< Being penalised for not being able to hear in Overwatch

This is an open letter to Blizzard, and to Jeff Kaplan, the lead developer on the Overwatch project. To start with, I am a person who loves playing video games, and have played other Blizzard games in the past.

What I loved about those games was that they always had subtitles or captioning in place. This helped me to feel more immersed into the games that Blizzard currently offers. This made me feel that as a deaf person, it did not lessen the gaming experience. This was due to being able to follow the narrative in games without relying on the sound.

Overwatch has catered for gamers with varying disabilities, such as colour blindness options. There is also the contrast/brightness options which can help other people. This is a big positive step from video games in the last few years, but they are missing some more options.

In a nutshell, this is my main issue with Overwatch, in either Quick Play or Competitive Play. It is crucial that the team works together to defeat the other team in Payload or Assault games. Being able to spot the enemy heroes’ ultimates and to seek cover or to counter them is a big part of the gameplay. As I cannot hear the tell-tale signs of an enemy ultimate when it is outside of my line of sight.

For example: McCree’s ultimate will always catch me out as I will not hear the ‘High Noon’ sound which gives it away. Whoever plays McCree tend to try and flank the enemy every time. When McCree’s ultimate gets used in a flanking position which will be outside of my line of sight. I will either get caught and die to the ultimate in the game or be lucky enough to find cover. This also applies to any other hero that can use their ultimates outside of the line of sight.

In competitive play, I have gotten abuse for not being able to use the in-game voice chat due to not being able to hear. There have been cases where individuals do armchair coaching via the voice chat. If I do not do what they have been saying over voice chat, I get abuse via the in-game chat. I use the in-game chat tools to provide better communication despite not being able to use the voice chat.

This also has had a domino effect on my rating in competitive play. I am at a similar performance level as a friend of mine, who is able to hear. My friend got placed in a higher competitive rating than I did. This has led me to believe it is because of the audible tell-tale signs of an incoming enemy ultimate. My friend is able to counter or dodge ultimates due to the audible tell-tale signs whereas I cannot.

What I would like from the Overwatch development team, is to consider and provide a visual aid in-game. This could work with the audible sign of an incoming ultimate. This would help warn gamers with hearing difficulties about the incoming enemy ultimates that are not in line of sight. This in turn would provide gamers with hearing disabilities an equal platform to play in Quick Play or Competitive Play.