Monday, April 30, 2018

Video Game Subtitles: The Good & The Bad

Nowadays, most video games, from the tiniest independent title to the AAA blockbusters have subtitles. Subtitles are important not just for the Deaf and hard of hearing-- players with audio processing disorders need them too, as well as player who need the voices or sound lowered for whatever reason. Max Deryagin, an expert consultant on subtitles whose work has appeared in hundreds of videos, is also an avid video game player. His thoughst on what video game with subtitles often fail to do correctly is a well-thought-out article with plenty of examples from last year about what not do to. Here's an example of an irritating problem I ran into way too often: crappy contrast between the subtitle text and the actual game environment...

if the game is highly dynamic, you don't have much time to focus on the subs, so it can be really hard to keep up with them when the contrast is low. Let me demonstrate that in the video clip below. Try to pay attention both to the image and the text. (The clips are muted to imitate not hearing the dialogue well, when you'd want to enable subtitles.)

Subtitles in Star Wars Battlefront II from Max Deryagin on Vimeo.

Ridiculous, isn't it? I can't even read the text in time, let alone enjoy the scenery or concentrate on the action.

Max's post includes a lot more common subtitling implementation mistakes from last year, so whether you're a game player or a game developer, it's essential reading.

As with previous posts I've made on accessibility, these issues don't just affect gamers with disabilities. Making games-- or whatever content you're distributing-- accessible makes them available to a wider audience, and if just a little thought and consideration goes into these measures at the beginning, they can be both super easy and super cheap to include from the get-go.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Leveling the Playing Field: Video Games & Accessibility

Description: Close up of a pair of hands holding a Playstation
4 controller. The controller is a deep blue, and a light on the front
of the controller glows brightly.
Accessibility in video games is more than just creating specialized controllers. It's an issue that doesn't even have to be particularly time-consuming or expensive, as long as you make sure to think of it at the beginning instead of bolting it on at the end. So why are ways to make video games accessible still so sparsely implemented? Why does change keep happening so incrementally, if at all? How can this be fixed? Why is the video game industry so slow to adopt techniques that have made entertainment media accessible in other domains? In "How Games Can Better Accommodate Disabled Players", Waypoint's Mike Diver interviews Ian Hamilton, an game development consultant and advocate for increasing video game accessibility for game players with disabilities. An excerpt:
"Awareness, though, can be hard to come by directly—the circumstances in which games are made are not the same as those in which games are played. Console games are not played on a 27-inch monitor, 18 inches from your face; but that's often the environment in which day-to-day UI decisions are made... There's no reason why the system can't be designed and implemented before the content it's going to display is finalized. That's something I'd dearly love to see addressed at an engine level, as there's really no need for developers to keep reinventing the wheel every time—especially when it's so often reinvented as a square. Again, as with a great deal in accessibility, this isn't rocket science to solve, at all. It's just about actually getting it done."

The discussion of subtitles in video games was of particular interest to me. I always play with subtitles on, as I have an auditory processing disorder and there are times that I just can't focus on the dialogue any other way. Hamilton also talks about controller remapping, colorblind mode and more. The entire article's a great read, so do read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wrestling With Depression: Gentleman Jervis Speaks On Mental Health

As most longtime readers of The Code know, I'm a huge fan of pro wrestling, especially independent pro wrestling. One of the appeals of smaller scale pro wrestling is that fans get the opportunity to be closer to the action. The indie wrestlers themselves are often much more accessible to fans than those in the big leagues of WWE. One of my favorite pro wrestlers is a grappler by the name of Gentleman Jervis, and meeting him 5 years ago was one of my highlights as a fan. Don't believe me? Here's a picture:

One of the qualities that sets Jervis apart from other pro wrestlers is his relentless gentleness and kindness. In the squared circle, Jervis is more likely to use grappling techniques that will make his opponent unable to move instead of fisticuffs. He employs a sleeper hold... in which he rocks the opponent to sleep instead of chocking them out. And he persona of "The World's Sweetest Man" extends to his presence online from Reddit to social media. In an interview last year with EPSN, Jervis said:
"I want to be a beacon of light on the internet, and I feel in order to do that, I must also navigate the dark crevices and bring out the light in the situation. I try to be nice with everything I do and say, and I think that's translated to my physical life, my real life. My digital life and my digital personas are very sweet and kind, and now my physical persona has assumed that form as well. You have to put out the niceness and create the light that you wish to see reflected upon you."
Which is why it might have been surprising to some when he recently announced he had grappled with depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. He recently wrote a blog post about it, entitled "On Sweetness And Suicide". An excerpt:
My mistake was believing that... I could face depression on my own with exercise, healthy eating and positivity. These things are extremely beneficial to one’s health, but sometimes these habits are just not enough. Some depression sufferers like me need medicated assistance as well and that’s okay! ... My outward appearance is a projection of sweetness, friendliness, and understanding. Sometimes, I am not so nice. Sometimes I am downright mean. My self-hate and anger boil over and I become a monster to those around me. A Rottenbelly. Though I am not proud of these moments, I am also not ashamed. Just like anyone else, I can be weak at times. But I can also be strong. Part of being strong is accepting your actions, forgiving yourself for them, apologizing to any parties who may be hurt or offended and correcting your behavior for the future.  
The entire entry is an honest account of the struggles he faced, the thoughts he had, his history with mental health, and the support he received and is an engaging read. Give it a look, won't you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life PS4 Review

Does The Dragon of Dojima's Swan Song Strike The Right Notes?

Description: Screenshot of a close-up of of the back of Kiryu Kazama. He is shirtless,
showing off a muscular back adorned with an elaborately detailed dragon tattoo.
The Yakuza series has followed the life of Kiryu Kazama, a legendary yakuza who rose through the ranks of Japanese organized crime, only to try to leave it behind while trying to balance conflicted loyalties, family ties, and doing what's right. Billed as the first all-new Yakuza game for the PS4 and as the close to a chapter of a series lead, there's a lot riding on this PS4 game's shoulders. Yakuza 6 has to improve on the presentation of the series as a whole, bring a starring character's arc to a close, but not be so daunting that it alienates newcomers to the series. Does it succeed? Find out after the jump.

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