2016 Year in Review

If you Google “2016 sucks” you’ll see a lot of links to people talking about how deplorable this year was. One YouTube channel even summed up the entire year with this fake horror movie trailer, which is definitely worth a watch. 2016 wasn’t all doom and gloom though, and I’d like to end the year with a look back at some of the positive things that happened.

The Accessible Games Community Came to my Rescue

On March 13th, my house caught fire and I lost nearly everything. Then the blog went silent for two months straight despite the fact that I had just kicked off the RPG Blog Carnival for the month.

You might be thinking “Gee, that sure does suck. 2016 sucked!” Yes, the house fire was a terrible event in my life and another notch in 2016’s belt. But the Accessible Games community came back swinging and helped me triumph over tragedy.

With the help of the fantastic Indie Game Developers Network and 50+ amazingly generous people, I was able to replace my computer with the proceeds of a wildly successful GoFundMe campaign.

My wife, son, and I were all completely floored by the amount of generosity that poured out of our friends and friendly strangers during that period of our lives. As my wife and I spent several hours per day, every day, going through the wreckage of a burnt-out house, we couldn’t help but feel grateful and blessed for all of the wonderful people who aided us in our time of need. The GoFundMe campaign raised enough money for me to replace my computer and get me back to work (more on that later), and other friends, family, and even strangers came to our aid as well.

My mother-in-law’s dentist and dental assistants heard about what happened to us, and even though they didn’t know us whatsoever they pitched in to donate a sizeable gift card to my family to help us replace many of our household items. They also put together an Easter basket for my two-year-old boy and gave him some new toys to replace some of the many that he lost. On top of that, many of my co-workers donated household goods and clothing, both new and old, to help us restore our lives.

By the time we moved into our new apartment about three months after the fire, we felt like we already had many household essentials to get us started with our new lives. We still had a long way to go (you have no idea what goes into running a home until you don’t have anything with which to run it), but we were never desparate for anything.

Last, and perhaps most important of all, my iwife’s parents were gracious enough to take us in for a month while we sorted out the wreckage and prepared to move into a hotel. Her dad took me to work every morning and they, with the help of my sister-in-law, watched our son for us while we toiled away every night from the time I left work until after the Sun had long since gone down. Meanwhile, other family members took time out of their lives to drive down from Portland, about an hour and a half away, to help us clear out our old home and catalog everything for insurance purposes.

Friends, family, and friendly strangers. Without them, life after the fire may have been bleak and miserable. But I learned something this year about Community–it’s important to be part of one, or even several, because life is often too difficul to go it alone.

Meanwhile, I still Published

Thanks to the support of the IGDN and others, I was able to replace my computer within months of losing my old one. This meant I was able to get back to working on Accessible Games and other products (not to mention my homework for school).

I didn’t get as much time as I’d hoped to work on writing and design this year. Part of that had to do with the fire, but part of it is due to a heavy workload at school. I’m working toward a degree in Management and Organizational Leadership which should be completed by August 2017. I have several hours of homework and other reading to do during the week, which just doesn’t leave a lot of time or energy for creative work.

Still, I managed to publish at least two products this year: Psi-punk Archetypes: Opportunist and Monster Kart Mayhem: Family Affair.

In addition, some of the other books I wrote for were released this year. Dark Hold: A Goblin Adventure, a Savage Worlds setting by Rebel Minis, recently shipped. This year also saw the release of the Baby Bestiary 2, a follow-up to the Baby Bestiary from last year which won an ENnie Award at GenCon 2016.

I also got to work a bit on some games which are not yet published. I contributed much less than I would have liked to both Synthecide (an upcoming Sci-Fi game which is going to be totally awesome) and the Pip System Core book from Third Eye Games. Although my contributions to the core book are less significant than I would have liked, I’ve already announced that I have begun production on a new setting using the core rules–Super Able, a game about empowering children with disabilities. Writing on this game has begun and I can’t wait to show it to everyone.

All things considered, I think it’s been a pretty good year for my writing and design work.

 

Panels and Discussions

Although I had to back out of some highly anticipated panels from the Gamestorm convention in March, I did get an opportunity to talk about diversity and accessibility a few times this year.

Shortly before the fire, I recorded a panel on Google Hangouts with my friends Sarah Richardson, Beth Rimmels, and Elsa S. Henry. The panel, “Diversity+: Gaming with Disabilities,” was a 101-level discussion about, well, gaming with disabilities. If you haven’t watched it before, I’d encourage you to check it out.

In non-gaming related panels, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at a small conference about people with visual impairments in the workforce. It was myself and two other panelists and we got to share our experiences as employed people who are blind.

I was also the Guest of Honor at a “diversity picnic” in July. The hostess, one of my wife’s old cohort from college, asked me to speak about my experiences as a blind individual. I spoke for about twenty minutes to the largest crowd I’d ever stood in front of–about 120 people or so–and shared my blindness story. Afterward, one of the audience members invited me to speak at next year’s Diversity Week at Salem Hospital, the largest hospital in the city. I’m looking forward to that.

Oh, and as a follow-up to a talk I gave to some students at the University of Washington last year, I was asked to help a group of programming students develop an app for blind and low-vision users. We worked together to design an app called SeeForMe, an image recognition app for smartphones which would take a picture with your camera and read back, using text-to-speech, what it saw. Although it was just a prototype designed as part of a school project (and therefore isn’t on the Android Market), it was a great experience and a fantastic proof of concept designed by the students. They used me as their guinea pig and graciously accepted my feedback, and I was glad to be part of their educational experience.

Conclusion

There are a lot of valid arguments for why 2016 is one of the worst years on record. I’d encourage you to not get too caught up in the depressing pesimism surrounding the year though. Take a look back at the year for yourself. Can you find anything positive to say about it? Let me know in the comments!

About Jacob Wood

Jacob founded Accessible Games because he wants to spread the joy of gaming to everyone, including people with disabilities. He is visually impaired and knows what it's like to need to adapt, and he brings two decades of gaming experience to the table.
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