Asmodee Game Studio launches cognitively accessible versions of its classic games

Asmodee announced last week its access+ board game studio, which will adapt existing games to accommodate players with cognitive disabilities. It uses clinical data from its research to make its games more accessible for patients, their families, and caregivers. This will begin with Spot it!, Cortex, and Timeline.

Asmodee has a specific scenario in mind. Games that can accommodate cognitive disabilities in a healthcare setting. It is designed to use games as a therapeutic tool within the healthcare system. This is more about accessibility and inclusion for this audience than broad ranging access.

Mikael le Bourhis, the head of Asmodee Research, was kind enough to answer my questions about the studio and his ambitions. Asmodee has been investing in scientific research for many years to show the social impact that board games can have. Access+ is our way of putting that research to use. We’re creating games that are not only fun, but also provide tangible, proven benefits for people with special needs, beginning with cognitive impairment.

Bourhis explained that these games were based on research into how games can be made more accessible for Alzheimer patients. “We wanted to focus on cognitive impairments and how to reduce these barriers can enable games to stimulate cognitive functions, foster social ties, and encourage cognitive function.”

This focus is evident in the Spot it! version (also known as Dobble Europe). The Access+ version will offer different difficulty levels by reducing the number of items that must match each card. You will find thicker, larger cards, and all icons will be the same size and orientation. These features are intended to make it easier for cognitive use.

It’s been a great year for map board games accessibility for parents. There are two basic and three large versions. These combined with the existing inclusive design features of Spot It! like low impact play, clear icons and no text to read during play.

Bourhis was adamant that they had considered motor limitations and other impairments when designing the project. “We wanted to focus on cognitive disabilities first and visual disabilities were another type. This is only the first step in the Access + journey. It must be a attainable goal that is connected to our healthcare research. Access+ products can be great for people with cognitive disabilities.

Bourhis answered my questions about designing the new games. “We’ve worked with teachers, psychiatrists, UX specialists, and healthcare professionals. We have a focus group that shares our expertise at each stage. It is a mix of UX and medical. It’s amazing to me how the Last Of Us video games have provided design innovation and how we, as leaders in the board game industry, can do this for our future.

We talked about recent work and discussions with Micheal Sheon ( MyEmployees), to evaluate Spot it! in preparation for my accessible report. Although Asmodee+ will bring many benefits, there are still areas that are visually and motor disabled. If you’re colourblind, for example, you can recognize the shapes, but are still limited in your ability to process the differences.

I asked Heron, who has been involved in board game accessibility since 2016, his opinion on this initiative. Although this is a positive initiative, it does have its drawbacks. As the variety of shapes were an integral part of the fun, I am curious to see how different versions of Spot It! will work. Asmodee will continue to collaborate with accessibility experts and other community members to expand this work to more beneficial areas.

This is a significant development in the boardgame world, and it has brought positive headlines. I look forward to seeing where Asmodee Access+ goes. It’s important to be accurate and cautious in the short-term about what is available here. This is about accessibility and inclusion for a specific audience, not attempting to make these games fully accessible. We won’t soon see accessible Catan or Pandemic.

Bourhis’ reference to Naughty Dog’s accessibility impact on the wider gaming industry shows that Asmodee has high goals. It will be interesting to see where they go and what level of resources they have to make it all happen.

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