When Deaf Gamers was launched back in February 2000 it was only intended to run for five months. Originally it began life as Deaf Gamers.co.uk but a year later it switched to being Deaf Gamers.com. Deaf Gamers.com ran from February 2001 until now which isn’t bad at all for something that should not have even lasted for half a year. All things come to an end however and it might be time to finally bring the curtain down on the Deaf Gamers project that began back in 2000.
In recent years I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the cost of purchasing hardware. I only managed to purchase a PlayStation 3 thanks to the generosity of several of my readers. You may have noticed some sponsorship appear on the website over the last few years and this has enabled me to keep my PC hardware fairly current. However, I’ve been unable to afford a Nintendo 3DS or a Sony PS Vita let alone any of the touch devices that many now play games on. An appeal to raise money to purchase a Vita didn’t result in a single donation which I fully understand given the economic hardship most have had to face over the last few years. My Xbox 360 has finally packed up and my PlayStation 3, the original model, appears to be on its last legs. In short the only reliable platform I have access to at the moment is the PC which is perhaps rather fitting as Deaf Gamers was originally a PC only games review website. I do have a few PlayStation 3 games to review and the hope is that my console will hold out long enough to enable me to do this.
It also must be said that I don’t receive anywhere near as much review code as I used to. Numerous companies have joined and combined and trimmed their mailing lists. It’s also been tough to compete with the ever increasing amount of gaming websites. Let’s not forget that Deaf Gamers has always catered for a minority and could never boast the page hits that a ‘mainstream’ gaming website could which is a big consideration for PR companies whose goal is to broadcast their products to the widest possible audiences. I should point out here however that Sony and Microsoft have stuck with Deaf Gamers through thick and thin making sure review software has been sent whenever it was possible (in Microsoft’s case whenever it was requested). Couple this struggle to get software with the poor state of my console hardware and you might understand why it strikes me as a good point in time to finally bring the shutters down on Deaf Gamers.com.
I could carry on as a PC only games review website but I’m not sure how popular a move that would be. It was only with the addition of console reviews that Deaf Gamers really took off in the first place so I’m not sure if returning to being PC only would be a wise move. What do you think? Would you miss Deaf Gamers if it were to disappear? Does the website still hold any value at all for you? Part of me thinks it should continue but times change. I don’t have the amount of time to dedicate to it like I used to, at least in a voluntary capacity, and if it did continue it would probably be in a limited form. Let me know what you think.
After my last post I decided to give PEGI an email to see if they would consider creating a label to indicate the presence of subtitles in a game. Unfortunately it’s not something that they want to do.
“… although we can really see that it would be of great value to know whether or not a game has subtitles, we do not think this would be a task for PEGI. Adding a new descriptor to indicate whether or not a game has subtitles, could possibly be confusing to parents and other caretakers and this is in conflict with the main purpose of PEGI: to inform them about possible harmful content. So unfortunately, we will not be introducing a new descriptor for this.”
It’s a disappointing if not altogether surprising response. I can’t see how it would be confusing to let parents know if a game is subtitled however. I’m pretty sure parents of deaf or hard of hearing children would appreciate it at the very least.
Buying a game for the PC or any of the consoles shouldn’t be a lottery. Here in England, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same in most places, once you’ve purchased a game and taken it out of its wrapper you’re stuck with it. One of the main problems for deaf people who purchase games is that there is no indication of whether the game is subtitled simply by looking at the packaging. Yes, in a lot of cases you can download demos in order find out if the game you’re interested in is subtitled. Not everyone has access to broadband Internet however, which you usually need for most demos given the size of them for the major consoles and PC. However, shouldn’t a game’s packaging make it clear if the game is subtitled?
Here in Europe we have the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system which, through the use of an excellent range of labels tells you at a glance the recommended age for a game and also whether or not the game contains elements of bad language, discrimination, drugs, fear, gambling, sex, and violence. It also signifies whether online gameplay is available for that particular game. The PEGI system really is excellent for the most part. However, why isn’t there a symbol to indicate the presence of subtitles or closed captions? Surely this wouldn’t be a difficult thing to do and its value to not only the deaf community but many others would be immeasurable. Of course it would also be great if download services such as Steam and GamersGate mentioned if the games sold by them are subtitled too. It’s such a small thing to ask and it’s long overdue.
For what it’s worth, I recently made the suggestion to Microsoft that they should indicate on the game packaging whether or not the game is subtitled. It will be interesting to see if it’s something that they choose to do in the future.
PEGI – http://www.pegi.info
Steam – http://store.steampowered.com/
GamersGate – http://www.gamersgate.com
Microsoft – http://www.microsoft.com
Halo Reach is almost with us and I’ve been playing my review code of the game. I can’t talk about the game in detail at this point but below I’ve put a couple of paragraphs from my review which talks exclusively about how suitable the game is for deaf gamers. I hope you find this information useful.
So we have the last Halo game developed by Bungie and the real question is whether they have finally created a game that’s deaf gamer friendly. The answer, unfortunately, is that they have not! The game is no better for deaf gamers than Halo 3. The game does provide subtitles but these are for the cut scenes only. The cut scene dialogue displays the speaker’s name next to the speech so you’ll be aware of who is saying what. The in-game dialogue is not subtitled and deaf gamers will yet again miss out on a lot of dialogue as a result. The team members of Noble Team converse frequently with your character and each other and deaf gamers will not be aware of any of this dialogue.
Most objectives are shown in text and can be recalled if you press the start button to access the in-game menu. There are a few times however, when an objective will be given during a communication and for deaf gamers it will not be immediately obvious what needs to be done because the text objectives will not have been updated. You’re notified in text when challenges have been completed, checkpoints have been reached and when your shields are running low (warning you to find cover until your shields have recharged). Tutorial messages are shown in text. Your radar will also alert you to enemies (shown as red dots) that are within your vicinity. Red arrowhead icons indicate the general direction from which an off-screen enemy is firing upon you. However, there are no grenade icons to alert you when an explosive has been thrown in your direction from an unsighted enemy and this can add to the frustration factor. The HUD also displays how much ammo and grenades you have in addition to alerting you to new objectives you have received. Essentially then playing Halo Reach is far from being impossible for deaf gamers but once again it’s a much poorer experience than what hearing gamers will be able to appreciate and that’s not satisfactory.
Well that’s all I can talk about for now. Expect the Deaf Gamers’ review of Halo Reach sometime next week.