Welcome to The Hear Me Out [CC] Podcast, an audio show (with transcripts included) where we listen to stories from fascinating individuals in and around the d/Deaf community and from your host, yours truly, Ahmed Khalifa.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris aka DeafGamersTV who is a passionate about video games, regularly streams live on Twitch/Mixer to his audience and is advocating gaming accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing gamers out there.
As Chris is more comfortable communicating via ASL (and I don’t know any ASL), we have decided to do the interview via emails. And it was so much fun to learn more about what goes on behind-the-scene and also learn more about the deaf gaming accessibility world.
You can listen to the podcast (where I read out his answers) or read the transcripts below:
- DeafGamersTV on Twitter
- DeafGamersTV on Twitch
- DeafGamersTV on Mixer
- The furore around Activision not captioning ‘Spyro the Dragons’
- Web Captioner
Ahmed: In this episode, I will be interviewing Chris, who is mainly known as DeafGamersTV.
As you can probably tell by the name, he is a gamer who happens to be deaf and I thought it would be really good to interview him about being a deaf gamer, talk about his passions and his reasons for being an advocate for all the deaf and hard of hearing gamers out there.
As Chris is more comfortable communicating via ASL and I barely know how to sign in ASL, we have decided to do an email interview. You can read the transcripts by clicking on the link in the shownotes.
I really appreciate…
Otherwise, you can stick around and I will read out his answers in this podcast.
So let’s begin the interview.
I’d like to start of the interview by getting to know your deaf story so that people get to know you and understand your situation better.
You’ve mentioned a little bit about in various profiles like on Twitter and Twitch, but can you tell us about your Deaf background and upbringing?
Chris: My name is Chris and I’m completely deaf in my left ear and severe hearing loss in my right ear but I identify as deaf. I rely heavily on subtitles/captioning to understand what’s going on in video games and movies. I communicate via American Sign Language but I can also speak a little.
I love playing video games all my life but I hate running into barriers where I’m unable to understand what I’m dealing with.
Just recently in 2014 I started advocating for gaming accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing gamers because I felt like we weren’t getting what we paid for.
No one should continue to be frustrated for something they want to enjoy. We’re in a era where we have more resources, technology, and communities to improve products now. It’s the matter of understanding and empathy.
This is why I advocate to improve and educate that being inclusive means to not leave anyone behind and to try to not let anyone feel left out. I started @DeafGamersTV as a brand where I can broadcast myself playing video games on Twitch/Mixer.
These platforms allows me to share my experiences as a deaf gamer with barriers I may face in gaming and also entertainments. This would allow people to be able to check out if the game is right for them or not.
Ahmed: Like you, it is only recently around 2018 where I started to become more vocal about deaf awareness but from a different persectives. I love playing video games, but I’ve never done it online or did any live streaming. Having said that, I’m enjoying learning more about video games accessibility from people like yourself and many others online.
I’m curious, what kind of games and games consoles did you first start playing?
And do you have a particular favourite types of games and games consoles that you prefer to play?
Chris: The first time I sat down in front of a TV that had a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) hooked up to it. I was around 2-3 years old playing Super Mario Bros and I fell in love with gaming after playing a few more games on the Nintendo.
My all time favorite during those days were Super Mario Bros 3. I’ve been gaming ever since cause it just gives me so much joy having fun with these games.
I am also a huge fighting gamer. I got into Street Fighter 2 on the Super Nintendo. I found fighting games pretty fun to play. I’m a variety gamer as I love trying different games. Action, RPG, and of course fighting games.
I’ve owned from the Nintendo all the way to PS4, Xbox One, & the Nintendo Switch. I have a gaming PC but I don’t game on it that much. I like to keep most of my gaming on consoles and my PC for streaming.
Ahmed: I used to love playing the Mega Drive in the past and I remember the likes of Street Fighter, Streets of Rage and the usual Sonic games very well.
Later on, I became loyal to all the Playstation consoles and my all time favourite game is Final Fantasy VII so I’m excited for the remake to be released in 2020.
So my next questions to you are:
- When you were playing the games console, what were your biggest challenges in terms of accessibility?
- Were there any particular games or games console that you played in the past that did do accessibility very well?
Chris: Aw, I remember those as well. Those were also my favorite games I played too. I’m very excited to try the remake for Final Fantasy VII. It’s looks really amazing so I definitely don’t want to miss that one.
