The state of the Blind GM.

I’ve been away for a while, so thought it might be nice to check in, let everyone know what your Blind GM has been up too when he’s not updating his blog for months.

I think the biggest thing In my life right now is my writing. That’s right your spelling and punctuation challenged GM is at the novel thing again. A few years ago I and a friend self-published a novel Called The Amaranth, and while I am more or less happy with the story we put down there, a lot of issues came up during the publishing process. A little while ago we decided to take another swing at it, this involves a rewrite and finding it a new home. I don’t want to get too into that process just now, though expect a plug or two when things are a little further along.
We’re also working on a sequel to The Amaranth, because we’re gluttons for failure, or at least willing to take it with everything else. As much time as a rewrite takes writing something completely new is a different beast, and most of the free time I don’t pry away from it by force is taken up there. I don’t regret any of that time. I am by no means a fast writer and I am something of a compulsive one, so it’s likely the schedule I am taking up for this is going to be what my life looks like for a very, very long time and I love it.
Don’t get the idea though that I am not gaming during all this. Gaming and the prep I do for Games is a lot of how I recharge myself and My charger is in great shape. I’ve got two Mutants & Masterminds games going right now. My long term group is playing as The Bay Area Society of Heroes or B.A.S.H and a newer group I’ve picked up over the last couple months is playing as their eventual foes when I merge both groups for one final adventure in September or October. I honestly don’t know how that’s going to go, but I suspect it’s going to be a hilarious disaster.
I’ve also got one more game in my life at the moment. I’ve talked Briefly about MUDs before, but for those who don’t know a MUD is an online text-based game, think MMO with reading. My Mud of Choice is a apocalyptic gaslamp fantasy called CLOK. I am honestly loving CLOK, the people running it are wonderful, the community while sometimes fractious is great, and the game itself is the kind of immersive RP that I very much love. I know this sounds like a plug, well it sort of is, I want to see this game do well and more people to find and fall in love with it. You can find it at, and I or any number of other players will be more than happy to help you get started.
Well that’s where my Geeky life is right now, Busy beyond all recognition and loving it. I do hope to post here more often in the future, but I’m going to need a little help with that, So if you out there want me to write on some topic of geekery, from a blindness perspective or not, feel free to let me know. Honestly a big part of my delays, beyond the whole busy/lazy/forgetting thing is just not knowing what to write about up here. I know my life, my personal obsessions and struggles, but I want to know yours. I want to know what you want to know more about, what you need help with, resources you need, experiences you’ve had both good and bad, your obsessions, and I’ll do what I can to get them out there. So until next time folks, Have fun being the geeks I know you all are.

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So many books. So few women?

I often read, and sometimes talk and write about female authors, the trouble they find breaking into the publishing world, romantic fiction being one possible exception. I read and talk about it, because it is true that often simply being female presents a barrier to publication that simply isn’t there for males. While I have not experienced the discrimination that they go through, discrimination is a topic near and dear to my heart. As a blind man I too experience quite a bit of discrimination, and am a firm believer that when the playing field is truly leveled our collective quality of art will hit new heights.
I’m not going to talk about why it’s harder for women to get published, or people of color, the disabled, etc., for that matter either, that’s a topic that’s been talked about for some time, and by people who are far better informed than I. I’m not even going to talk about the whys of when a woman is published, it’s far harder for her novel to get reviewed by the major critics, advertised by the publisher, or even read by the people who see it sitting in the store. Again these issues have been discussed by people closer to the issue and better informed than I am. The point of this post is to more analyze my own habits try to spot some trends and consider anything we find.
I’ve gone through my bookshelves on Goodreads, going back to 2012, the first year I really started keeping track of what I was reading, rather than just picking up a book, reading it and forgetting about it. I’ve looked at the authors of each book and story I’ve added, and the results were a little bothering, But before I get into why they were, I think it’s best to show you the numbers I came up with.
2012: 27 books out of 240, or 11.25%
2013: 51 out of 229, or 22.27%
2014: 26 out of 159, or 16.35%
2015: 13 out of 64, or 20.31%

