Dixit Accessibility Teardown


Dixit (2008) – Accessibility Teardown

Context of Document

This is not a review of this game. You will find the review linked in the introduction.

Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.

Not all sections of this document will be relevant to every person. We consider matters of diversity, representation and inclusion to be important accessibility issues. If this offends you, then please stop reading now. This will not be the blog for you, and we have no interest in debating with anyone whether these issues are worthy of discussion. You can check out our common response to common objections.

If you like what we're doing with Meeple Like Us, please consider liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and sharing our content on Reddit and your own social networks. Drop us a comment too in the discussion section below! We appreciate every thing you do to help us get the word out!

Version reviewed

Asmodee/Libellud English edition 2015

Introduction

Dixit is great, and that’s why we gave it four stars in our review. But, our big thing here at Meeple Like Us is ‘just how many people can actually play it?’. So let’s tear things up as we tear things down!

Visual Accessibility

We begin, as we usually do, with colours. Here we see a familiar story – the choice of tokens provided by the game is not conducive to any particular category of colour-blindness. You can probably, for smaller numbers of players, choose a combination of colour tokens that are visually distinctive. Dixit though works best with larger group numbers and that’s not going to be possible in every circumstance.

Colour blind bunnies

I forget, am I the red one, the red one, or the green one or the green one?

Given the fact that the default meeple is a rabbit, if you have any other games with meeples in the box you can fairly easily jury-rig a visually distinctive system making use of standard meeples to give extra visual orientation. Unfortunately, the choice of colours extends beyond simply keeping track of scoring – the tokens used by players are also cast in every round for cards that have been played. It’s going to be almost impossible for someone with colour blindness to handle end of round scoring without assistance. That said, it’s easy enough in Dixit for scoring to be handled by a single person, so arrangements can be made.

Colour blind board

I’m going to have to trust you’re not screwing me over here.

When we get to the actual cards themselves, colour loss is also significant and likely to be an important aspect in play. Consider the image below:

Colour blind cards

Okay, I’m playing the bottom centre one. My clue is ‘The first leaves of autumn’

Let’s say I play the bottom centre card (the poppies in a field), and I give my clue as ‘remembrance’. There’s a good choice that most people might think ‘Remembrance. Remembrance Sunday – poppies – got it’. But, if you suffer from Protanopia or Deuteranopia, it looks more like the falling leaves of autumn. It’s true that the cards all have considerable visual distinctiveness – you certainly won’t get them mixed up. You will though lose a lot of the subtle nuance that is so key to empathic play within Dixit.

The story is equally bleak for other categories of visual impairment. Let’s say we have a standard playing arrangement, as we saw in the review post:

Very pretty cards

A hand of Dixit cards! THEY ARE SO PRETTY!

Someone with visual impairments is going to have to be able to examine these cards and parse them for subtleties and abstract connections, and some of this parsing requires a ‘big picture’ view of what’s going on. It’s not impossible for each card to be inspected individually with the use of a magnifier or some other supporting piece of equipment. It would though be so slow, so cumbersome, and so deleterious to game flow that it would render the game sluggish and borderline unplayable with any degree of immersion. It would be possible to jury-rig a system that would allow for those with visual impairments to play reasonably effectively and smoothly, making use for example of a webcam streaming images to local devices, but you’d need to be fairly tech savvy to be able to make it work.

Hand management too is an issue for the visually impaired, because there are a lot of cards that need to be visually scanned for relevance to the storyteller clue, and some of those connections may be tenuous at best. Finding an appropriate card to play is tricky enough when you can easily swap between cards and shuffle and sort them into some meaningful order. Doing so with visual impairment would be extremely difficult.

Leaving all of that aside though, so much of the appeal of Dixit is dependant on the quixotic artwork – it’s explicitly a game that is to be enjoyed visually as well as emotionally. As such, we have a hard job recommending Dixit for those with visual impairments. It *can* work with enough clever support, but you’d lose an awful lot in the process.

Cognitive Accessibility

If there was an accessibility area where Dixit absolutely shines, I think it’s here. There is not much in Dixit that requires anything in the way of cognitive processing, it’s entirely a game about how you things make you feel. It’s embedded so deeply into the game design that I think it potentially has a real, valid role in art-related therapeutic treatments. As long as you can remember a storyteller clue, you can make a meaningful contribution to the game. And if you have difficulty with that, you can always ask for a reminder without any impact on the game flow. All you need to do is consider some pictures, many of which are simply nice to look at, and then put down a number saying which one you liked the most. For those with severe cognitive impairments, we’d recommend playing without scoring – the game isn’t significantly weakened by losing the slim competetive element. In such variations, evaluation of play becomes a function of social interaction – you talk and laugh about what people thought other people played, rather than accumulate points. This is also a variation I might recommend for young children. I also recommend for Dixit, independent of cognitive impairments, a house-rule of repeating the clue each time a card is turned over – it’s just better that way.

