With over 1.8 billion video gamers globally, gamers who are deaf or hard of hearing make up 10-20% of the community. The online gaming community is making its initial strides in providing accessibility by providing captions or subtitles within some games, and for a few online gaming streams.
According to their website, “Twitch is the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers, video game culture, and the creative arts.” Each day, close to 10 million visitors gather to watch and talk about video games with more than 2 million streamers. Twitch is all about providing accessibility for the gamers who are deaf or hard of hearing, and use closed captioning services for their events (Twitch Weekly, TwitchCon, etc.). However, the streamers are not required to have captions in their videos and the majority don’t do it, even though these gaming channels are able to transmit caption files embedded in their streams or via their broadcast encoders.
In games that rely heavy on audio cues, people who are deaf or hard of hearing are not able to understand what other players on their team are saying, and are missing out on what the opposing team is doing. One of the most popular games on Twitch at the moment
is Overwatch, and audio cues and communication are crucial to its gameplay.
Without captioning/subtitles, this leaves gamers who are deaf or hard of hearing at a huge disadvantage. They try to adapt by observing what other players are doing and by using the pre-programmed text commands like “Need Healing” and I’m Charging My Ultimate”, but it isn’t sufficient. When these gamers try to go online and find a stream of the game or how to videos to play it and get a better understanding, they find very few that are captioned and they aren’t able to fully understand what is happening in the game.
Providing the option to turn on and off captions/subtitles would be a huge win for the global gaming community. From gaming streams to the video games themselves, this would provide accessibility to all and give the power to the gamers to enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played.