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.
In episode 7 of the podcast, I talk about the recent news about the release of the video game ‘Spyro Reignited Trilogy’ not having subtitles during the cut-scenes and the surprising statement by the games developer and publisher on their decisions not to add it.
Listen to the podcast or read the transcripts below:
- The benefits of subtitles/captions and transcripts
- Sypro Reignited Trilogy
- “There’s something missing from the Spyro Reignited collection…” and the statement by Activision
- The tweets that criticised Activision’s statements
- Video Games Accessibility Guidelines
Welcome to the Hear Me Out! [CC] Podcast, as show where you’ll hear from inspiring people in and around the d/Deaf community, and from your host, Ahmed Khalifa.
Hey what’s up everyone? This is Ahmed Khalifa with episode 7 of the Heart Me Out! [CC] podcast. I want to talk about the recent news in the video game industry. It’s not something that people thought I’d be talking about I suppose, when it comes to the d/Deaf culture, but you’d be surprised, it does have a big impact.
The recent news is about the new game called ‘Spyro Reignited Trilogy’. For those who don’t know, Spyro the Dragon is classic. It’s a game that I used to play back in the late ’90s, early millennium, and anybody who played video games at that time would remember Spyro very well. It’s a game that I remember I loved playing, it’s just a lot of fun.
When this new game came out, it reignited…that’s why it’s in the title…’Spyro Reignited trilogy’…I was curious and excited about it, until I heard about the main issue. It’s a big thing that his game does not have subtitles or captions during the cut-scenes.
Of course, people then reached out to the game developer which is Activision. It seems that this decision was intentional and they decided not to bother with it. I found it really surprising, but let me get into it in more detail.
A lot of people will argue that the original game of Spyro the Dragon, and most video games actually, but not all, back in the ’90s, did not have the option of having subtitles. You can imagine a lot has changed since then, and voice acting has become kind of a norm actually in video games. It’s not just animations that we see like Toy Story and Finding Nemo where you see voice actors, it’s happened in video games as well.
Someone reached out to Activision, and I’ll put the link in the show notes so you can read it yourself, but there is a quote from Activision and Toys for Bob. They work alongside each other to make this game happen.
“When Toys for Bob set out to make an awesome game collection, there were certain decisions that needed to be made throughout the process. The team remain committed to keep the integrity and legacy or Spyro, that fans remembered, intact. The game was built from the ground up, using a new engine for the team and was localised in languages that had not been previously been attempted by this studio.
While there’s no industry standard for subtitles, the studio and Activision care about the fan’s experience, especially with respect to accessibility for people with different abilities and we’ll evaluate going forward.”
You know what I have to say to that? I call BS. What a load of nonsense.
Regarding the glaring lack of subtitles in the Spyro collection – huge publisher @Activision and @ToysForBob (of Skylanders fame) are basically saying “we evaluated whether it was worth the cost and effort to keep Deaf and HH players happy, and we decided that it wasn’t” pic.twitter.com/7JgSWh45hh
— Brad Gallaway (@bradgallaway) November 18, 2018
Activision has made a conscious and deliberate decision not to include subtitles during those cut-scenes of Spyro Reignited. The way they said it as well is, just because there is no industry standard, they were not required to do it. That I think is a bit disgusting really, I think it’s bit shocking really if that is the intention. They can tell me I’m wrong, by all means, get in touch, but I think that’s ridiculous. The fact that it’s not industry standard, there has been some kind of backlash against that, and people contradict that.
According to a video game specialist … accessibility specialist, sorry, his name is Ian Hamilton, he tweeted that there is definitely an industry standard. I’m going to put the tweet on the show, and you can read about it. He basically said that “the entire industry voluntarily include subtitles, so it is an industry standard”. Just because it’s not illegal or a cert requirement, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a standard. He said that “Activision’s statement is incorrect”.
It absolutely is an industry standard, Activision’s statement is simply incorrect. It doesn’t have to be a legal or cert requirement for it to be standard. We’re in 2018 not 1998, the entire industry voluntarily including subtitles means including them is an industry standard.
— Ian Hamilton (@ianhamilton_) November 19, 2018
Is this is a problem? Is it the problem that video games are not required by law to have captions in them, which is ridiculous in my opinion, is that a problem? Because there are so many guidelines and best practices on how you should do it, but does that mean you shouldn’t bother?
For me, from the way Activision have raised that statement, it seems a bit lazy and somewhat inconsiderate for them to say that “It’s not a standard, so we don’t think it needs to be happening.”
More and more games now have storylines in them, and as I said, voice acting. That’s what makes it enjoyable, because you’re engrossed in the story and you almost feel like you’re watching a movie, but you’re actually engaging with the movie because you’re playing the video game, and it’s like a movie at the same time.
With stories, there are conversations happening obviously within the video game, so that’s why you need subtitles. It just makes sense. Everyone can access it and experience video games like everyone else.
I’ve read questions on places like Quora, for example, on whether d/Deaf people play or enjoy video games. First of all, a crazy question to make. Second of all, are you kidding me? Of course, we love it. I love them, I wish I had more time to play them, and if I can, I would, but I just play when I can.
Of course the d/Deaf and hard of hearing people enjoy playing video games just like anybody else, but it does depend on whether that game is accessible or not and whether we can experience it like most gamers as well. If you can’t access it, if you can’t enjoy the stories, if you can’t follow along with the stories, what’s the point? That’s not making it an enjoyable experience at all, so that’s when we don’t enjoy playing a video game.
