Dialogue in games: won’t somebody think of the parents?

When you’re a parent, you don’t get a lot of time to play games. More often than not, your gaming time is the odd late-night session when everyone else is in bed – and because everyone’s in bed, you can’t stick headphones on because you won’t be able to hear the baby monitor.

That’s not a problem if you’re playing arcade games or dumb shooters, but it’s a pain in the neck with more immersive things. You need to hear the dialogue because if you don’t, you haven’t a clue what’s going on. However, you can’t turn the TV up loud enough to hear the dialogue because if you do, there’s bound to be a HUGE BLOODY NOISE that wakes the baby, brings your gaming session to an abrupt halt and ends up with you sleeping in the shed.

Last night, I attempted to play Alone In The Dark. It certainly looks good, but I gave up after about 20 minutes. There’s loads of speech in it (in the first 20 minutes, anyway), but because the speech is interspersed with HUGE BLOODY NOISES I couldn’t turn the TV up loud enough to hear it.

GTA IV has loads of speech and lots of HUGE BLOODY NOISE in it too, but it has – yes! – subtitles. It spoils the immersion a little bit – some of the dialogue is even more clunky/cliched/annoying when it’s on the screen rather than in your ears – but at least you can work out what’s happening without ending up in the shed.

I know subtitles aren’t a big priority for game developers, but given that the average gamer is in their thirties there’s a good chance that a lot of game buyers are in the same quiet boat as me – and of course, people with hearing difficulties play games too.