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Player Catalogues List Of Games That Still Have Poorly Implemented Subtitles

Illustration for article titled Player Catalogues List Of Games That Still Have Poorly Implemented Subtitles
Screenshot: OldJoe911

Just from playing games, I know that the subtitles they offer are often too small, have weird line breaks, or don’t show up properly against the background of the game. This handy Reddit post offers a more detailed look at just how bad the situation can get in certain games.

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Over on the PC Gaming subreddit, user OldJoe911 posted a repository of screenshots of subtitles in games to illustrate the problems that can arise. Although the examples aren’t exhaustive, they run the gamut from the 2000-era game Thief 2 to last year’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Although OldJoe911 says in the post that more and more games are including subtitles for their games, the presentation remains an issue.

“Here are many other issues which all can be summed up to readability: very long lines, too much text, poor contrast, random line breaks, no minimum gaps between subs, low timecodes, grammar errors, out of sync, bad positioning, bad font type/style, partial subs and lack of subs altogether,” they wrote. “From my own experience, it seems that the industry in general have gotten better in including subs with their titles. The presentation of subs, however, is lackluster to say the least.”

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All of the games that OldJoe911 shows in the post have issues that make their subtitles harder to read, but there’s a range of examples, some egregious and others more bearable. For example, Shadow of the Tomb Raider has larger subtitles with a translucent black box behind them, and it even offers an option for different characters to use different text colors. However, uneven line breaks like this one can make the text harder to parse:

Illustration for article titled Player Catalogues List Of Games That Still Have Poorly Implemented Subtitles
Screenshot: OldJoe911

While Soma offers additional subtitles specifically for the hard of hearing, the extremely tight kerning—which is the space between the letters—in the game’s subtitles can also present a readability issue.

Illustration for article titled Player Catalogues List Of Games That Still Have Poorly Implemented Subtitles
Screenshot: OldJoe911
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If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, the lack of consistency of subtitles in games is a clear accessibility issue. People who aren’t hard of hearing also use subtitles, myself included, and not being able to read the text kind of defeats the purpose when I’m trying to make sure I catch all the dialogue. Seeing all the different kinds of pitfalls that various games have run into with subtitles is surprising, but also a little sad. For me, it’s just a minor irritation in games, but for someone who needs them, poor subtitles can make a game difficult or impossible to play.

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DISCUSSION

Realistically though how would game companies even begin to better streamline how subtitles are presented? Would it be better to first test run the subtitles’ presentation with those that need it the most; the hearing impaired and deaf? Individuals can say “better” subtitles but better for whom? The people that can legitimately benefit from reading them or those like you and I that can hear just fine but like to read along for context?

I see a few small issues.

The first would of course be the multitudes of game engines modern video games are built on. Probably something not incredibly difficult to implement but you would have to dedicate someone/a group to do streamlined or agreed upon -styled subtitles for the title.

The other would be basic aesthetics. I can to a degree understand why in a game you might not want to have this huge text box splattered across the bottom when you’re rendering a cut scene with the in-game engine. Yet displaying characters free-standing and borderless runs into issues as scenes and colors change; something will eventually clash.

I would think ideally if there was a heavy focus on subtitles some sort of ‘log’ or ‘recall’ feature would be nice in most games, similar to visual novels and RPGs. Regardless of how well or poorly subtitles are presented there’s always instances of missing a word or two, or it being nice to add context to a piece of dialog said a few sentences ago. Subtitle aesthetics aside there’s nothing more infuriating to read a piece of dialog to then not be able to recall it; like reading page 101 of a book and not being able to turn back to page 100.