I even overheard two gamers complaining about hard-to-read details of a game whose name I did not catch (I realize that this vague description is not the most concrete evidence ever mustered, but I’m trying to be honest here about what I’ve actually heard).

I also noticed that font size was an issue with the game board of Galactic Destiny. The game board is very pretty, and seems to be made of quality heavy cardboard, but the names of the regions and the symbols within each region are needlessly small. There is no excuse for this; there is plenty of empty space within each region, and font sizes could be increased dramatically without making the regions seem crowded. Galactic Destiny is the first game from Golden Laurel Entertainment, and I am inclined to cut them some slack. If I become convinced that Galactic Destiny is a quality space empire game, I will not let small font size stop me from buying a copy. But font size is something they should consider when they work on the graphic design of their next game.

So this essay is basically a shout-out to graphic designers and game producers. Think about your target audience. A lot of us are aging baby boomers, and our eyes are not improving. It may cost a little more to have standard size cards in your games, rather than those mini-cards. But if you’re planning to put text on your cards, consider spending the extra dough. We may not want to play your game if we have to squint at it.

4 comments:

Philippe said...

I guess its the same issue for many, let's say, "marginal groups". I've been complaining for a while about graphic designers not considering colorblind people like myself when designing a boardgame. Especially since most of the time it's not so difficult to pick easily distinguishable colors or to add an element of texture to the cards.

Then again, even though tuning it to please me is easy, I realize that making sure the game works well with everybody's little "problem" is quite difficult to do...

That doesn't mean we shouldn't voice our concerns regarding font size or choice of color, but in the end you will always find a good game that didn't do that extra thing you would have liked.

Myers said...

It wasn't long ago that my wife was laughing at my friend and myself as we were playing HeroClix. We're both in our 40's and the font on the rules and the colors on the combat dial require that we both have a lamp and a magnifying glass. We eventually just downloaded the information and enlarged it. [Philippe - I had never thought about the issues being colorblind would cause a gamer. That must get frustrating.]

Tatsu said...

Yep, graphic design in general - Mykerinos is a perfect example of TERRIBLE design. The background hieroglyphics on the instructions make them all but unreadable.

Fraser said...

Hear Hear!

And about Mykerinos too. The first time I saw that a group of us decided to play it. We pulled it out looked at the rules, had trouble reading them due to the graphic design, and and put the game away and played something else. Purely and simple to the rules.

I'm not colour blind, but in poor lighting I have found quite a few people have problems differentiating between some colours. Putting red and orange in the same game where other colours would have been easier to pick between is another problem.