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Mockup of Heavy Rain with Full Closed Captioning
by Reid Kimball on 06/21/10 06:00:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.



I recently found a video of Heavy Rain and downloaded it so I could edit it. I did a mockup of Heavy Rain with full closed captioning. My goal is to work with other game developers to help them implement full closed captioning that enhances the accessibility of their games to reach a broader audience, primarily deaf and hard of hearing players. Part of the problem is communicating to developers that closed captioning won't ruin the game in anyway and that it can be turned off. I think this video demonstrates how useful it can be for someone who can't hear all the atmospheric audio.

Please notice:

1. The text is larger, therefore easier to see. Many video games that have subtitles (dialog only, no sound effects) use very small text that is hard to read on SD TVs, which I have.

2. Text uses a bright color with a black outline. This ensures it is readable on many different backgrounds. Bright yellow is not a common color used the environment of video games, while bright white is more likely.

3. Limited stacking of multiple lines (2 max shown) leaves the rest of the screen uncluttered. Depending on the game, closed captioning can merely increase the awareness of game atmosphere for the hard of hearing and deaf or it can provide essential feedback they miss out that comes from the audio.

For example, in Doom 3[CC], closed captions help deaf players know enemies are approaching or attacking off screen when they can't be heard. In Heavy Rain, the player can walk up to an apartment door and hear a woman inside screaming as she is attacked. However, these screams are not captioned and hard of hearing or deaf players are likely to miss out on a key sequence of gameplay.

Let me know if you'd like to talk with me about figuring out closed captioning solutions for your game.

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Reid Kimball
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Yeah, your reason for wanting CC is quite common. Another could be at loud trade shows like E3 when all the sounds from competing booths overpower each other and it's unintelligible noise.

Thanks for checking it out.

Dave Endresak
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I completely agree with you, Reid. I am not hearing impaired, but your efforts have been a reference I have used in my academic studies, including my doctoral courses in technology studies, in order to raise awareness of scholars and researchers about this issue. Valve's efforts are another example where a company has shown excellent awareness of meeting the needs of a diverse market of players and audiences. I also concur with your comments about choice of color and other aspects offered. Far too many offerings use presentations that are truly horrible to attempt to read either due to font size, color, or some other element. Of course, this type of issue also applies to online learning or other aspects of academic pursuits, and institutions must address such issues due to antidiscrimination laws (not to mention simple public image).

Speaking for myself, I have preferred having subtitles/cc on for many years. Part of the reason is probably due to my research on Japanese games and anime for over two decades now, as well as some media products from other non-English countries such as France. However, the advent of DVD format with commentaries is also a huge reason to have subtitles/cc on. You can listen to commentaries while watching a show with subtitles so that you follow both streams of information simultaneously. Valve stands out once again for offering commentary tracks for a couple of their games.

I was surprised that any developer would think that CC somehow ruins a game. Actually, the opposite is true. I mean, with companies like Valve offering excellent presentations or companies like Bethesda offering full subtitling for their extremely dialogue-heavy products, plus the many Japanese RPGs and other offerings that use original Japanese dialogue with the option of subtitles on or off, it would seem to me that developers who think such things are somewhat out of the loop, you know?

Reid Kimball
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Hi Dave,

Yeah, devs who think closed captioning or other game accessibility features would ruin the game simply need more exposure to what they are all about and how they can help. Hopefully, the video demonstrates how useful they can be.

It's gotten a lot of views, 153 so far, I'm happy about that.

Troy Simpson
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Wow, I didn't really think of it as an issue because I assumed developers had to input CC in their games. I guess they don't have regulations like broadcast television or anything like that.

Good Job!