One Zero One Accessibility Teardown


One Zero One (2013) – 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.

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Introduction

There’s a great game in One Zero One that is just crying out for someone to release.  It’s not in the box though, and that is a huge shame.   We gave it one and a half stars in our review because while there’s a lot of potential there, it’s not currently an awful lot of fun.  You of course are entirely permitted to come to your own conclusions on that, and so we move on to our next step of evaluation .  Let’s say you want to play it – are you likely to encounter problems?  Let’s find out!

Colour Blindness

For a game with such an austere colour scheme, you’d expect a flawless pass here.  After all, that’s what Cards Against Humanity managed.  Unfortunately, no – while One Zero One is broadly accessible to those with colour blindness, it has a major accessibility issue for those with Tritanopia:

Colour problems

You had one job!

Let’s do a close up:

Tritanopia

White and white

That’s two pairs of cards – white text on the top and green text on the bottom.    You just can’t tell the difference.  To be fair, Tritanopia is a very rare condition, afflicting perhaps one in ten thousand people.  The issue can be addressed with support if you’re playing with someone else – it only really matters after all for the initial construction of starter decks.  Once the game begins, you’re focusing primarily on whether cards show ones or zeros and the colours don’t matter.   If someone can help you with setup, you should be fine.

Ones and zeros and ones

If you convert this into binary, it unlocks a great recipe for macaroni cheese

Obviously the colour issue will also impact on those with monochromacy, but that’s an even rarer condition.   As such, we’re prepared to offer a strong recommendation.  With a minus, because while it won’t impact on the vast majority of players it still would have been ridiculously easy to avoid.

Visual Accessibility

There’s almost nothing in the game that you need to be able to visually perceive except for the ones and zeros.  Instructions on cards are executed only as they are placed, and from that point on they are just inert and vestigial elements of game state.  All you’re dealing with for cards already in play are large print, highly contrasted numbers:

Full game state

This one is a great recipe for delicious stovies.

You will need to be able to examine instructions on the cards in your hand, but while they’re printed in a much smaller font they’re still readable with support.   However, you might need to rotate cards around to read instructions easily and that might leak game information to your opponent.

It is a card game, so there’s no opportunity for tactile discrimination of state, but other than that it’s about as visually accessible as a game can be.   Even the font, with all the retro-aesthetics of early 80s home computing, doesn’t significantly interfere with visual discrimination.

Again, we’re prepared to strongly recommend One Zero One in this category.

Cognitive Accessibility

There isn’t a lot that needs to be considered in a game of One Zero One.  There’s a reading level required, but it’s not very high although the jargon used may complicate matters.  Each card does something different, but what they do isn’t hugely inherently complicated.   However, the cards are often accompanied with a fair number of conditional clauses.   There are placement rules for cards that are dependent on game state, and numerous instructions that have edge cases that are not well described, or behave inconsistently.

Take the ‘Enter’ card for example.  Enter moves the target card down into the next row.  If you enter a card that’s on line 50, it gets placed instead in line 10.   However, with the print card if you attempt to print downwards from line 50, nothing happens.  Presumably.  The rules don’t quite cover that particular edge case, but that’s certainly my reading.   The Paste card requires a cut card to have been played before it, and when it’s played the command instructions on a previously cut card are executed.   No individual card is overly complicated, but these ‘if this then this unless’ clauses introduces conditional complexity.

The only thing you need to remember through play is which number is yours, although there is no provided way of keeping track of that.  It may sound strange, but this is an accessibility issue due to the way the game is presented.  Each player gets a deck of cards with 1s and 0s on opposite sides.  If you mistakenly flipped your deck, perhaps out of nervous habit, you can remove your only visual clue as to which number you are.   In most games you could look at the game-state to remind yourself, but the 1s and 0s of cards in play will flip over and back again.

It’s a tiny issue, and one I won’t hold against the game, because you can just write your number on a sheet of paper or employ one of the otherwise unused instruction cards as a prompt.  I mention it primarily because one of the most fascinating things about this project is how almost every game has some accessibility nuance that makes it distinct.   The additional tactility and variation in game state representation that board games offer over video games makes these kind of investigations a constant exercise in finding new, subtle relationships.

Anyway, while there is a workaround for this problem, there are other memory burdens.  You are also strongly benefited by remembering the cards that are likely to be in your opponent’s hand.  The game plays with its ‘open source’ model of the top card being visible to everyone.  If you can remember what’s been drawn and what’s to be played you’ll be able to predict, to an extent, what’s coming up and plan accordingly.   It’s an important part of play, although not a critical one.

