Feature: 'Subtitles: Increasing Game Accessibility, Comprehension'

How do you ensure that your game is accessible to those with hearing impairments and comprehensible to all players? In this feature, Sidhe Interactive's usability expe
How do you ensure that your game is accessible to those with hearing impairments and comprehensible to all players? In this feature, Sidhe Interactive's (GripShift, Speed Racer) usability expert and user experience designer Gareth Griffiths shares a wealth of simple tips on adapting titles for gamers with hearing disabilities. To emphasize the importance of providing subtitles to players who are partially or completely deaf, Griffiths notes that in the developed world alone, the number of hearing-impaired people is expected to reach 215 million in 2015. Of those, some 90 million will be Europeans. "According to the Gallaudet Research Institute (GRI) which published a study in 1971, 8.6% of the U.S population was either deaf or hard of hearing. That accounted for approximately 20,295,000 out of a total population of 235,688,000 at the time. No matter how you look at it, that's a lot of people, and with the population of the U.S now around 300 million, we can be assured that the number of people with hearing issues has also grown. It would be good if we could put this into a gaming context, too. Asking how many of those people play (or will play) video games should put things into perspective. If we take an extremely conservative figure of that 215 million; say 2 percent, then that gives us a figure of approximately just over 4 million! Again, that's a lot of people." Griffiths offers over 15 guidelines for adding subtitles to video games, including some advice on text and background colors: "Different color to system font -- It is important that the subtitles are of a different color to the rest of the system fonts, as we need to ensure the user does not mix-up any dialogue accidentally, or that words become jumbled. It is also important to pick the correct color for the subtitle. The recommended ones are white, yellow, cyan, and green, against a solid black background to provide the best contrast. They should have their own background -- When a subtitle is displayed, there is no guarantee that the background will always be plain. Often the subtitle can clash with what is happening in the game, making certain words extremely difficult to read. Because of this, it is best to place it on a background to ensure they stand out. However, it may not always be possible (or desirable) to have a full-on black background, so we can make do with either using a subtle background color, or actually even place them underneath the action. Figure 2 gives an example of this. If neither of these is possible, then at the very least we should use a drop shadow, to give the font more visibility. Differing colors between sentences when multiple characters are on-screen -- When there is just one person on the screen, the subtitles will only need to be in one color. However, if we have a conversation between characters X and Y, then the two need to be a different color so the player is able to easily determine who is speaking." You can read the full feature, which includes an examination of the current state of subtitles within the game industry, and 15 more tips on offering subtitles in games (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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