There’s a common saying that “ignorance is bliss”. It’s relatively true until you’re figuratively smacked across the face with reality and awoken to that which you were previously ignorant of. That’s not bliss… that’s an indescribable combination of shock and disappointment mixed with appreciation for being made aware of that which you were previously unaware of. I’ve been jarred awake by Courtney’s recent deaf accessibility review of Ghost Recon Breakpoint.
I’ve read a lot of Courtney’s deaf accessibility reviews on this website and I often mentally compare my own experiences with the games that I’ve played myself that were reviewed. It’s been obvious to me that Courtney’s gaming experiences differ from my own due to the fact that I have a much more profound loss of hearing. Courtney often writes about things that don’t really bother me that much like the lack of sound subtitles in some instances because a deaf perspective in the world is a bit different from a hard of hearing person’s perspective.
A hard of hearing person depends on their hearing a little bit more. Unlike Courtney, I don’t wear a headset when I game, it wouldn’t do anything for me. My entire gaming experience is a combination of what I see and what I feel. So subtitles, visual cues, and controller vibrations are my bread and butter. Generally if I can see it and visually recognize it, I don’t require a subtitle describing it to me. For example an explosion. If I see something like a car blowing up in my game, I don’t need the game to tell me it’s making an explosive sound. But the subtlety of visual perspectives extend more than that in ways I can’t really explain. But I’ll try, anyway…
As a deaf gamer I experience games very much the same way I experience life, ignorant of most of the sounds around me. I can’t for example hear mood music and I don’t need to be aware of it. I don’t need to be told that background music is playing because being unable to hear it and knowing it’s there does not improve my experience of it. If I walk into an elevator in a building, to me that elevator is silent. To you, it’s possibly playing annoying classical music or something. Telling me that music is playing when I get on the elevator does nothing to alter my experience. It’s not vital information to me. However for someone who is more hard of hearing like Courtney, having subtitles that mention music playing in that kind of situation may be more vital since it’s a sound they’d be more likely to relate to than someone like myself even if their hearing is limited.
I’m also ignorant of spoken conversations in my presence. In public among strangers it doesn’t matter to me what the family at the next table in a restaurant is discussing. If I had normal hearing I’d probably catch most of it even if I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop. However in a more personal setting, like a family event for example… not being able to understand or participate in those conversations is incredibly isolating. I love my family. I love spending time with them, but I hate family events for this reason.
(Cartoon by Matt Daigle http://www.thatdeafguy.com/)
This brings me to my experience with what I’ve played of Ghost Recon Breakpoint verses Courtney’s deaf accessibility review of the game. I bought the Ultimate Edition which is what I do with every Ubisoft title I buy so I’ve just got access to it a around 11PM last night and played all night. I’m not even as far as I got in the beta yet, but if I had not read Courtney’s review of the game and had written my own review I’d have likely scored it higher than Courtney did simply because nearly everything I’m aware of in the game is on point with accessibility features with a few mild exceptions. One of the things Courtney pointed out in the review is how your character enters the game bleeding and in obvious pain but there are no subtitles that describe his/her grunting/groaning in pain. This doesn’t bother me that much as I can visibly see the pain in my character’s face and the blood running down it. It’s an example of one of those visual things I can see what is going on without really requiring subtitled descriptions.
Beyond that, the subtitles are easily readable although I’d prefer a darker background, there are speaker tags showing who is speaking. There are excellent visual cues showing which direction gunfire is coming from…etc. I’d probably have given the game an 8 or 9 out of 10 until I read Courtney’s review of the game. It pointed out something that due to my being pretty much completely deaf I was unaware of… the fact that NPCs in the game are having conversations that aren’t subtitled. It never even occurred to me that these conversations are taking place. I assumed they were just standing around silently guarding those motorbikes or patrolling this area over there. I’m also playing as the Sharpshooter class putting a round in their heads from over 100 meters away so they’re likely out of earshot anyway, but as a Splinter Cell veteran I also enjoy getting up close and putting them down by hand silently. And yet every NPC is unnaturally silent prior to being dispatched by a knife or gun. Little did I know that they were having actual conversations that I’m oblivious to. Unfortunately knowing this now, going back to the game has added a layer of disappointment I didn’t previously have with it. Being aware of but unable to participate in those conversations even as an observer is as isolating as a family event.
Ignorance was bliss… but not so much anymore.