The game flow is very reliable, with few opportunities for anyone to change it.  The only real cards that influence game flow are the print card, which allows two cards to be played and drawn, and the paste card which allows two cards to be played but only one to be drawn.  What happens on each turn will be different depending on cards, of course, but that’s to be expected.  Other than that, while the game state will change constantly the game flow will remain the same.

There are some limited opportunities to set up synergistic chains with cards, but they are highly situational.  You can print a card with a special effect, which will cause that effect to trigger.  That card may be another print card, which would allow you to play your entire hand at once.  That third card could potentially be a paste, which might result in another print being played.  That’s about it.   You won’t be spending a lot of time puzzling over how to set up chains of effect, because it’s not an inherent part of gameplay in the same way that it is in games such as Star Realms.

While the theme may seem cognitively inaccessible, as we mentioned in the review it is not particularly tightly integrated into the mechanics.  Really all you’re doing is flipping cards from 0 to 1 and back again.

We’re prepared to offer a recommendation in both the fluid intelligence and memory categories.

Emotiveness

One Zero One has the potential to be a frustrating game.   It’s built almost entirely around the ‘take that’ mechanic.  It provides very limited ability for anyone to meaningfully prevent the game state radically changing to their disadvantage when it’s not their turn.    There’s a certain extent to which this is ‘chess like’, in that you’re dealing with an inherently deterministic system (leaving aside the random shuffling of decks) and you are the agent of your own misfortune.  Sometimes there’s nothing really you can do from turn to turn.  When you can only play cards with no instructions, and have at least three turns of that ahead of you, it can seem very unfair especially if your opponent has a far more advantageous draw.

As a counterpoint, this kind of distribution means that just as your opponent is running out of the good stuff you’re moving into territory where you’re getting a second wind.  Much of the game advantage is set early on though, and the key element of the game is being able to modulate the pace – keeping good cards in reserve by playing blanks while you wait for an opportunity to open.  Having a hand full of powerful cards can be almost as bad for long-term momentum as a hand full of trash.  It has certain resonances with Memoir ‘44 in that respect.

One Zero One is a game for two players, and it’s very much a game of direct competition.  You’re constantly undermining the work that your opponent has put in to constructing the program, and they in turn are doing the same to you.   The competition doesn’t become nasty, such as can be the case in Survive: Escape from Atlantis.  However, it’s competition nonetheless and its comparative lack of teeth doesn’t change the fact though it’s a game in which dominance over an opponent is the win state.

Score disparities can be significant.  It’s entirely possible to lose 150-0 if you lose control of all rows.  If you invest a large amount of work in a row only to find it flip at the last second it can be infuriating.   The point balance is constantly shifting as cards are played and control is asserted.  You can lose what seems like an insurmountable advantage on the flip of a single card if you are very unlucky.  Once cards are played, that’s where they stay – if you have a poor setup then you’re just going to have to live with it.  There are very few opportunities to compensate for mistakes because while the game is all about manipulating the ones and zeros in play, you don’t really get many cards to do that.  Even when you have the ideal card, it’s viability in play is highly conditional.

All this said though, we’ll offer a tentative recommendation for One Zero One.

Physical Accessibility

There’s a lot of card-play in One Zero One, and an expectation that you’ll be able to reach over a rather large game-state to flip and move cards as is necessary.

Your hand isn’t very large – only three cards, and you can make use of a card-holder to alleviate most of the issues of secret hand management.  There’s also not a lot of shuffling – just once, at the start, for each deck.   However, just look at what the game state becomes after a few turns:

Large game state

This one is a recipe for… I’ll stop now.

There are five lines that need to be manipulated, and lines can reach any length (save for the fifth).  If you are unable to easily maneuver yourself around a potentially large distribution of cards you’re going to need assistance to flip and re-position those at the the farthest reaches.   The act of flipping cards too is an inherently tactile action.  it’s a nice and satisfying mechanic, but one that may be difficult to do regularly if impairments are to be considered and if you don’t want to potentially mess up the game state with an ill-timed physical spasm.

However, the game lends itself very well to verbalisation.   The line numbering is an excellent co-ordinate system, and the rules themselves enforce constraints on position.  All you’d really need to do to issue an instruction would be to say which line and how the card should be oriented.   The instructions that should be executed upon doing this are simple and straightforward and require no judgement on the part of the other player.

As such, we’re going to offer the game a recommendation in this category.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

There is no art, so gendered or racial portrayals aren’t a relevant consideration and the manual does not default to the assumption of masculinity.   No worries there.

