Screenshot: Microsoft / Playground Games
Accessibility options are a growing concern among developers big and small, but Forza Horizon 5 is prepared to go above and beyond industry norms (and hopefully set a new standard) with on-screen sign language interpreters, a first-of-its-kind feature in the AAA gaming world.
“We’re constantly listening to the community to make Forza Horizon 5 an inclusive experience for everyone to enjoy,” Playground Games creative director Mike Brown recently explained via Xbox Wire. “With this in mind, the team is excited to share we are also working on American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) support for cinematics in Forza Horizon 5.”
Forza Horizon 5’s sign language interpreters will appear as a picture-in-picture display, providing a new way for those with difficulties hearing to experience the game’s storyline, such as it is. While a release date wasn’t provided for this feature, the developers promise it will be coming to Forza Horizon 5 (available now for those who purchase the Premium Edition and on November 9 for everyone else) “soon.”
As someone whose only problems with hearing come from attending way too many concerts without the protection of earplugs, I found myself wondering why someone might prefer an ASL interpreter to, say, the subtitle tracks pretty much every game already provides. This same question recently popped up last year, when deaf Americans asked the White House to implement sign language alongside captions during the Trump administration’s covid-19 briefings.
Rupert Dubler, a certified interpreter, told CNN at the time that many members of the deaf community consider closed captioning difficult to follow. Furthermore, a speaker’s tone can’t necessarily be conveyed by text alone, a vital facet of speech that’s supported by an interpreter’s facial expressions, demeanor, and even the signs they choose to use. Game dialogue may not be as life-or-death as information on a global pandemic, but the overlap is obvious.
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Forza Horizon 5’s wide suite of accessibility options also includes the ability to play the game at reduced speeds while offline, high-contrast and colorblind modes for better visibility, and various subtitle options like adjusting size and highlighting key words.
“From the very beginning of development of Forza Horizon 5, we made it a priority to incorporate accessibility features,” Brown added. “We want everyone in the world to be able to experience our game, and with more than an estimated 400 million gamers with disabilities across the globe, it is vital that all players be able to tailor their gameplay in a way that works best for them.”