Now obviously 2015 isn’t over yet, but it looks like we are still starting to see a pattern. In my best year, I just managed to top 22% and in my worst year I managed just over 11%.
Now I can’t speak to the number of women published vs men, as far as I know, no one has compiled those figures across all publishing houses, but thanks to the guardian, I do have an interesting survey of major review publications and their gender spread. I’ll link the article at the bottom of this post for anyone who’d like to read it, but what matters to my train of thought is this, of all the publications surveyed, the best publication, the New York Times, managed 35% female written books reviewed, and the New Yorker only managed 17%.
It’s probably not surprising then that my numbers tend to fall someplace in the low middle of those when averaged out, As bad a s the mainstream publishing world can be, the Genre one can be a little worse. Though I can’t offer stats there, as far as I know, no one has taken the time to collect them for the major Genre publications, so for now we need to work with the statistics above.
So now I’ve gotten the number stuff out of the way, and am only a little dizzy from the math I had to do, let’s start the conjecture about why they are the way they are. The truth is I don’t know, Part of it has to just be what books I hear people talking about, If a book written by a man is more likely to get reviews, then it stands to reason that they would be more likely to be the books people are telling me about, but even then, why are my figures on the low side of the average for reviews? Part of it is likely due to the double filter, I don’t go looking for reviews as a rule. I can give you my thoughts on that another time. But with the double filter, we get two sets of internal biases at work. The reviewer’s and the people talking;, That is to say, if a man is more likely to get the attention of the people doing the reviews, than we can extrapolate from that a wider societal bias. So you have multiple layers of readers filtering out the non-male and leaving only male, or close to.
Now this sounds like I am letting myself off the hook, Like I’m saying it’s not me, it’s society, but that’s not so. When I extrapolate out A bias, I am including myself. I talk to people about books all the time, and while I love many books written by women, for whatever reason I tend to recommend the books by men, with only a few women getting mentions and even then, only likely to female readers, or to people I know who share my tastes in books.
So even there, you see me acting as another filter. Does this make me a sexist? I personally think it does, but for the sake of avoiding an argument, assuming that’s possible, let’s not use that word. Instead let’s keep using the term internal bias, it sounds better, and feels less accusatory. We all have these biases, there is nothing in and of itself that is bad about that. It’s part of life, we pick up so much from society, and we don’t always think about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok either.
“But wait, I thought you said there was nothing wrong with having Biases?” I can hear you asking. So why then did I immediately thereafter say it wasn’t ok either? The answer is simple, because while we all have them, the only way society progresses is if we can learn to see them, and then work on them.
It’s like the Avenue Q song, Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist, but it’s not just racist, it’s sexist,/abilist too. We may not hate black people, but we may also be more likely to think they are up to no good when we see them walking down the street at night. We may love women, but still think a man would be better suited to a job, or position. These are biases and they can be insidious, because we don’t always realize we are being swayed by them. IN our minds, we are being completely reasonable, but outside the effects can be far reaching and hard to combat.
But let’s bring things back to books, because I fear I may be heading down a dangerous digression for a man who wishes to avoid a major argument, and anyway I don’t wish to Diverge from my original goal too much. Though I may revisit that thought in greater depth later.
On the subject of my own biases again, I’ve been browsing through books, both in the store, or online, and said that books not for me, over and over again, as I brows the options before me, but only after the fact thought about some of those books and wondered why I said that. Part of it can be chalked up to mood at the time, but disturbingly, these are books that later I’ve picked up, because A friend, or someone in passing even, gave me no more than the same blurb on the back of the book that made me pass it up earlier. So again, why did I pass it up, and what changed? Part of it again can be that someone else was telling me about it, an endorsement in and of itself I guess, but part of it has to be, that when we talk to people about books, we tend to not say the title or author right away, more what the book is about, and there in, I think lies the difference. Some part of my brain thinks this science fiction must not be for me, because it was written by a woman, because in most cases that’s the difference, in one case I know the author’s name, and in the other I Don’t.

