Sometimes when I play a game, I find myself wondering as a deaf gamer, do I want a more true to life, immersive experience, or do I want one as equal as possible to that of hearing gamers. (It’s usually the latter.) For example, in survival games, if it was real life, I certainly wouldn’t have special eyes that gave me visual cues and there wouldn’t be any kind of indication that there’s a bear coming to eat me from behind. In horror games like Resident Evil 7, there would be no indicator that the phone was ringing and I would just never know that someone on the outside was trying to help me. So, do I want immersion or do I want to be equally equipped to succeed in the game as hearing players?
When watching televised sports, the announcers providing the commentary are captioned, allowing deaf viewers the same viewing experience as hearing viewers. In 2011, the Super Bowl was fully captioned for the first time. The FCC requires captioning of most programing on TV. (They don’t require video game captioning, but that’s an issue for another time.)
You’ll notice in the above image, one VERY IMPORTANT accessibility feature is nowhere to be found. It’s one thing to have bad captioning or hard to read captioning, but Madden 17 doesn’t offer captioning of any kind. This options category should be renamed “Selective Accessibility” or something because to leave out the needs of an entire (large) group of gamers is just… insulting.
Now, before I go any further, I should say that I’ve never watched a football game in my life. I’ve never played a football video game in my life prior to this one. I have no earthly idea what kinds of things the commentators say during the game. What I do know, after playing several full games in Madden 17, is that I missed a whole hell of a lot because the entire thing has announcer commentary. And I know, I know, commentary isn’t important, it’s not going to change who wins or loses or anything substantial like that. But that’s not the point. The point is that I can’t imagine any reason why the option for captions wasn’t even put into the game. Yes, captioning a live, real life football game is hard (as made clear by this article). But Madden 17 isn’t a live football game. There’s not two guys sitting in some booth waiting for me to turn on the game at 6am to provide me with live commentary. No, it’s pre-recorded voice acting, just like the dialogue in every other game ever.
Ok, you get my point with the images.
The on-screen text that is provided is very helpful, especially for a newbie to football like me. It’s very easy to read and the player can advance to the next text box after they’ve finished reading it, so there’s plenty of time to read everything that’s there.
The visual cues are very helpful and can be adjusted to be made easier to see if you rely on them. Pertinent information, like 3rd & 6, is clearly displayed, so you don’t need to rely on the announcers for that info, and your selected player is outlined by a blue and yellow ring, so you can clearly see which one you’re controlling at any time.
Is the game playable for deaf players? Yes. Is it still enjoyable for people familiar with football, despite the complete lack of captions? Probably. So if you’re a deaf player that likes football, then you’ll probably not regret buying Madden 17. I, however, being completely new to football, would never spend my money on a game that completely leaves me out of the excitement of the dialogue/commentary. I wanted to learn about football and how it’s played, why people enjoy it, and I certainly didn’t here.