If you think about how video games are not just translated into multiple different languages, and they have captions to be able to reach different parts of the world, but if you imagine it also helps those who are maybe learning that language. For example, if the subtitles are in English, maybe other people are learning English in another part of the world and that’s the only option they have, so they read the subtitles in English. Maybe they have learning disabilities and it’s just easier for them to follow along reading the captions.
I’ve talked about the benefits of subtitles and transcripts. I’m going to link to that in a show, I don’t want to go on too much about that. You can read about it, I’ll put the link in the show notes and read about it there.
Still, even if you do not have any forms of disabilities or accessibility issues, a lot of gamers out there intentionally play with subtitles on. It could be because they just want to keep the volume down, they don’t want to distract anyone.
Maybe they are playing late at night and don’t want to wake up the house, or maybe they just want to make sure they’re hearing everything correctly.
If you think about it, the cut-scenes, it’s like a movie in a sense during a video game, you can’t rewind them. You can’t just pause and rewind, which means that once you watch it, that’s it, it’s gone, unless you just start the game or that checkpoint over again. That’s another reason why they want to have subtitles on.
If you think about it, if you are a commuter and you are travelling and you have these hand held consoles and you’re playing games, you want subtitles on. Most people will have the courtesy to put the sound off, but they have subtitles on and they can follow around. If they don’t, then they will just crank up the volume and that’s going to be quite annoying for the rest of us. If you’re on a long train journey or a bus journey, then you have to put up with the noise and all the voice acting, but if there are subtitles on them, you don’t have to worry about that.
There are some guidelines and best practices you should follow when it comes to captioning, especially on video games. It’s a different kind of guideline compared to, for example, TV programmes or movies. It’s quite different and there is a website out there that tells you to do it properly. It’s https://www.gameaccessibilityguideliness.com. It’s created collaboratively by a number of people. The simple thing is, have it during the cut scenes, it kind of makes sense.
When people say to me … and I’ve had this before … when people say to me, “You should try to lipread them,” that’s just a ridiculous statement to make, because frankly, it’s not possible to lipread a dragon. Think about that. I know video games have improved a lot recently in terms of making the lip movements more realistic, but still, it’s a video game and it’s a dragon, so it’s not always going to be possible.
Check out that link as well with more information about how to make video games more accessible, just for your own curiosity, that might be something you want to do.
At the end of the day, video games are one of the most inclusive things on the planet. It’s just amazing. It’s not just a work of art and it’s not just something people think is a geeky thing, it’s a special experience for everyone. It allows everyone to be together and experience the same joy like everyone else.
Again, they have to make sure that they allow it to be accessible and allow everyone to enjoy it like each other. So when you see a big name in the industry like Activision, directly neglecting and ignoring issues like subtitles and pretty much dismissing them just because there’s no industry standard, from my point of view, and again, without knowing the full story behind the [inaudible 00:11:05], it sounds like a decision that is pretty lame and a pathetic excuse.
The best that they could do is release some kind of PR statement to justify it. What they really mean by the fact that there is no legal standard, it means, “Just don’t bother with it. It’s not legal, we don’t have to abide by any law, let’s just not bother.”
At the time of recording this podcast, even though there has been lots of backlashes, Activision has no plans to add captions for the online version of the game or anything else.
As I have said in the quote, they said, “We will evaluate going forward.”
Which is funny that, because they didn’t have subtitles to last year’s release of Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy.
Did they evaluate that? You know what? Shame on you Activision. It’s such a shame that you had to do that, because you’re going to miss out as well, not just us, but you’re going to miss out on a huge market as well.
For example, in the U.K, the population of people who have some kind of hearing loss is about 17%. In the U.S, it’s about 20%. You get the benefit out of it, for Activision, you get the benefit and you’re missing out on a huge market.
At the same time, it just shows your intention is not there, it’s just too much effort. You’re missing out on all these people, and that includes myself, because it’s quite obvious that I will not be buying that game, because what’s the point? I can’t enjoy the experience of playing that game. Like I said, it’s not just those who require it for accessibility issues or disability, even other gamers play with subtitles on too.
Again, if you want to know more about video game accessibility, just visit gameaccessibiltyguidelines.com. I’ll put the link in the show notes, and it will provide you with all the best practises. Maybe we should that link to the team at Activision, because it’s not “nice to have” a game without subtitles.
It should be a must.
Let’s hope that Activision can take the current uproar and backlash in a positive way by creating a new standard for themselves, in the future when they release the next games for the next how many years and decades and onwards. Let’s see what happens.
Let me know what you think as well. Am I overreacting? Is it really necessary to talk about this? Should we ignore the issue, or is it justifiable to talk about it? Even if you have a hearing problem or not, if you are d/Deaf or not, what are your thoughts about that? I’m curious to know from different perspectives.
You can reach me on Twitter or you can reply to the comment within this show note itself. Let me know what you think, and I appreciate you listening to the podcast. Make sure you subscribe and also leave a review on iTunes if you enjoyed it, I’d really, really appreciate it.
In the meantime, I will speak to you soon. Take care.
Thank you for listening to the Hear Me Out! [CC] Podcast, courtesy of hearmeoutcc.com.