This month, we sat down with Susan, a gamer with a unique mission: help make games more accessible for deaf gamers.
Susan, or OneOddGamerGirl, as you may know her, has been gaming since the 80’s, but her passion was reignited only a few years ago in 2014. What started out as a hobby, turned into a passionate quest to help other disabled gamers find accessible games. Susan is deaf, which means gaming can be rough. If a game doesn’t cater to the needs of the Deaf and hard of hearing, Susan wants gamers and the developers to know about it – and do something about it. Susan took her burning passion, her best friend and their vision and created OneOddGamerGirl.net, a game review site with deaf gamers in mind.
“I started doing my deaf accessibility reviews in 2014, after I got my first console, an Xbox One, got a few games, and found one was severely lacking in content I could enjoy because it was completely without subtitles, and the other, I could play for all of an hour before I was forced to stop playing because to get any farther, you’d need to be able to hear to survive. $120 down the drain. 90+ reviews and 4 years later, I’m thrilled every time someone tells me one of our reviews has helped them. And even more thrilled when a developer said they learned how to do better based on our critiques.”
Susan doesn’t stop there; she was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the young age of 17 and has been battling with mental illness ever since. A large part of her blogging is dedicated to explaining how gaming has helped her cope with her mental illness and how it may be able to help others, as well. Susan is raw and open about her experiences and hopes that her openness with the community will allow others to follow in her footsteps and not only find help, but find their tribe – people who understand, support and care for them.
“I hope to bring about awareness and change. Unfortunately, I still see far too much of the “games aren’t meant for you people, stop trying to ruin our fun” mentality or the “you can’t expect everything to be accessible” excuse. To both I say, yes they are, and yes I certainly can. I think the more the #a11y community talks about our struggles and our expectations, these attitudes will lessen, or at least figure out that they aren’t welcome in the gamer community. Seeing games adopt better accessibility practices is showing that I’m right in my belief that games are for everyone and we all have the right to expect to be able to play them.”
Not all games are ideal for deaf people, Susan admits, but she does strongly recommend open-world RPGs. She explains, “My favorite type of game to play (and talk about on Twitter) is a nice big open world RPG. I’m currently sucked deep into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I think I’m drawn to RPGs so strongly because they give me opportunities I don’t have in real life. I’m schizophrenic, so my interaction with the world outside of my house can be pretty limited because that’s how I manage my mental health.” Susan continues, “But in a game, I can be outgoing and well-liked, heroic. I can help people (granted fake video game people) in ways I wish I could in life. I love that a game removes my limitations and gives me a chance to be who I wish I could be, so RPGs are a natural fit for me.”
Though her life has become revolved around her mission to help others, Susan wants developers and gamers alike to know that she hopes her voice will not always need to be heard. Susan explains that she hopes to one day live in a world where advocacy isn’t a necessity, and developers cater to the disabled right off the bat. Susan continues, ” In the future, I hope to become obsolete, honestly. If there was no need for a deaf accessibility review because all games were made to be fully accessible, I’d have achieved what I set out to. And in recent months, I’m seeing that we might just get there and I think it’s fantastic. There’s still a LOT to do in terms of making games more accessible for everyone, but I’m very happy to see that, for the most part, deaf accessibility is finally starting to improve across the industry.”
If you’ve ever streamed or taken any advice from established streamers, you’ve probably heard the following: “stream like no one and everyone is watching; keep streaming whether you have an audience or not.” Susan swears by this advice and explains that it was even scarier when she got her start because she was deaf, and didn’t know if there were any other deaf gamers or anyone that would find her relatable and entertaining, for that matter. Susan found a community and a family of other deaf and disabled gamers alike that welcomed her with open arms.
“My best advice for anyone looking to get into streaming or accessibility advocacy is to know what you want to do and just do it, without worrying whether there’s an audience. When I started, I had no idea if there was a need for deaf accessibility reviews, I had no idea if there were even other deaf gamers. It turned out there were tons and I am so grateful for the friendships and connections I’ve made because I decided to start writing about games, both within the deaf gamer community and the larger disabled gamer community as a whole. I love learning how I can be more supportive of and a better advocate for disabled gamers and I’m grateful that so many game devs have connected with me and listen to what I have to say.”