Involving Dyslexia in Gameplay
Written by Omer Keidar - CTO & Game Director at Scarlet Genesis
When we were blowing our first thought bubbles on "RoBo: The Allectric Idventurer" we knew his owner, whose spirit resides in RoBo, would be a clever and resourceful girl that would inspire children to seek creativity in everyday objects.
Trying to balance her gifts, we looked for a topic not represented in many games—something that would be an obstacle but one that she could grow from.
We decided on Dyslexia. It fitted well with her design. She would be that witty and clever girl that can solve many problems, but struggles to read and represent letters in her mind.
We wanted Robin's Dyslexia to play a part in the gameplay rather than be a side note in the story.
As we found out rather quickly, this was not a simple task. The research* yielded that most "gameplay" aspects of Dyslexia were all related to spelling and the sound of letters. So we didn't want to make a game where that players have to spell words, or even understand terms, as it would be tough to do well across different cultures and languages.
One of the articles we read regarding Dyslexia went into details about how Dyslexic people can have a unique perception of the world. That creativity could shine brighter while creating a manipulatable spatial image in mind. Also, creating a visual representation of words helps remember them.
This fits perfectly with Robin's ability to find creative solutions.
So what is the holdback? First, Robins struggles to find the proper definition of her ideas.
We decided to represent Dyslexia, apart from the world and narrative design, in building a vocabulary and constructing machines.
Through the game, RoBo\Robin will encounter many terms. These terms will be represented visually as an action that is happening or that the player has to perform. This action will result in the term being added to their vocabulary, represented as an image that robin assigned to the term.
For example, when the player reaches a blocking obstacle, Robin will use her creative mind to define the actions needed to get them beyond that obstacle (e.g., launch, charge forward, etc.). This would be a puzzle that the player has to solve by matching the terms to the actions that Robin had defined. After solving this, Robin will draw a machine blueprint (a simple example would be a catapult, but we want the machines to be much more exciting). The player will then go to branching paths to collect the machine's parts (fighting enemies, platforming, and solving puzzles on their way). When all the parts are collected, the machine can be built and used by the player.
*This was only preliminary research and there is much more research to be done.
**screenshots are from an early prototype and are used to convey the concept
Now all that's left is making it beautiful, fun, and not repetitive 🙂 ----
We hope this post is helpful for you and gives you some inside peek on collaborative thinking processes. Research and teamwork are essential in creative productions. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to know what you think.
Want to be a part of a live game development process?
Get motivation and be part of a game dev and gamers community?
Join our Discord channel, where we go live while working, share UE5 tips & tricks, industry news, art, and just chill & play games (: