When we think about captions and subtitles, we’re usually thinking about movies, TV, and video content. However, there’s another, more interactive medium where audiences benefit from having subtitles available: video games! The gaming industry is massive, and caters to an incredibly diverse customer base – all of whom should have the opportunity to play without barriers. According to TechCrunch, in the U.K. alone there are some 14 million people with disabilities, yet within the gaming industry they are often overlooked. Video game accessibility should be at the forefront of game development.
Read on to learn about the challenges faced and strategies utilized to make this space even more accessible and inclusive. If you have suggestions or ideas how we can all make this space even more accessible and inclusive, share them with us in the comments!
I found three awesome articles that pull back the curtain on accessibility in the video game industry. Check them out!
1. The process: how are subtitles added to video games?
Written by Ben Bayliss for DualShockers
Deaf journalist and accessibility advocate Ben Bayliss takes a deep dive into subtitle creation in video games in order to better understand the current technology and processes used to make games accessible.
Written partially as a response to Activision’s 2018 release of Spyro Reignited Trilogy with an intentional absence of subtitles, Bayliss spoke with several game developers about what it takes to add captions and subtitles to games, and what factors go into making decisions about accessibility features in the gaming industry. It’s a thought-provoking read, and I found it interesting to learn about different developers’ experiences – varying from working on huge games for well-known companies to bootstrapping an indie game with very limited resources.
The overall consensus is that subtitles and other accessibility features are important to developers, but sometimes fall through the cracks in the tight timelines and many moving pieces that go into making a game. The video game industry has come a long way with making games more accessible to all players, but there’s still a lot of room to grow and standardize accessibility features.
2. Perspectives on video game subtitling: it takes a village!
Written by Max Deryagin
I couldn’t stop reading this article, and ended up thinking about it for weeks after! Professional subtitler and translator Max Deryagin speaks with three key players about subtitling in the video game industry. These interviews are packed with information from three different perspectives on past and current industry standards for subtitling, and what progress looks like moving forward.
The article takes us on a journey with a full history of subtitles in video games, dating back to the early 80s when speech in video games was rare and limited. We learn about the processes used to implement subtitle creation in hugely popular Triple A games from seasoned video game producer Kari Hattner. Localization expert Alain Dellepiane sheds light on what it’s like to work as a translator for a game development studio, and the surprisingly small amount of context clues given to translators to avoid information leaks. Ian Hamilton, an accessibility specialist and advocate, gives a critical perspective on the current issues and pathways to progress for the gaming industry. Hamilton emphasizes the importance of players speaking out and advocating for their needs, while highlighting studio and development practices that help to bridge the gap.
It’s a fascinating, fun, and immensely informative read!
3. Leading the way for accessibility in video games
Written by Ryan Woodrow for GameRant
Adding quality captions and subtitles to video games is just one of many ways to accommodate players. Game developers and studios are continuously striving to give players with mobility, auditory, visual, learning and other disabilities access to the full experience of the game. While there is still a lot of progress to be made on this front, it’s cool to see some big titles on this list, including one of my favorite games of all time in the #1 spot.
Every player deserves the opportunity to plunge into the multitude of worlds that video games provide. As an avid gamer, I, like so many others, depend on accommodating features to fully immerse myself in a game’s story, action, and overall experience. I often use colorblind modes, various assist features, and I always play with subtitles on. Next time you turn on your console, open an app, or pick up a controller, take a look at what options exist for accommodating players. Pour some love on creators who are paving the way for accessibility, and speak up about the barriers you see and how to dismantle them. Much progress has been made in recent history toward allowing access to gaming to as many players as possible, but there’s always room to grow. We, as players, developers, engineers, subtitlers, producers, and all of those in between must keep pushing progress forward.
Why is accessibility important in gaming?
Accessibility is important in gaming because gamers are a diverse group of people!
Not all gamers have the same needs. For game developers who want to make their game a welcome space to people with a wide range of disabilities, accessibility must be built-in to the development process. Accessibility is a welcome sign to potential customers!
What percentage of gamers have disabilities?
According to Accessibility.com, around 20% of gamers have disabilities. That’s one in five people who are actively purchasing games who are paying attention to whether or not a game is accessible to them. That is a large chunk of any fan base.
What kind of features can developers add to make their game more accessible?
Subtitles, custom controller mapping, easy modes, and simple interface design are just a few features that can make a video game more accessible. A good rule is that for each way that someone can access your game, there are usually accessibility features to help people with disabilities connect.
Why should developers add subtitles to their games?
Giving players alternative signals in your game gives them more opportunity to customize and engage in gameplay.
Creating alternatives to auditory communication can include adding subtitles or creating visual cues for the player instead of relying only on sound.
What factors go into deciding to add subtitles to a game?
If the speech in a video game is essential to gameplay, it is smart to include multiple ways of accessing that information. Imagine spending all that money on voice actors to have player skip over it because they can’t access speech without subtitles! And if developers want a larger audience, adding subtitles in other languages can boost their reach across language barriers. It depends on how many people you want to reach with your game!