Valve researching sign language for next Half Life 2 chapter

You may have seen a blind gamer beatingThe Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but there’s no denying that disabled gamers are getting a raw deal from games – even in 2009, shockingly few titles contain subtitles. Is that going to change soon?

Possibly, and it could be Half Life and Left 4 Dead developer Valve which gets things started. The Half Life series is renowned for its forward-thinking ways in design terms, and now looks like it might become one of the first mainstream videogames to include a deaf character.

This video shows Valve founder Gabe Newell at a focus test with several deaf individuals, learning about sign language. Newell discusses how a deaf character may tie into the life of [Half Life 2 supporting character] Alyx and her giant robotic pet, Dog:

“[Alyx] had a crush on someone who was hearing impaired, so she taught Dog how to sign so she could practice. Something happened, maybe, the person is off fighting the Combine someplace else, but that’s why she and Dog would start signing with each other when they wanted to communicate without making noise, or communicate without other people knowing … It gave us the excuse to build the technology for signing.”

The much-delayed Half Life 2: Episode 3 is the next entry in the classic series, and it’s clear that Valve is approaching it with some real consideration for all gamers. Good to see, and an in-game character who uses signing to communicate should work a treat, considering Half Life 2 is also renowned for its spookily real facial animations.

[YouTube, via Joystiq]