[This was originally posted to deaf
in this post
back in January of 2003, but it's very fitting for this community, so I'm sharing it here as well...]
Ah, video games. Yes, they can be fun, but what happened to the good old days when dialogue was presented in textual form?
It's very frustrating at times, really. Though for the most part I can usually make out what characters are saying, there are exceptions— when a voice has been digitally distorted for some effect; when the voice happens to be in a certain pitch range (perhaps mutilated by my otherwise excellent speaker system) or particularly soft-spoken; when the character has a thick or unusual accent; when the dialogue consists largely of unusual words; when there's a lot of background noise in the scene...
And then there are the cut scenes. They're usually used to relay the story, they're usually long, and they're usually impossible to skip because, well, hey, they're relaying the story. Not bad if you understand the story fairly well, if the visuals are more important than the dialogue, if dialogue is nowhere to be found or in a fantasy language, or if, of course, there are subtitles present.
It's not that I can't hear the dialogue in games, even at a moderate volume; it's that often I have to strain to interpret what's being said, especially in the above-mentioned exceptional situations, and, well, it can get tiring after a point. Jokes and particular plot points (some of which might play a part later in the game's story) may go completely unnoticed. Also, in both in-game dialogue and cut scenes, if you mishear or simply miss a particular crucial line of dialogue, you'll be stuck forever in a mire of cluelessness, forced to eventually resort to a FAQ file to spoil what otherwise could have been an interesting exploration. Not the best thing, I can assure you, especially when the game's objectives are challenging enough as things already are.
This ranting brings me to a site I discovered a while back, and of which I immediately thought, "why hasn't something like this been done before?" That site is DeafGamers.com
, a UK-based resource dedicated to video games and their suitability for the hearing-impaired. Some games fare quite well (Sonic Adventure 2
does indeed have excellent subtitling, and for that matter, I love
the Monkey Island
series), some in a mediocre manner (why subtitle Rogue Squadron
but not the more recent Star Wars games?), and some are just terrible. (For that latter category, I'd nominate Jak and Daxter
for PS2; I'm surprised DeafGamers hasn't already torn that one to shreds. A long, dialogue-driven cut scene begins the game, with no option to skip, and with objectives and gameplay hints given within or shortly afterward— and no subtitles to be found whatsoever, naturally).
I can only imagine what it's like for severely hard-of-hearing or completely deaf video gamers...