When I play on consoles, the biggest challenges I’ve face would be not being able to remap buttons on my controller or unable to switch Mashing to holding button down because I can’t keep mashing like I used to anymore.
Another challenge would be not being able to turn on subtitles in games because I wouldn’t be able to understand what’s going on.
To be honest, there’s no perfect games that would do accessibility very well but I would have to say Ubisoft have been stepping up with their accessibility features in their games, namely Assassin Creed Origin/Odyssey, Far Cry New Dawn, The Division 2, Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Gears of War 5 also stepped up in their accessibility features as well.
So as you can see, games are slowly but surely trying to do a little better with accessibility so I hope they don’t just stop right there.
Once they release their games, I hope they will continue to listen to feedback for anything they needs a little tune up.
Ahmed: It’s true that the developers need to listen to the feedback. The whole fuss about Activision not captioning all of Spyro the Dragon scenes is crazy.
The first thing I do before starting a new game is turn on the subtitles. There are almost always an opening scene that you have to watch before starting a game.
Would you say that you have better experiences on PC games?
Also, I notice that you are passionate about live streaming. Can you tell me more about the brand, DeafGamersTV? What is your purpose around that? What do you expect people to find when they find you?
Chris: I agree. I was shocked about the game not having subtitles and it was also frustrating dealing with people who would tell us “well don’t play the game then if all we’re going to do is whine about it.”
Of course they wouldn’t understand the issues because it’s not a problem for them to be able to listen the game and know what’s going on.
Although Activision did fix the game by putting the subtitles in, that should’ve been there in the first place without us having to say something. Subtitles should’ve been a standard for all video games to have by now. It baffles me when some or most games still don’t have subtitles in it. Especially for in-game cut-scenes.
I don’t play too much PC games, honestly. I’ve played like a few on my PC but most of my gaming are done on consoles. However I know in most cases, PC games are more “adjustable” with mods. I don’t really mess around with mods. My pc is mainly for my live streaming and/or video editing.
Yeah, I love streaming playing video games. This allows me to share my experience with the games I play. I’m also able to show what the game offers in term of accessibility features.
My purpose of my channel is to also break the barrier between the deaf/hard of hearing gaming community with everyone else, meaning we shouldn’t have to be kicked from a team if we don’t have a mic because this is one of the many things that can happen to deaf/HoH gamers that just wanted to play and have fun or to play competitively with other people.
I want my channel to show that even deaf gamers can play video games too. Just because we’re lacking sounds in games, it doesn’t mean we can’t game at all.
This is why I advocate for gaming accessibility for deaf/hoh because I want to show and educate people that we exist. When people find me, well I would hope they would also try to raise deaf awareness in their own way or share how important accessibility features in games are.
It doesn’t mean we’re asking developers to break their game, we’re asking for features to allow people to enjoy the game they paid for. Gaming should be fun.
Ahmed: I’ve never done any video games streaming, so it’s not an industry that I’m familiar with. But I love the fact that you are doing your own deaf awareness via video games.
I have noticed when watching clips of e-sports that there are microphones involved as each members need to communicate with each other. Is that an issue for yourself or other d/Deaf gamers? How do you get around that?
I’ve also wondered what do your hearing audience members think about your DeafGamersTV brand? How have they reacted to it? Or is your audience mainly fellow d/Deaf gamers?
Chris: It’s really fun. It’s like when you have friends over to play video games except this time it’s online lol. But yeah streaming has been a very easy way for me to try to spread deaf awareness via gaming.
I LOVE fighting games so naturally I love to watch EVO (aka the Evolution Championship Series), one of fighting games biggest tournament in the world.
I also watch different channel that streams fighting game tournaments and I watch some Rainbow Six Siege tournament too and yes, it’s the BIGGEST barrier right now.
It’s all mic and no captioning to know what they’re saying and that can be very frustrating when you try to reach out to them to see if they can provide captioning for their streams for people at home.
No luck, even though Overwatch League is probably the only one providing captioning at the moment. But I could be wrong, been a while since I tuned into their tournament stream.
So how do or how can I get around it? Well I use Web Captioner, it let me caption stuff. Think of it as a Speech to Text kind of thing.
What I do is I have the stream running on the left side of my screen then WebCaptioner on the right. (Below is a visual example of how that looks).