When it comes time to be the storyteller, the game is naturally self-selecting – by definition, you give a clue that is meaningful to you as a player, there is no ‘clever’ strategy involved. A single word clue can be better than a complex abstraction, and it’s almost as much fun to talk about why people didn’t get your clue as it is to get people to pick your card. As we said in the review, this is a game that is about getting to know people better – if viewed simply as a mediation for that process, it can lend itself to almost any level of cognitive impairment.

It strikes me too that this is likely a game that would be absolutely wonderful for families dealing with severe dementia in a relative. One of my PhD supervisors (Norman Alm, of the University of Dundee) was heavily involved in dementia research, and was part of a team that put together an interesting system called Circa that served as a tool for collaborative recollection. He told me that the odd thing about dementia is that while sufferers may not remember names, places, dates or details they often remember *stories*. Circa provided a series of photographic, video and auditory triggers in the hope of setting off a recollection in someone with dementia – they’d see a picture of a wedding dress and suddenly, out of nowhere, start telling a lucid, clear story about a wedding dress they had encountered somewhere in their own lives. As a spontaneous tool for unlocking memories that families may have thought were lost forever, that is an incredibly powerful way of continuing to build emotional bonds and understanding.

Dixit I believe, although I haven’t experimentally tested, seems like it would fulfill exactly the same role by opening up opportunities for spontaneous, unforced recollection in a stress-free environment.

Anyway, Dixit gets a glowing endorsement in this category. I can think of few games that I’d be more willing to suggest for people suffering from mild to severe cognitive impairment.

Emotiveness

Going hand in hand with its recommendation for cognitive impairments is a recommendation for emotional and behavioural disorders. Dixit is so charming and whimsical that you can completely extract the competitive nature from it and keep it as meaningfully the same game. While I don’t know its potentially effectiveness in the area of diagnosis, I would think of it as something like a recreational Rorschach test – the responses that players have to the cards they play will give a lot of insight into what’s happening in otherwise invisible mental processes. A deep bench investment in the expansions for Dixit would open up a greater range of expressiveness in this category.

However, those suffering from issues of empathy may find the game frustrating considering that the only clue they have available in play is the emotional reaction others are likely to have to the cards in their hand. If this can be overcome, Dixit could likely have a minor role too in helping train or develop these faculties, cultivating an appreciation of the inner life of others. I think you could productively employ Dixit in therapeutic, calming play.

Regardless of this minor disclaimer, Dixit is extremely low stress, extremely low competitiveness, and high on simply enjoying thinking about the way that art makes us and the people around us feel. We’d have no qualms in recommending it in this category.

Physical Accessibility

Dixit makes use of over-sized cards, and it’s important that a player be able to shuffle through them to see which ones are most appropriate for storyteller clues. Each player makes use of six cards at a time, and it’s important that these cards be kept secret from other players. There is though relatively little active management of hands required. Once a clue has been given by the storyteller, a card must be played face down. When the scoring is done, a card must be drawn into the hand. That’s the sum total of what playing cards in Dixit means. This ease of interaction lends itself well to compensatory strategies.

A standard card holder is unlikely to be up to the job of holding a full hand of Dixit cards since ideally you need to see the fullness of each card at once. Several of them used together would offer an almost complete solution to the problems likely posed by physical accessibility. For those with physical impairments severe enough to restrict the playing or drawing of a card, there is no loss of game-play from the card to be played to be indicated to another player, who then takes it without looking and plays it face down. When I played Dixit with my family, it was me that played the role of a kind of ‘gamesmaster’, and I took responsibility for shuffling cards, revealing them in order and then flipping over tokens – not because accessibility was an issue, but just because we played on a small table that didn’t really allow everyone to do it. Nothing is lost doing this. Similarly with calculating score and moving scoring tokens – all of that can be handled by a single person, it doesn’t have to be done in turns.

When it comes time to placing voting tokens, the intention of the game is that they are played face down so nobody influences anyone else. Again, there would be no serious loss of game-play integrity if those with physical impairments indicated their card choice verbally or through accessible support tools. Leaving this until after the tokens have been played means that even the spirit of the game can be retained.

We’d certainly recommend Dixit in this category, although only if you’d be willing to make use of card holders such as these, and had the necessary room to set up several of them, per appropriate player, at a time:

Cards in a cardholder

Pretty enough for a mantelpiece.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

Dixit is (almost) first rate in this category. There is gendered artwork, but none of it is sexualised, politicised or radicalised. At least, not overtly – there is nothing that would stop individual people making their own assumptions and connections on the artwork, but that’s something external to Dixit. Make sure you play it with nice people, and you’ll be absolutely fine. Everything is tinged in abstraction and mysticism, you’d have to work very hard to be offended by any of it. Similarly with the tokens – they’re rabbits! They are so cute! You can’t be offended by them, you just can’t.

