Once again, I’ve stumbled upon A quick guide to readable game text by gameindustry.biz. Once again, someone credited it as a great article on making readable text in games. Moreover, “Comic Sans good for dyslexia” is one of the highlights. The article is basically an excerpt from Karen Stevens’ GDC talk Accessibility Best Practices: In-Game Communication, but for some reason, it gets cited way more than the original video.
I don’t have anything against Karen Stevens — former EA’s Director of Accessibility — and I think it’s great that she’s “spreading the word” and working towards making games more accessible to a broader circle of people.
But some of her statements caught my eye. Specifically, the one about Comic Sans being great for people with dyslexia. And she gave that one without any background or justification, just as a self-evident fact. But is that so? Let’s get into it.
Here’s the exact quote that I’m gonna be looking at:
Comic Sans tends to get a bad reputation but really it’s a very, very good font. Particularly for dyslexia. Those with dyslexia have trouble distinguishing different characters and the way Comic Sans is is much easier for them — more so than most actual fonts made for dyslexia.Caren Stevens, EA Director of Accessibility
There are not one but two statements here:
- Comic Sans being great for people with dyslexia.
- It’s much better for this purpose than most(!) of the fonts explicitly made for this.
Sounds a little bit too much, doesn’t it?
So is Comic Sans good for dyslexia or what?
I’m no expert in dyslexia, but (with all due respect) neither is Caren. So I turned to actual experts on the matter (SCIENCE!) and looked around for facts. The thing is… nobody did any serious research on the topic, which professor Maggie Snowling confirms:
I don’t know of any serious work on this issue.Professor Maggie Snowling, president of St John’s College at the University of Oxford
This is also what John Stein, a renowned dyslexia researcher, says. According to him, bigger and wider letters and increased spacing within and between words help people with dyslexia. But that’s not even that big of a help.
Sans serif, monospaced and Roman sans serif are probably best for dyslexics. […] But they’re all small effects.Professor John Stein, emeritus professor of physiology at the University of Oxford, and a dyslexia researcher of global renown
Professor Matt Schneps of Harvard University also makes the same point — Comic Sans has earned its dyslexia-friendly reputation only because of its slightly increased letter spacing. The style or shape of the letters has nothing to do with it. Besides, this characteristic is not unique to Comic Sans, and there are plenty of such fonts.
Ultimately, it all comes down to the idea that Comic Sans may be slightly easier to read for dyslexic people due to some of its characteristics. But it’s yet to be proved that it has any substantial effect.
So the next time someone says or writes, “COMIC SANS IS AWESOME FOR DYSLEXIA,” tell them that it’s not entirely true and there’s no scientific research supporting that.