Of course it’s not perfectly accurate but this is unfortunately the only work-around I have at the moment.
I have some hearing viewers coming into my channel going “Wow this is cool! I never knew there were gamers like this!”
Sometime I get questions about what it’s like being deaf, how do I communicate and how do I try to enjoy gaming. Sadly sometime I get some negative reactions as well.
When I do, I just block and ban them. Trolls are almost everywhere on the internet. But thankfully I’ve had more positive over negative during my stream.
They really liked the idea of using my platform to be able to discuss about accessibility because I’m able to chat with people about it. So streaming for stuff like this is really awesome.
Ahmed: I’ve used Web Captioner before when organising or attending events. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty decent for a free tool. Thanks for sharing that screenshot. I’ve never seen it used for video games before.
It’s pretty ridiculous that you get negative comments. It’s “normal” in the internet world when it shouldn’t be.
If there is one thing that you would like websites like Twitch and Mixer to know about accessibility and d/Deaf gamers, what would that be?
And the same question for all video gamers too?
Chris: Indeed. I’m happy that we have something like this. I wish it could be use offline too. Yeah it’s not too bad when using it with video games or watching video game tournaments, just some words may not make sense.
So hopefully captioning will be more standardized even for videos on the internet.
But I agree. People wasting their time looking down on people instead of helping with spreading awareness about how people can help each other to make the world more accessible, you know.
I would say to developers, viewers, broadcasters, or anyone on the internet to be aware of people and disability. We are not anything less than a human being.
We are still human and it’s just not right being inconsiderate. Not everyone is able to read fancy text on the screen, not everyone can hear everything being heard. If you want to make your site accessible to people, try reaching out to the disability community, we are here to help people understand how to accommodate people with disability.
Captioning, screen reader, maybe almost anything I hope. When you’re designing something, you have to be aware that not all people are the same and having 1 accessibility doesn’t mean 1 size fit all.
Ahmed: These are great answers, and I want to make sure that people are aware of that, which is why I asked you. Very well said.
And let’s round it up: what advice do you have for other d/Deaf and hard of hearing people who wants to get into video game streaming, who wants to be part of the online video games communities, but they feel that they can’t or they are having trouble connecting with people and becoming part of the community…all because they feel that they can’t do that as they are not good enough or other people make them feel like they can’t be gamers because they can’t hear?
Chris: My advice for other d/Deaf and HoH interested in streaming video games & wanting to be part of other communities but feel like you’ve hit a roadblock just remember the important thing is that things takes time.
It’s not something that can be done overnight or in such short time. You have to network, promote yourself on your social media because it would be very rude to self-promote in other people’s channel.
With that said when you join new channel, be sure to read their rules because everyone do things differently.
Next, make a goal for yourself as in why do you want to stream, what do you want to share, what do you want to talk about? It could be talking about deaf awareness, can be what you love to play and how you enjoy them, it can be anything as long it’s within Twitch’s Term of Service.
Don’t be a rulebreaker or a toxic person . Just keep working at it, you can’t succeed without putting in efforts. Many new streamers would be prone to give up easily because they see no progress within a few months and again, it takes time.
There are almost million and million of people on Twitch now. So just network, research what kind of community you can find and introduce yourself.
I personally don’t associate myself with bad behavior or people that likes to use foul language (even as a joke) because it can be uncomfortable sometime. Sure there are people out there who does that too so just remember everyone is different.
If you can’t find your crowd, you are sure to find one somewhere. Keep looking, find one, join in, interact and if it fits you, trying having a good time with others. Because in my personal opinion, positivity WILL get you far.
Ahmed: And then to finish it all off, where is the best place online for people to reach out and to connect with you?
Chris: If you or others would like to reach me, please find me on twitter at twitter.com/deafgamerstv.
So Chris aka DeafGamerTV, I just want to say thank you for your time for being detailed with your answers in the email, for sharing your knowledge and I really, really appreciate it and I hope to connect with you more online as well.
And for you listeners or if you’re reading the transcript, I hope you enjoyed it as well. I hope you found it useful.
Let me know what you think and I would also really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes, that would be really, really awesome. It helps to kind of spread that awareness even more and I think that’s an important thing to do.
Thank you for listening or reading. And in meantime, I will speak to you again soon.