Valve is doing some fascinating research as part of the development for Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Co-founder Gabe Newell is running a series of focus groups with deaf individuals in an effort to realistically integrate sign language into the upcoming title.
Newell explains that Half-Life‘s leading lady, Alyx learned sign language so she could communicate with a former love interest and will occasionally use signing in order to converse with her robotic companion, Dog. “As a person who tells stories, I’m trying to understand the subjective experience of the hearing-impaired because the truth of that needs to come out in the character,” he says. The members of the focus group dissect the intricacies of sign language as it relates to deaf culture, acknowledging the importance of facial expressions: an area that Valve has already made significant advancements in with the previous games in the Half-Life series.
With most developers nowadays focusing on creating new technology in order to improve things like graphics and physics engines, it’s incredibly refreshing to see Valve exploring new ways to enhance storytelling and character relationships within games. I’m really excited to see how this research will be implemented in the next installment of Valve’s groundbreaking series.