At an event in London recently, Beat Games unveiled its partnership with Subpac to bring their rhythm music game Beat Saber to the hard of hearing community. In a video created by Beat Games CEO and composer Jaroslav Beck, who is best known for his work on Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch shorts, various Battlefield trailers as well as the fantastic StarCraft: Legacy of the Void introduction trailer, he tells his audience about his passion of creating music and of his worries of becoming deaf as a composer. He then proceeds to talk about Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, who created some of his best works after losing his hearing, noting that the loss of hearing isn't the end for a music aficionado.
This brings us to the event itself and its purpose. While there's certainly a possibility for the hard of hearing playing Beat Saber as it is, without the audio, using the visuals as their only guide, Beck and his rhythm game studio have partnered up with Subpac to add to the experience and the inclusivity of it. The Subpac, which is a wearable subwoofer, will put the world of Beat Saber into an evolution phase, ensuring that players can feel the tact of the music beats instead of just seeing them on the screen and while the Subpac isn't cheap, coming in at $349, it could be worth it for those wanting to take their experience to the next level.
The purpose of the event in London, which had three attendees, was to investigate how people would perceive the system and by watching the video, the partnership seems to have been a hit on site. Deaf dancer Chris Fonseca, Deaf Rave founder, and choreographer Troi Lee and Deaf Rave member Matthew Taylor were mighty impressed by the setup and, even though they hadn't played the game in its original state without the wearable subwoofer, their impressions speak volumes.
When asked about their experience with the game, the attendees were ecstatic. Chris Fonseca told the audience that playing Beat Saber felt like "being in a different world, a fantasy world. The more I play, the more I get better.", while Troi Lee had the following to say: "As a deaf person, using the Subpac and the VR, I just felt in a virtual reality world that I have never experienced before. I definitely believe it will make a big difference, especially with the Subpac". Matthew Taylor later chimed in with his thoughts: "This game is wicked. Wicked! Out of this world experience. Kind of a different dimension of gaming.", continuing, "I'm not a gamer, so playing the VR Beat Saber is really really new to me and wow, I would definitely continue to play that game".
The verdict seems to be a positive one from the attendees and the idea brings new possibilities inclusivity-wise.