"Video games are for everyone. But disabled people can be left out if developers don’t consider their needs."
- Game Maker's Toolkit's Mark Brown on designing for disability.
Game Maker's Toolkit's Mark Brown launched a new video series today exploring the best practices for making games more accessible to a wide range of disabilities.
Starting with auditory options, he begins by discussing how developers can design experiences for players who are deaf and hard of hearing.
One of the most popular accessibility option in games are subtitles, but they certainly aren't perfect. "TV and movies have an almost universal standard for subtitles, with big text and clear fonts and easy-to-digest lines," Brown explains.
"Video game developers seem to just make it up as they go along, leading to crappy subtitles in tiny text and illegible fonts and ridiculous dimensions."
Brown refers to Borderlands 2 and its small, unclear text and poor choice of font color as an example of poor subtitles, making it hard for a player to discern which characters are talking. "And this is just when you're standing still," he points out. "Imagine trying to read this stuff in the middle of a heated combat encounter."
"That's the thing about video game subtitles: it's more important than any other medium that that they're easy to read, because you're trying to divide your attention between the subtitles and everything else you need to think about, " he says.
In an effort to get developers on the same page, Brown presents a set of golden rules for good subtitles. First off, they should be large.
"Tiny subtitles are probably the most common mistake that developers make in this area," he notes. "Perhaps they don't want to break the immersion of the game world; but those who really need subtitles don't care about that. They care about being able to read the dialogue quickly."
He uses Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Assassins Creed Origins as examples and encourages devs to boost the font size of their text so that it can easily be seen from across a room. Or better yet, let players choose a size that suits them.
This is just the first golden rule of subtitles (with many more!) and Brown was just speaking of one feature for auditory options, so be sure to watch the entire video over at Game Maker's Toolkit.