“What we’ve actually learned is that while we think subtitles are great and help everyone, they’re actually not that helpful for deaf or hard of hearing people who rely on gestures,” said Forza Horizon 5 Producer Tarnia Smith. “It was a big wake-up call for us and then we realized that this is what we are really passionate about and we can really break those boundaries and move forward.”
Cameron Akitt, one of the hearing-impaired consultants present throughout the development of Forza Horizon 5, explained how “it’s really tiring not to have access to your native language.” Akitt said, “The inclusion of sign language allows more people who are deaf and hard of hearing to own their gaming experience.”
In the game settings, there are several options for choosing ASL or BSL. Once you’ve chosen the language you want, you can add a sign language background or leave everything transparent. You can also choose where the sign language picture-in-picture appears, such as in the bottom corner or on either side of the screen. I’m not hard of hearing or deaf, so I can’t really judge how sign language is presented, but it seems that Playground Games has made a decent effort to offer choice and inclusiveness where possible.
The picture-in-picture gesture language adds to the game’s already decent array of special features. It currently has options such as customizable subtitles, text-to-speech, colorblind filters, and a slider to adjust offline play speed. Accessibility in games is an increasingly hot topic. Ruth Cassidy wrote last year that “accessibility is not a one-size-fits-all solution because not all people with disabilities have the same needs.”