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How sign language interpretation will change gaming

sign language interpretation

If you’ve ever wished video games had American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, it looks like your dreams have finally come true. Forza Horizon 5, a 2021 racing video game developed by Playground Games and published by Xbox Game Studios, recently announced the addition of sign language interpretation to their next game, which is excellent news for deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere.

Sign Language Interpretation Added to Major Game Franchise

Forza Horizon 5 is the latest title in a video game franchise beloved by millions. Forza Horizon 5 is a racing game primarily for Xbox and PC. The developer, Playground Games, is the first Triple-AAA developer to add on-screen sign language to their games. It’s definitely groundbreaking for the video game industry. Triple-AAA developers produce the world’s most popular games, like Fortnite, Call of Duty, and World of Warcraft, so they have massive followings and big budgets. Games produced by Triple-AAA studios tend to become cult hits and claim a place in the popular culture of the time, even among non-gamers.

Forza Horizon 5 isn’t stopping at just ASL, either. The franchise also plans to offer British Sign Language (BSL) to British gamers.

Read more: Video Games for People with Hearing Loss

Accessibility Options in Video Games

Video games are one of the most accessible forms of audio-visual entertainment. Most video games have full and high-quality caption options, which is far better than the TV and film industry. Many more games than films are supported by captions. This is surprising since almost everyone watches TV and movies. Gaming is more of a niche interest.

However, there has never really been a sign language interpretation option. With Forza Horizon 5’s announcement, hopefully this will change soon.

Video games typically offer an accessibility menu. This allows players to change settings such as toggling captions, switching between color blindness modes, and changing difficulty settings to support neurodiverse players. Almost all video games have some sort of accessibility support. Most offer captions for deaf or hard of hearing players. However, there are still gaps, with major games like Sypro the Dragon having to patch captions in later.

Another element to video game accessibility that is still missing is the ability to sync up your hearing aids to the game. Bluetooth hearing aid pairing would be a great addition to any video game’s accessibility menu. With all the Bluetooth technology currently in use, it can’t be too much longer before a game developer adds it to their game.

Read more: Phonak announces Audéo Life, Bluetooth-enabled waterproof hearing aids

What Sign Language Interpretation Will Do for Gaming

Sign language within video games is essential for those who prefer ASL to captions. It opens up accessibility, allowing even more members of our community to access video games.

Sign language is much more expressive than captions. It is easier to follow alongside the screen than the captions along the bottom. Deaf and hard of hearing gamers will get much more of the storyline through ASL than captions, as you get access to facial expressions and some sense of tone. ASL is also easier and quicker to follow. This is especially true in video games, where you have to keep an eye on your character and make quick decisions. The game may become challenging to play if you’re trying to keep up with the captions while also not getting wiped out by enemies, marching your character off a platform, or shooting a teammate by mistake.

“Adding ASL to a major video game title paves the way for groundbreaking changes within the entire industry.”

Adding ASL to a major video game title paves the way for groundbreaking changes within the entire industry. If it were a minor title or a niche indie title, it wouldn’t get anything like the media attention something like Forza Horizon 5 will get. The addition of sign language interpretation would get lost in the media. However, with a significant Triple-AAA title adding both ASL and BSL to its accessibility suite, the world’s media and other Triple-AAA competitors will take notice. It won’t be long before other game titles start scrambling to catch up. Hopefully, sign language interpretation becomes as much of a staple in gaming as captions are today. After all, if Forza is doing it, all the other cool kids will want to as well.

Read more: Deaf Gamer Danik Soudakoff talks streaming, signing and never giving up

Author Details
Mel is a hard-of-hearing writer from the UK. She has moderate-severe hearing loss by American definitions and moderate hearing loss by British measurements. She relies on hearing aids and lipreading. She lives in Wales with her French Bulldog puppy and mischievous tortoiseshell cat. Mel identifies as a demisexual lesbian.