With sign language actors in Forza Horizon 5, Ray-Fleury no longer has to ask his family what he’s missing.
“There are a lot of disabled and deaf people and a lot of doors are closed every day. I mean, people like us are there all the time. It’s about equality. Being in the same place means I’m not going to be Close the door. I’m not trying to eliminate inequality. Being with your family is the most important thing,” Ray-Fleury said. “It also spread to me, who is deaf. Play is an important part of everyone’s life as many continue to socially isolate during the pandemic.”
Tara Voelker, head of accessibility at Xbox Game Studios, said the game played an important role in overcoming trauma. At the age of 10, she was hit by a car on her way home from school and took a long time to recover.
“I couldn’t go out and I couldn’t do anything with my friends. I liked video games, so I could be childish on video games at that point until I recovered and then do something with my friends. I was able to do it. ,” Walker said. She remembers playing the first Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog and The Last Holy War for Indy Jones. “These months have been my life, but the impact is still there. I know for myself that the game will be very important.”
Volker held an inclusion workshop at Playground Games a few years ago, and he wanted to get feedback from the deaf and hard of hearing people early in Forza Horizon 5’s development. At the time, I contacted Mr Akito and other experts through the Disability Network in the UK community, bringing them together in the same room as the game developers.
“The future direction of the entire product has been set,” said Volker, who has worked on games such as Bioshock Infinite. “It was incorporated into the development process.”
Over two days, the developers learned by visiting rooms where disabled people discuss their gaming experience and why they don’t get the same experience as non-disabled…
“By talking to them, I was able to figure out what problem I was trying to solve,” said Tarnya Smith, Forza Horizon 5 producer at Playground Games. “It was just an eye-opener for me. In terms of production, the subtitles were great. Great, I think they’re useful to everyone, but they don’t really help deaf people who rely on sign language. I get it. That’s a big alarm.”
That’s when Playground Games decided to put accessibility at the heart of the game, winning the 2021 Game Awards’ Accessibility Innovation Award and the same year’s Can I Play That? Accessibility Awards. But it won awards in two categories.
“We’ve realized that adding these features gives us an opportunity to make our game more interesting,” said Mike Brown, Forza Horizon 5’s creative director. “It’s an important part of the game and we need to protect it from being lost.”
The development team also knew a deeper need for such accessibility features.
“The gaming experience takes a lot of things, and when you do that, there are players who make different discoveries and face other challenges,” Brown said. “We’ll continue to solve problems for all kinds of people. The complexity of being a game force also presents us with problems that we creators have to solve.”
Playground Games learned its lesson this time, but we’re also correcting the trajectory.
According to Smith, he first hired a deaf company and supported casting of actors based on live auditions, but there was a need for more staff there, and he reportedly noticed. For example, actors, staff, translators communicate with actors, and consultants check whether the actors’ sign language meets the standards and whether the language is appropriate.
At Playground Games, our focus on accessibility led us to take a whole new process of putting everything into the game and seeing if it actually worked. So I consulted Mr. Akito and other deaf people several times to play the game and assess their responses.
Akito sees this update as a precedent for other game studios and the game industry as a whole.
“It’s really a precedent that has set a standard. It’s like a new field, and if Playground Games can do it, other big studios should be able to do it too,” said Mr. Akito. “I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming. Standardized formats might emerge, other studios might imitate, and what happens to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. I’m also worried about opportunity.”
Brown said his commitment to all gamers will continue.
“By developing a game like this, it’s easy for some people to see themselves as accessibility experts,” Brown said. “I think we should be really humble. We have to keep trying, keep questioning and have the ability to make it better.”
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