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Providing for deaf and hard of hearing gamers

Almost any movie you buy on DVD these days will come with optional subtitles (closed captions) in a range of languages – the on-screen text always keeps in sync with the audio and does a great job of allowing deaf and partially deaf people to enjoy film.

Here in the UK, a good percentage of TV shows have either subtitles or, to a lesser extent, a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter on screen. Many of the subtitles the accompany programmes could be vastly improved – a lot of words are either mispelled or the wrong word is used. Having said that, they are usually good enough to allow you to follow what is going on.

Video games are big business these days. It’s estimated that sales of consoles could reach $16 billion this year. There are a lot of people playing games. So, why are deaf and hard of hearing gamers mostly ignored by the gaming publishers? Many games are story driven and use cinematic scenes to drive the storyline along, elements of which can be critical to the gameplay – if you haven’t been able to follow the plot, you will find it difficult to play the game. As well as that, many games use audio to signal in-game events, a ticking bomb about to explode or an approaching bad-guy and so on – again, if you can’t hear these things the game is effectively ruined for you.

There is an online petition that aims to try and get game developers to think more about the needs of deaf and hard of hearing gamers – you can sign it -->here. This petition and an accompanying open-letter has been picked up by some of the big gaming blogs: Kotaku and Joystiq.

Deaf Gamers is a great site that reviews games from the perspective of the deaf gamer. They do a good all-round review of each game but also rate it as to how well it provides for the deaf and how accessible it is to them.