There is a small danger though that the nature of the game and the artwork may be perceived to be infantalising, especially given the game is about emotional revelation and you have rabbits for your meeples. A few rounds in though and people tend to realise that it’s not a childish game, but rather a game that encompasses all the best and most creative elements of childhood in a package that is entirely suitable for adults.

The game has no language at all, other than what we as players bring to the game – the only place that’s not true is in the manual, which is gender-inclusive and written accessibility. Not surprising it doesn’t make a lot of mistakes since it’s only a single double-sided sheet.

But see that almost up there? Yeah. See, this is I’d say 95% of the Dixit cards that have at least one character on them:

White faces for days

If you think it’s white now, wait until you see it dancing at a wedding.

Notice anything?

That’s right, it’s overwhelmingly white. I don’t know if this holds true for all the Dixit expansions (I’m not reviewing those), but there’s one single black face in the crowd, and one that is ‘borderline ethnic’.  Man, that sounds terrible, but I spent two minutes thinking of a better way of putting it and couldn’t, so let’s just move on.  There are plenty of men, plenty of women, but the balance of skin colours is way, way off. It’s an unfortunate oversight, given how much effort has gone into balancing the rest of things.

Auditory Accessibility

For the first time, we have a situation where auditory accessibility is an issue – the clues for Dixit are almost always verbalised, although they don’t actually *have* to be. However, it seems likely if playing with someone that is deaf or with significant auditory impairment it will be necessary to make some kind of compensation there, either with sign language, written clues, or something else. It’s not at all a problem, but something you’ll need to consider.

Intersectional Issues

As with Suburbia, Dixit avoids many intersectional accessibility issues through its game design. There is no randomness other than what random drawing of cards involves. No dice are required, no time constraints, and no multi-tasking is needed. The size of hands can be an issue, as can the fact they need to be kept hidden – this creates an intersectional issue for those with physical and cognitive impairments. Not a huge one, because the hidden hands are not state dependant and don’t interact with the hidden hands of other players, but one to bear in mind if everyone involved is actively playing the game. Each player needs to keep their options obscure, limiting opportunities for other players to come and help if there is a problem.

Perhaps the most significant issue though is that there is limited ability to drop in and out of the game – the game has a minimum player count of three, and if it drops below that threshold the game simply cannot be played. If there are more players, dropping in and out can be done on a hand by hand basis without major mechanical impact, but it does have a significant effect on the quality of game play. Dixit with three isn’t a great game. Dixit with four is good. Dixit with more is great. Players may feel obligated to continue if they are aware that their absence will degrade game quality for everyone, or potentially bring the game to a halt.

The small size of the meeples (Meebits? Mabbits?), and the tight constraints of the board, create an intersectional issue for visual and physical impairments, but our recommendation is that a single player be responsible for manipulating the scoring. If all players have these intersectional issues, Dixit scoring may be awkward to track – simply removing scoring or tracking it on a notepad would deal with this issue without significant loss of game aesthetic. The mabbits are cute though. It’d be a shame to lose them.

Aside from these, we see relatively few intersectional issues that would negatively impact on a Dixit player. Even the ones we’d normally flag up, such as the art style and the symbology of clue-giving, are handled positively in the game design.

Conclusion

Let’s throw all of that into the ol’ Meeple Like Us percolator and see if it comes out as coffee. I don’t know what I am saying:

Colour Blindness E
Visual Impairment E
Emotiveness B
Fluid Intelligence A
Memory A
Physical B+
Socioeconomic B-
Communication B+

That gives us the following radar chart, for our files:

Dixit Radar Chart

Not too shabby

We recommend Dixit very strongly for almost every category of impairment, save for visual – in that category, we appreciate that you *can* play it if you really want to put in the effort (hence an E rather than an F) but we believe you’d end up with a substantially inferior experience for your additional effort. The socioeconomic grade would have been higher if there had been a little less homogeneity in the skin colours, but we consider that to be a failing of sufficient significance to justify a hefty penalty, knocking it down from the A it otherwise would have received. Obviously you can weigh up the importance of this yourself as you decide whether to buy it. But we do recommend you buy it, if you can play it, because it is bags of fun in a box. Or is that boxes of fun in a bag? It’s fun, is what we’re saying. Treat yourself.


If you like what we're doing with Meeple Like Us, please consider liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and sharing our content on Reddit and your own social networks. Drop us a comment too in the discussion section below! We appreciate every thing you do to help us get the word out!

  • Behrooz Shahriari

    Very interesting. I do wonder if you see the characters as white because of your race, though? I feel that 11 of those folk could be POC. I’m personally kinda light-brown, of Iranian heritage.

    Certainly would be better if there were more than 1 black person but I still applaud Dixit for the relative diversity I see.

  • It’s certainly not something I can completely discount, and in a game like Dixit the entirety of the game is about what you project onto the art. Looking at it again, aside from the characters I mentioned in the review, I still don’t see much diversity myself. 🙂

  • Pingback: Dixit (2008)()

  • Pingback: Once Upon A Time (2012) – Accessibility Teardown – Meeple Like Us()