Some of you may know this already, but I'm hearing impaired.
I'm not the only gamer in the world with a hearing impairment, and it seems that these days, the gaming industry is starting to recognize there is a need for subtitles/captions in their games.
Some of you may not have given it much thought, to subtitles that is. You may see it as an option and be all "Well, maybe that'll be good when I can't have the volume too high or something", though I'm sure many of you are at least aware that deaf and hard of hearing people DO play games, you may not realize just how important this feature in games is to us.
Myself, I don't need it as much as persons with much more serious hearing loss (such as deafness), but I still find the feature important enough that I check it before just about any other setting in the game.
I can hear well enough so that I can get by with just spoken text being subtitled, but deaf gamers would actually need proper captions, including sound effects, and various visual clues as to on-screen happenings (such as where people are shooting from in FPS). Can you imagine playing a FPS game and see your health dropping like a stone, without a clue as to where the person is shooting from? Modern games tend to give a general direction at least, which is good, this wasn't always the case.
Getting back to subtitles, you'd be surprised how many high profile games don't have subtitles/captions, or only have limited subtitles.
A good example is the first Assassin's Creed. That game had no subtitles options at all for the English language, despite being a next-gen game. With many games, I can at least get the gist of the conversation, but in AC all I had to go on most of the time, was on-screen cues (like, if fighting started happening, I guess an argument occurred eh?). Without my game guide, I wouldn't have been able to get a clue as to what was going on during these cut scenes.
I never finished that game, and I do suspect a good part of it was because of the lack of subs. Ubisoft from what I remember, announced some time ago that they're going to be subtitling their games from then on. I'm thinking that this was due to (in no small part) of the lack of support for the feature in such a high profile game as their first Assassin's Creed.
I was reminded again recently, with the upscaled re-release of the first two God of War games. They too are high profile games, but neither of them has subtitles, not even the re-release does. The re-release is really just upscaled graphics, and that's it, everything else seems to be the same.
I wrote a review for it on the site Deaf Gamers.com, the first GOW that is. At current it isn't up on the main site, but is posted in the forum. It should be up on the main site in a day or so, as the Admin says. This site would be a good thing for Deaf and hard of hearing gamers to refer to. It doesn't cover all games, but a number of higher profile ones, across various platforms. They have a Classification System which ranks games from A down to E.
A would mean that the game 100% supports captions (all text is covered, including SFX, with various ease of use options intended specifically for deaf persons), and something in the E category would have no subs at all, relies on audible cues of some sort (at least at some point) and would be basically unplayable if one was deaf, and seriously frustrating at times for people who are hearing impaired (like yours truly).
As an aside, I should also mention that DVD releases are seeing more and more support for subs. Early DVDs, especially low profile ones, tended to lack subtitles, and some even lacked Closed Captioning. These days though, subtitles are pretty much a guarantee unless it is some unknown movie few people have heard about, or is an older release. Some releases even get two tracks for English, a dialogue option, and a dialogue+SFX track (the latter being for deaf persons, the former being for hearing impaired people that just need some help). Blu-ray releases in particular, seem to be supporting subtitles fairly strongly. Hellboy for example, had somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 different subtitle tracks across various languages. I don't need anything other than English, but it's cool to see such strong support. I rarely buy anything that doesn't say at least 'CC' (Closed Captioned) on it, if not English SDH (Subtitled for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing). I am not a fan of CC for various reasons (one of the big ones being that my TV doesn't handle CC over a disk drive such as my PS3's BD-rom, for some reason. It does handle CableTV CC though), which means that I have to watch it on my computer or not at all.
I shudder to think of the state things would be at for Deaf and hard of hearing gamers if the trend of Closed Captioning didn't come to be so many years ago, on VHS and TV. To give you perspective, try watching a TV show or movie in a language you aren't too familiar with (though perhaps have some experience with, such as French or Spanish), or just completely muted. The former is to represent hearing loss (mine isn't so bad that EVERYTHING sounds like gibberish, not all the time anyhow), and the latter of course, is for deafness. Deaf people learn to lip read, so give it a shot. I myself can only lip read in a minimal fashion though, but that is probably partly because of my ability to actually hear (if not that well), and partly because I don't interact, socially, in the real world much.