There has been much discussion about the lackluster response by Activision when they addressed why Spyro did not have subtitles, including a post from my blog I wrote earlier in the week. The response from games media, accessibility advocates, and even developers has been mostly unified. Subtitles are the standard.
I want to dig further into why I am not a fan of the language we are using to discuss the topic. “Standard” can be highly subjective, for example when Activision states:
While there’s no industry standard for subtitles, the studio and Activision care about the fans’ experience especially with respect to accessibility for people with different abilities, and will evaluate going forward.
To me this comes off as them saying it’s not an industry standard from a feature standpoint, one could easily take this to mean that it’s not a required feature. I’ve seen it mentioned that it is, in fact, an industry standard.
This is a tweet from the exquisite Ian Hamilton:
I agree with this, but unfortunately, we are experiencing a major disconnect from a publishing company, and the gaming community. Subtitles are in the majority of games and some publishers even require that they be included. But the majority of the industry doing something doesn’t make it a standard, standards are hard to manage if no rules are put in place. It’s a weak standard if you can opt out of including them.
I am happy this is becoming a serious topic because it’s a topic about the future of the industry and I think the industry needs to figure out if it actually cares about accessibility as a whole. This year has seen major progress in accessibility but we have also seen a lack of progress.
It is a tragedy that in 2018, we can see a major release not have subtitles, this is an embarrassment to an industry that prides itself in caring about the gamer. For Activison, a billion dollar company, to suggest subtitles aren’t standard enough to be implemented, this sets an even worse standard — the standard that disabled gamers aren’t even worth the minimum.
They couldn’t even have the decency of calling us disabled, which makes me so angry I don’t even have the words to describe it. Accessibility advocate Rae describes this issue much better than I can:
I am disappointed, but I’m also hopeful that this event and the coverage around it will spark a flame, and cause Activision to rethink its approach. The disabled community is watching. Now is the time to listen. Hopefully, we can forge the future of inclusion together.