Now you can except my conclusions, or you can’t my goal was never really to convince anyone, my goal was always to try and figure out why the imbalance might be there in my own reading, and I think I’ve found it, And having found it, I believe I even know the solution. I need to make an effort to do better. I need to start asking myself, when I pass up a book, why I am doing that. When I am talking about the books I love, I need to be sure to mention them all, not always just the ones I think the other person will understand or be willing to read. I’m not saying I need to get to a 50/50 split, but I’d like to get to a place where I can do the math and not be disappointed in myself.
I’ll leave you with a challenge, look over your own shelves, If you’ve been tracking already, do the math and see what you get. If you’ve not been tracking, try it, and come back here next year with what you find. I hope to see some of your stats and the like in the comments and sincerely hope you all do better than I did.

Note: when doing the math for this post, anthologies were counted by the editor. In cases where I knew the gender of a pseudonym was different from the actual author’s gender I counted it as such.

Now I did promise that link to the guardian, and I am a man of my word.

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I can’t watch Daredevil

I can’t watch Daredevil.

Is that title to click baitey? Probably, but I refuse to apologize for it. Clicks are what I want for this after all.

I’ve wanted to write this post since the show launched, but it’s taken me this long to figure out how I feel about it and why. Truth to tell, I’m still not quite sure. Maybe you’ll read along with me while I figure it out.
Let me get this out of the way first, I am not here to criticize the Netflix DD from everything I’ve heard, it’s actually a rather well done show. What I am here to do is criticize a decision By Netflix in regards to this show though.
Daredevil has never been my favorite superhero, he just hasn’t been. That being said, I was always happy he existed, and even read a few of his comics from time to time. It was nice to see a superhero who to at least some degree represented what I and other people in my life were going through. That thing of course was his blindness. I can already hear people asking, “how could you read his comics if you were blind?” and it’s a reasonable question. Other than admitting to being blind on this blog, I’ve never really gone all that deep into the subject of my actual blindness, just to how it affected my hobbies, and there is a reason for that. The reason is, it doesn’t matter, not to what I want to talk about, but for here I will say this. I wasn’t always totally blind, much like Daredevil, I went blind later in life, unlike Daredevil, I had been legally blind all my life up to that point. That digression aside, let me get back to it. I was happy to know there was a hero like him, even if the depiction of his blindness was always based on stereotypes more than anything else. What does that say, that you are even happy to see a stereotypical and often offensive portrayal of your experience in media, because it’s up to that point the only one you’ve seen at all? But even that’s not my point.
My point is, that even though it was a comic that was about us, it never really bothered me all that much that blind people couldn’t read it, in point of fact, from the few issues I did read, I was actually glad of it, because I knew they’d be a lot madder than I was at some of the things I saw in those pages. I wasn’t bothered, because I and others understood the inherent limitations of the comics as a medium. A book could be read out loud, or turned into brail, a television show or movie could be described, either by one of several organizations and companies that were doing it even at that time, or by a friend, or family member, But a comic book, that was something else. The medium was pure vision, yes there was dialogue, and a story, but almost all of it was told visually, I’d even go as far as to say, for most comics, if you took out the artwork, well what was left was never going to be enough to stand on its own.
Now let’s fast forward to today. Daredevil the TV show looks to be the next big hit for Netflix, it has people raving about its story, and to a lesser extent its visuals, and while I was aware it was on its way for months, I found it hard to get all that excited about it myself. Oh I talked it up to others, alongside other superhero offerings Netflix was getting ready to give us, but at the same time, I knew this show wasn’t going to be for me. I knew it was going to be about me, but I knew me and people like me would be excluded from the audience out of hand. This didn’t bother me, I’d become so used to the way things are, that it just didn’t. You have to get that way honestly, if there is nothing you can do about a thing, if it’s everywhere, and there is almost nothing you can do about it, you have to stop letting it bother you. Some may even go as far as to say it’s not a problem, because the alternative is to spend your days angry or hurt, and no one should spend their days like that.
