Gaming in Challenge Mode

Many games offer different difficulty settings, but playing deaf is at a whole new level


Isaac Le

Graphic by Isaac Le/Sac.Media.

Gamers, have you ever encountered a boss or a quest that is unreasonably difficult to kill or to complete and you can’t figure out why? Even when you search numerous websites for a guide and ask everyone you know who has done it? Even after following the instructions, step by step you still fail?
Some people with disabilities can feel like this every day. Add that to gaming, and some real resourcefulness is needed to help gamers who are less than able to get in a few enjoyable hours of their favorite games. Deafness is one of these obstacles that some gamers endure.
Cary Narveson, 33, freelance artist and part-time Twitch streamer who was diagnosed with deafness and Asperger’s, said that her favorite games are World of Warcraft and Overwatch.
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game and Overwatch is a first-person shooter game. Compared to WoW, Overwatch is more intense and is played at a quicker pace that requires communication on the spot.
Narveson said that she uses Overwatch’s in-game emotes to communicate with her teammates in matches, but the options are very limited. She prefers WoW’s chat system.
When playing Overwatch, she said, “Sometimes, I would make a comment ‘I did not hear that coming!’ Other times, I would inform them that I’m deaf, and please cover my back.”
“As for trolls or rude people, I either ignore them or inform them that I can’t be on [voice chat] at all,” Narveson added.
Discord user Voxann, 38, graphic designer and part-time Twitch streamer, said that she enjoys playing Guild War 2 and currently playing Assassin Creed’s Odyssey.
GW2 is an MMORPG like WoW, but it does not require a monthly subscription like WoW does. AC Odyssey is a single-player action role-playing game.
Voxann said that she does not always tell people she plays with that she is deaf in GW2.
“Sometimes I’ll have to bring it up if I’m in a party or squad that requests everyone to use [voice chat],” she said. “Sometimes they understand and will be willing to explain. Other times, they can choose to kick me out if they don’t want to deal with explaining things to me.”
She appreciates people who don’t apologize when they find out.
“I don’t need pity,” she said.“However, because I lead a deaf guild, we don’t have to deal with that anymore.”
For gamers with deafness or who are hard-of-hearing, visual notifications are essential. There are few things that game developers can improve upon to make their games more welcoming for those players.
Narveson said that even though Overwatch displays captions when heroes use their ultimate, they do get lost in team fights when many things are happening at once. And it will make the game more appealing if it allows the players to customize those visual cues.
Voxann said that, “In single games, subtitles are very important to include and allow for more format options like making text larger or background transparency. In MMO, visual cues are vital for helping deaf players recognize what’s going on.”
“It’s so important for game developers to have accessibility for everyone in mind when they make games,” she added.
Video games serve more than just entertainment, it also works as the bridge that connects people. Many gamers feel like there should not have boundaries that divide who can or cannot play.