A hearing-impaired Destiny player going by the handle tigersharkdude created a thread on the Destiny subreddit requesting that Bungie flesh out the subtitles for various bits of NPC dialogue in the game. It exploded in popularity overnight, with many users expressing support and XboxTavern running an article on the subject.
The issue in question relates to world dialogue from NPCs. Certain NPCs will spout random bouts of dialogue when you walk past them. Specifically, the thread brings attention to remarks by Rahool, Variks, and Shaxx.
I received assistance from TechRaptor writer Reagan Cox in investigating this issue as I don't own Destiny and he was kind enough to assist. He's captured some video of the issue in question. The entire loading sequence and activation of the subtitle option are included for the sake of veracity. The video embed is set to start at the 3:09 mark where you can see Reagan running around with subtitles on, NPCs talking, and no subtitles coming up on screen.
Destiny, like many games, provides for subtitled dialogue and it does an excellent job subtitling dialogue critical to gameplay. This issue does not appear to have any serious detrimental gameplay effects, but it could have an effect on immersion and quality of life for hearing-impaired players.
I wanted to hear from the man himself about this topic, so I had a quick chat with tigersharkdude over Reddit. He's a man with a variety of interests including working out, tinkering with mechanical keyboards, and collecting Funko Pop! Vinyls. Note: we've corrected a few minor spelling errors and such in the dialogue below.
TechRaptor: How long have you been playing Destiny?
tigersharkdude: I've been playing since launch week, so going on 2 years.
TR: How did you find your clan of hearing-impaired gamers? How long have you been playing games together?
tsd: I had made a post about the difficulties of finding a raiding party, with being deaf, and our clan leader Mauz sent me a private message asking if I would like to join his clan The Silent Light
TR: What inspired you to make your post on the Destiny subreddit?
tsd: I have wanted to make the post a number of times, yesterday I saw a post that joking talked about 'shaxx's new dialogue' and it made me think "it's all new to me"
TR: Aside from the NPC dialogue, how accessible is Destiny for the hearing-impaired?
tsd: Pretty well if you can find the right players to play with, take raiding for example. Vault of Glass and Crota's End were fairly easy but King's Fall has its difficulties (the totem's at Warpriest for example, we had to designate emotes to match the totem order)
TR: What other games do you feel do a good job of being accessible to hearing-impaired players?
tsd: I honestly can't answer this. At the current time, I don't play anything else so I don't know. I used to be big into PS racing games but those don't require much audio at all.
TR: Aside from Destiny, what other games do you like to play?
tsd: Currently I don't play any other games, but I don't really have any certain types I like. I enjoy a lot of games, I just hate when they end up not living up to their expectations
TR: Have you ever wanted to play a game but been unable to do so as a result of your deafness?
TR: How do you feel the gaming industry performs as a whole in making their games accessible for hearing-impaired gamers?
tsd: They seem to try their best, but things are missed that most take for granted (think random npc dialogue).
I've reached out to Bungie for comment on the matter via e-mail. A tweet made by tigersharkdude has been responded to by Bungie community manager Chris "Cozmo23" Shannon.
It looks like tigersharkdude has captured the attention of Bungie's Community Manager. Destiny's community on Reddit has rallied behind this guy and hopefully this issue will be corrected in the near future. There are discussions in the Reddit thread of a petition or a twitter campaign being started to show support for this matter.
Bungie's community manager was quick to respond to tigersharkdude's tweet and I hope that they follow through with this soon. I personally believe that it's important for games to make the effort to be as accessible as possible to gamers with hearing or visual impairment. It's unfortunately not as widespread of a practice as it ought to be, and small steps like this one will hopefully one day mean that full subtitles, colorblind accessibility, and more are the industry gold standard.
Do you think games generally do a good enough job of being accessible to hearing-impaired players? How important is it that most or all dialogue in a game features subtitles to you? Let us know in the comments below!