I’ve just realized that I’ve gotten this far without actually spelling out what the problem is, I’ve eluded to it, the more observant of you will have picked it up already, but I really should just come out and say it.
DareDevil, a show about a blind superhero is not described for the blind. It’s easy to say that Netflix just didn’t consider the blind members of its customer base, and that’s no doubt true, but it’s not because they don’t know we are there. Campaigns have been trying to get them to make accommodations for its blind and low vision users for years. So far nothing, Oh they usually say something like “We are working hard to provide great entertainment to all our members, including the hearing and visually disabled. We don’t have any further updates to share at this time.” But considering how long we’ve been pushing, I’m forced to assume that no updates are ever going to be forthcoming, unless we let Netflix know this really matters.
Some will argue, and indeed many do, that if you pay attention, you can enjoy a television show just as much by listening, and follow it just as well as if you were watching it. This statement is almost comical in its absurdity. Yes it’s true, I watch a lot of movies and television shows, and no not all, or even most of it is described for me and I enjoy it. I’d not bother if I didn’t, but it’s not the same experience, not even close. I know I am missing a lot, I have to spend a lot of time figuring out what happened earlier in some shows through context, often I just have to let it go. There are sometimes ways around this, episode guides, and the like are a godsend, but it’s not the same, and sometimes it’s not even possible. I still live in hope that someday I might actually know what happened in the last couple seasons of Clone Wars.
But let me get back to daredevil, because this more than anything else bothers me. This is a show about a blind man, it’s a highly visual show, one where a lot of the plot is unspoken, where the jokes rely on seeing what a character is referring to, a show where a lot of the suspense comes from seeing what’s going on at that exact moment, and I can’t do any of those things. OH if I could only speak Spanish, I could watch the show, or French, or German. The show is both subbed and dubbed into all three of those languages, but there is nothing for me. No option to switch to a track where at least the major action could be described to me. I can’t help but feel excluded, and I stand by what I’ve said before, this is a show about me, but Netflix has made it clear it’s not a show for me and never will be. I wonder if there should be a term for that. Blindxploitation maybe? Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but I am stumped to find another way of describing what’s going on here. It’s about blind people, but fails utterly to let us into the conversation, while at the same time exploiting us for profit.
Actually the more I think about it, I don’t like the term Blindxploitation. It harkens back to blackxploitation, and while those films and television shows were, and still are problematic, it does actually let black people be a part of it, they starred in the stuff, made money from it and went to see it. True this doesn’t make the exploitation any better, but it’s a bit different. Blind people are being erased from the media about them. They are being played by sighted people, in movies and shows for sighted people. It’s really more like blackface shows. I’m going to move away from this line of thought now, because I don’t want to coopt someone else’s struggles or say mine are worse, but if I keep down this track it might look that way, I am however trying to draw an equivalency and one I hope people can see.
So I guess I’ve figured it out, I’m upset by this. DareDevil bothers me, it actually bothers me a lot. What’s going on here is not ok. A lot of what’s happened in the past isn’t either, and frankly I’m tired of pretending it is. Netflix has excluded me from something I really should be celebrating with everyone else.
A good DareDevil show should have me dancing for joy, but I’m not, and I won’t. Netflix, you’ve seriously dropped the ball here, and now it’s really up to you to show you can pick it back up again. For my sake however, I’ll not be holding my breath.

