Thursday, 11 December 2008

Now see hear...

Hearing impairmentImage via WikipediaBeing forced to play Quake 4 in silence wasn't too bad, till I discovered the subtitles that weren't there. I could have left it there, I could have walked a few yards and fetched my headphones. But I am a real obstinate bastard. And I hate walking.

A bit of googling revealed, to my absolute shock, that many games now do not include subtitles or closed captions, despite many gamers', hard of hearing or otherwise, pleas for them. This seems like a terrible omission to me, and should probably be illegal or something. In this rapidly (and it really is rapidly, according to a recent survey as many as 50% of American adults now play games) growing industry, that is becoming more and more mainstream by the minute, I find it shocking that a publisher as big as id could show such disregard for its hearing impaired customers.

I should qualify this by saying that the game is by no means unplayable without subtitles, the objectives are clearly displayed on the screen and the dialogue is consistently terrible anyway. But the simple fact is, in the 'exposition' sections where the story traps you in a room and forces itself upon you like a clumsy bear, it's really rather tedious. There is nothing to do but watch their mouths, which sadly you cannot lipread, and wait till someone decides to open a door and let you get back to shooting stuff.

Luckily, Games[CC] have decided to take matters into their own hands, creating their own closed captions for games (including Quake 4) and releasing them as mods. Ubisoft have also committed to including subtitles in future games. It should also be noted that many games, including the Half-Life series, include closed captions as a standard option. If gaming really is to grow up, it's issues like these that need to be addressed and quickly.

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