Tisserand works as an Accessibility Project Manager at Ubisoft. Let’s take a look at these Ubisoft subtitle stats:
– Assassin’s Creed Odyssey subtitles are on by default. 95% of players didn’t bother switching them off.
– The Division 2 is where it gets interesting. Subtitles are off by default, but 50% of players have them on today. And 75% of all players have turned them on at least once.
– Far Cry New Dawn works like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Subtitles are switched on by default. 97% of players left it that way.
Subtitles are excellent from an accessibility standpoint. Deaf gamers get to enjoy the story, just like everyone else. But the data shows that many other gamers use them too. Whether by default, or going out of their way to turn them on. I’m one of them. But why?
Tisserand links to a GDC talk by Ian Hamilton that dives into subtitles and Hamilton touches on a variety of reasons why many of use subtitles. Maybe your audio setup isn’t the best. Or you’re kid is trying to sleep. He then points to the reason why I often use them. Audio mixing in games is a mixed bag at best.
I don’t watch TV or movies with subtitles on, but I do with most games. That’s because audio mixing for those is usually meticulously edited to make sure you can hear the dialogue. Every scene only plays out one way.
With games, you don’t know if a gunfight is about to erupt, or an explosion deafens what a nearby character was saying, or music drowns out the dialogue. Or in open-world games, you get too far from the character speaking, and you can barely hear them.
Hamilton’s talk dives into what developers can do to make subtitles better. Captions are one area he highlights. You might think subtitles and captions are the same thing, but Hamilton explains that subtitles usually refers to speech while captions focus on other audio to help describe what’s happening on screen. He uses Shadow of the Tomb Raider as an example. The plane Lara’s on is about to crash, and captions can help describe what is happening on screen for deaf players. In this case, we see “[wind screaming]” show up on the screen along with dialogue from the characters.
I hope Tisserand coming out with subtitle data for Ubisoft games pushes other developers/publishers to do the same. Is Ubisoft the exception here? Or, do other games see similar subtitle usage. I would lean towards the latter. I use subtitles for pretty much all single-player games with tons of dialogue. The audio mixing is just too inconsistent in gaming.