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the blind GM rides again

Hey folks. I know it’s been a while since my last update. Honestly I have been having some trouble finding things to write about. I’ve already talked about the kinds of issues I deal with in the hobby, as well as reasons why you might want us in your game. My next planned update was going to be about going to cons and what I found there, but since this would necessitate actually going to said cons, my limited cash flow made this unfeasible this year. So with the con option out of the picture for now I was at a loss. I had primed the pump, so to speak, with my last 2 entries, but was still coming up dry. And then it hit me. At first I didn’t want to write just another play experience blog, complaining about rules and telling anecdotes about my players. But I did some thinking, and realized that that was precisely what I needed to be writing about. If my goal is to bring awareness to the issues us blind folks deal with in gaming, then I need to tell you about what my gaming is like. Please forgive me if I am the last person to arrive at this conclusion. In about A week I will be starting up a Dresden files game, and in about a month I will be starting a pathfinder one, and this blog will be the place I discuss them. It will have all the regular elements of almost every other gaming blog, but it will also have the issues we come up against, and hopefully the solutions we find. It will have guest entries from some of my players to provide differing viewpoints about how things are going, and best of all it will be the perfect tool for getting my message out there to as many people as possible. So in the coming weeks and months when you are reading about great warriors cleaving goblins, vampire detectives stalking the streets of tempi Arizona, or dashing spies foiling Nazi plots, remember the warriors detectives and spies just may be totally blind.

Finally I am considering either at the end of each blog entry, or perhaps as a separate entry entirely,, compiling a list of accessible games and gaming tools me, my players, and hopefully my readers, bring to my attention, and the links on where to obtain them. But this promises to be an evolved and sometimes expensive process, so it will be something I do only if I receive some indication of interest from readers.
Now I will leave you in the way I always do, with my request. if you would like to see the gaming companies start making products accessible to the blind, please contact them and tell them so. thank you.

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why you want us in your game

hello everyone and by everyone of corse I really mean all 5 of you, this is my long overdue third blog entry. In my last attempt at blogging I made an obvious statement, that the table top gaming industry is in a decline this I am sure is not news to anyone, so I am going to address that issue here today. For those of you who are now expecting some treaties on what we need to do as gamers and producers to revitalize the hobby I recommend you read my mission statement again because that is not what I am here for, no in this entry I am goingto address a very small demographic all be it one that I personally am a part of but remember every person or group we bring in to the hobby the more we strengthen it and perhaps if we as gamers and producers work to include more groups we can turn the tide, also summon captain planit or something but I digress. I am going to explain today why you as a gamer and then you as a producer want a blind person in your game and in a larger sense in your hobby.
The first reason I will get out of the way now so we can all dismiss it right off and move on to the ones that actually might sway your opinions. Helping the blind and indeed any other group to participate in something is the right thing to do. Did this change anyones mind? I didn’t think so, if it did good for you. I will now ask the question why did this not occure to you sooner? For the rest of us we can move on to the important self interest stuff.
We read, ok this needs a little clarification to make sense. First I will not bother to point out the obvious that reading provides great inspiration to those of us who participate in what amounts to group storytelling and instead point out that with travel being difficult and television and films only having limited appeal most of us blind folks read a lot. And due to the failure of most schools to provide a rounded education we tend to focus on the arts. And if you can’t see the benefit of a flud of artists joining the game then perhaps you want to take a moment to think about the fact that you may actually have found the only way to play dungeons & dragons wrong.
The next we tend to think descriptively. I am sure I don’t need to explain that the blind experience the world a little differently, we go through the world with much less sensory input then everyone else. This tends to make us descriptive we may not spend forever describing how blue someone’s eyes were but because we go through life with out sight it forces us to lern to form mental pictures of everything. If nothing else this may actually give us an advantage in a hobby where a lot of the action lies in the players ability to imagine and then explain an action to others around a table. Just take a moment how often does a GM describe a dragon as no more then a bit of the descriptive text and then some tripe about his impressive size and then show you a picture or in the worst of cases a simple painted or unpainted mini. While I can reasonably say that very few blind players will present you with some bit of art to give you an idea of what that dragon looks like and can with little reservation say he or she will not be painting a mini that person if given a chance may explain how the dragons scails are chipped from meny previous incounter with adventurers how its face is marred by the collected soot of a thousand jets of flame and it’s breath reeks of a charnel house. Note like anyone else however it may take some time for a blind player to come out of there shell enough to share there mental images with the group. Further note if a blind player produces a highly detailed painted mini that they claim to have painted themselves there is a good chance they are not blind.
My next point Is for both players and developers remember MUDs we do hell we are still playing them. For those who don’t know what a MUD is I recommend you go find out, go on we’ll wait. Ok there takeing to long someone fill them in when they come back I have better things to do. Well MUDs are still around and a very large part of the reason for that is us. I will not go so far as to say the only reason but it is no secret that the blind make up a very large part of the MUD community and in most cases tend to be the top players in any given game. We are helping to keepit alive in short and we can do the same for table top with just a little help.
And now to the developers we can help to keep your industry afloat we as a community represent millions world wide meny with little else available for active entertainment and if you can tap into any part of that it can only help your company and really the best part is you don’t even have to market specifically to us just make your materials available we will do the rest. You will find us to be a surprisingly large and devoted customer base and really the first person to take advantage of that will reap the most from us
Ok well that is it I have not covered all the reasons you might want us around but I think I have hit on most of the big ones in my longwinded and rambling sort of way and as by the time I say good by I will have written well over 1000 words with far to little punctuation. I will leave you with my request if you feel that the game developers should work to include the blind a little more please contact them and let them know this is an issue you feel strongly about.
You know what tell them even if you don’t, it is the right thing to do.

