Microsoft is doing commendable work as it is now adding sign language support for in-game scenes in Forza Horizon 5.
Xbox decided to add sign language support for the in-game scenes and Forza Horizon 5. In order to implement it perfectly, Playground Games which is an Xbox Game Studios developer and the creator of Forza Horizon 5 have worked with Cameron Akitt who is a renowned enthusiastic gamer.
Forza Horizon 5 will now have American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) support for the in-game cinematics with a free in-game update which already began on March 1. This will significantly enhance the gaming experience for gamers with hearing disabilities.
To make the game more immersive, the new update will have actors from the deaf and hearing disability community. They will use sign language to tell the story between driving. These scenes will include, jumping to new challenges, getting ready for a race, meeting other players in the mission, and racing across Mexico.
As per Akitt, this new update will bring “a different dynamic” by having a person explain the on-screen elements in the gamer’s native sign language.
The inclusion of both ASL and BSL makes the game more immersive for people having hearing disabilities as they get the choice to pick between two languages. So naturally, they can pick a sign language in which they are fluent.
Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie believes that captions can’t truly express the emotions, excitement, and semantics which come from a spoken language(which will be sign language in this case).
She also expressed that with this update, it will be easier for the players to understand the story as they won’t have to rely on someone to give them the context.
Tara Voelker manages the accessibility for Xbox Game Studios and she has played an important role in making this feature a reality.
She connected the developers of Forza Horizon 5 with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to get feedback on the game. This allowed the developers to get the idea of what people with hearing disabilities miss while they play games like Forza Horizon 5.
Because of this healthy discussion between the community and developers, Playground Games decided that they are going to work on increasing the accessibility of the game no matter what. It turns out that their efforts were recognized as the game won three accessibility awards in 2021 including the Innovation in Accessibility award at The Game Awards 2021, and two Can I Play That? Accessibility Awards.
The Creative Director of Forza Horizon 5, Mike Brown is committed to increasing the accessibility features of the game. He believes that it is very essential for the players to feel the game in order to enjoy it to the fullest. For that, it is important that they experience everything as normal people do. So the team will be continuing to add more accessibility features to the game in the coming future.
This was a new learning experience for Playground games as well and that is why they have made a lot of changes along the way.
To implement the strategy flawlessly, they hired a company run by deaf people to help audition and cast the actors for the in-game scenes. But the developers came to know that they will have to hire an interpreter as well that can communicate with the cast and team along with the actor. Not only that, but they also hired a consultant to make sure that everything is understandable and up to the standard.
There are two great things about Forza Horizon adding sign language support for in-game scenes. First, it is going to significantly enhance the gaming experience for people with hearing disabilities. Second, when a big title like Forza Horizon 5 adds such a unique feature, it sets a precedent for other gaming studios to do the same. So we can expect some more games to add more accessibility features for the differently-abled in the future.