It’s also quite a cheap game, at an RRP of around £15.  That though has to be weighed up against the player count, which is only two.  That gives it a ‘per player’ cost of £7.50, which is very high.  Two player games fill a useful niche, but they don’t offer a lot of opportunity for families to meaningfully play together.  Even if they did there are games that are much better value for money than this if you’re looking at something that will offer an entertaining way to spend time with the people around you.  I’m not arguing here that price per player is necessarily an important metric – it has to be tempered with game quality, after all.  I’m just saying that even with the other considerations taken into account I’d hesitate to be too enthusiastic.

We’ll still offer it a recommendation though – if our review didn’t put you off, you certainly shouldn’t let the price dissuade you.

Communication

The game does have a low required reading level – just a few words, but the jargon employed on the cards makes the required literacy a little higher than it might otherwise be.   Linguistic constructs such as ‘if 1 then 0’ are fine for evoking the theme, but not optimally readable if language difficulties present themselves.

Otherwise, the game can be played in complete silence, and offers no additional communication issues.

We strongly recommend it in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

At an estimated ten minutes per game, it’s not long enough to exacerbate distress, or even need a meaningful strategy for dropping in and out of play.  That’s good, because it’s a dueling game and as such it doesn’t have one.

The game does require hidden hands, and if dealing with someone with physical and cognitive accessibility considerations this may introduce another problem – a difficulty in providing help with some of the more complex cards without leaking game state.  However, the ‘open source’ assumption in the game means that if you see what’s in someone’s hand you’re not actually revealing hidden information.  Instead, you’re only providing a reminder of information you already possessed.

One Zero One is a game in which you are directly competing with another player – that tends to be an intersectional issue all of its own, impacting on all categories of impairment.   We tend to assume in these teardowns that everyone is playing with people that are as interested in the collective fun as they are in their own.  We expect they’ll be good sports about doing what they can to help support those with impairments.  Games which involve direct competition though can sometimes make that difficult for certain personality types.   They may not volunteer supporting information, or correct gameplay mistakes that stem from impairment.  Not something, we’d hope, to be overly concerned about but certainly something to bear in mind when deciding on who you want to play with.

Conclusion

I may not have liked One Zero One much, as you can tell from a one and a half star review.  I do like though how much it has to offer in terms of accessibility:

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

It comes with solid recommendations across the board, save for in the area of emotiveness where its fundamental design flaws exacerbate otherwise minor issues.  However, like Cards Against Humanity it picks up a number of ‘free points’ by virtue of the almost fetishistic austerity of its visual design.  Most games have aesthetic considerations they must take into account.  Games such as One Zero One bypass all of those worries. I would be loath to recommend that as a generalizable strategy for accessibility.  I like my pretty games too much.

Radar chart

For comedy value I was going to give some of these grades in binary format. But then I remembered a time I did something similar as a joke in an online game and crashed someone’s screen reader.

Nonetheless, One Zero One receives high marks in every category, and our only tentative caveats are in the area of emotional accessibility.   There are people out there that really enjoy this game – if you think you might be one of them you‘ll probably have few difficulties in playing.


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  • AlanGrahamDundee

    I’m not sure about the A- for colour blindness. I bought it and took it along to our local games night in a pub. The lighting wasn’t great that night and when I tried to play it was impossible for me to tell the difference. So maybe it’s A- in good lighting, but in not ideal lighting it drops to an F. (but tbf I have multiple types of colour blindness so I may be an edge case). Unfortunately both it and Scoville which I thought would be designed for colour blindness have went in the “can’t be played by me properly” pile. Loving your blog for accessibility 🙂

    • Hi! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog. 😀

      It’s a shame that lightning conditions make such a big difference for this – environmental factors are always going to be very difficult to generalist about. Memoir ’44 is a game we played where our kitchen lighting was such that we couldn’t tell the sides apart without very close investigation. Environmental conditions though are probably not something we can realistically incorporate into the teardowns since they’re going to be so particular to individual setups – natural light and glare versus fluorescent versus standing lamps versus overhead lamps and so on. The only thing we can really do is try to get hold of the especially reliable ones like ‘amount of table-space you need’. Every data point is worth having though!

      I think though with this one all you really need the colour for is the starter decks (if I remember correctly – this wasn’t one that stayed with me unfortunately), and the rest of the game you’re mostly just worried about if it’s a 1 or a 0 in place?

      • AlanGrahamDundee

        You may be right on the colour not being required for base game – as I say we didn’t start to play when we couldn’t tell them apart.

        And yeah, environmental factors can’t play too much for your reviews, but living pretty far north I don’t get to play a lot in natural light as half the year is dark once the workday finishes :).