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Greetings From The Blind GM

I will say this first off while there are barriers to people with visual disabilities playing games like dungeons and dragons these barriers are mostly artificial; the first and most obvious is accessing the rules. I bring this one up first because in this digital age this problem should be nonexistent but sadly it is. the major one. While most games these days do have digital options for the systems most of these are made inaccessible, part of this problem is developers simply being lazy. It would be relatively easy to make a pdf that contained text rather then simply the image of text. Some readers here won’t understand the difference while others will see it as a difference with out a distinction. to the former i will just say the difference is fairly major but i won’t go into it here, to the latter to most people it is true that there really is no distinction as you can read either just as well but for some namely people using a screen reader to us an image of text is useless the screen reader needs text to work with. let me put it like this if your computer can’t identify the text then neither can the screen reader. some will say “but i am sure there is some good reason why some game developers make there pdf files that way” and i am sure you are right but making a pdf with text rather then images does not take up more time or cost anymore money so what ever that reason is it can’t be one of the two major ones that businesses use when determining the viability of a product format. the second is in a lot of cases even if the pdf does contain actual text the protections placed on the pdf make it useless to screen readers i have a little more understanding towards the companies on this one but there has to be a way of protecting there product with out making it unusable to the blind, i don’t know what that is but i am sure with a little work we can find one.

the easiest solution to this is probably web based i know for a fact that wizards of the coast offers most if not all there materiel for the fourth edition of dungeons and dragons on line and i feel they should be commended for this but we again come back to the issue of text being presented as an image. most of the site is moderately accessible but the information is still unusable because while i can see all the text and even most of the descriptions anything presented in a chart is still just an image. i am not quite sure why they have done it that way they obviously have an actual chart somewhere they had to make the image would it have been so hard to put that up on the site. but i digress i still feel that a web based solution still may be the way to do it we could pay for content if there is a lot of frequently updated or new content then perhaps a monthly subscription or a system where we pay for just the things we actually want.
with that rather ham fisted transition i come to the issue of money, the table top gaming industry is in a decline and has been for years making your products available to a new group of customers at little or no cost can only help. as it stands me and other blind gamers are mostly sticking to games with a thorough OGL and a web based SRD, for games like pathfinder we can even do it right from the paizo website so even though they may not be getting our money for buying the books/PDF they at least get add revenue for us. but i really do want to perches from paizo wizards and any other game developer producing a quality product.
now i will end this post in the way i intend to end all my posts from this blog, with a request if you would like to see the gaming companies start making products accessible to the blind pleas contact them and tell them so. thank you.

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the mission of the blind gm

i am creating this blog to discuss the issues concerning blind people and gaming. specifically table top gaming as that is my passion. first off i will say there are some barriers that make even this kind of gaming difficult for those of us with a visual impairment my goal is to identify these barriers bring awareness to them and hopefully help find solutions.

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