Unless you live with it or love someone who does, many disabilities go unrecognized—or at least their challenges do. All too often, disabled people’s needs aren’t noticed, especially if they don’t impact those without a certain condition. And, in many cases, the person who has these accessibility needs already feels as though they’re a burden, making them less likely to voice their concerns or request accommodations.
Of course, these issues run rampant in the workplace and other aspects of society. But it can be just as frustrating on a personal level, like with hobbies. For instance, have you ever wondered how people who are deaf or hard of hearing play video games? At first glance, it might not seem like an impediment. However, deaf or HOH gamers can attest to the difficulties they can face.
How does hearing impact gaming?
The sound experience within video games has been absolutely revolutionized since its earliest iterations. Of course, a great score can make gameplay more enjoyable and ensure it feels immersive. But, beyond the appealing but not-so-crucial element, sound plays another role that’s absolutely critical—that of developing game mechanics. Sound effects can offer audio signals for all sorts of insights into what you need to know and how you can do it, whether that’s the sound of footsteps or a particular jingle that warns a treasure is nearby.
Multiplayer games take the challenge of gaming without sound a step further. Many such games rely on audio as a means of communication, allowing players to strategize with their teammates from in front of their respective consoles. Not only does the inability to hear these discussions hinder participation, but more competitive players may view their hard-of-hearing teammates as a liability.
What can you do to minimize this impact?
For those who are dealing with hearing loss or deafness, your first priority, bar none, should be caring for your health and well-being. Though the specifics of care will vary depending on your unique needs, you’ll want to begin by finding a team of medical professionals who can support you and offer adequate treatment. Whether that’s an otolaryngologist or ENT in Tucson, AZ, or an audiologist and hearing aid center in West Orange, NJ, will ultimately be up to you, your health needs, and your overall situation.
When it comes to gaming, more specifically, there will be some disparity in your game plan as well. For example, those who are hard of hearing but not fully deaf may find that their most effective solution is investing in the best gaming headset they can find. By improving the sound quality and blocking out background noise (assuming your headset includes noise cancellation technology), it will make the sound of your favorite games more accessible. In the case of multiplayer situations, seek out teammates who are understanding and empathetic, and who want to play with you win or lose.
Where can the industry improve?
Of course, there’s only so much a single gamer can do to make gaming accessible for them and others, and that burden shouldn’t fall on their shoulders alone. Like with many issues concerning disability rights, some degree of change must come on a societal level for the best results.
Perhaps most poignant, though, is the simple act of talking about areas where accessibility is lacking, even when it concerns a topic as “insignificant” as video games. After all, disabled people have just as much of a right to a high quality of life as anyone else does, and if gaming makes them happy and contributes to that quality, then so be it.
From having a high-quality gaming headset to finding accessible alternatives to using audio for essential and extra features in popular games, individuals and society at large can both work toward a future where gaming—and life, more generally—is accessible to everyone.