The great video game subtitles debate: On or off?

Do you play games with the subtitles on or off? It's a surprisingly contentious issue, so check out the arguments and vote in our poll.

Julie Rivera Former Associate technology editor
While taking psych and theater courses in college, Julie learned her mom overpaid a PC technician to...lose her data. Thus, a tech geek was born. An associate editor for CNET Reviews, as well as a laptop testing analyst at CNET Labs, this wayward individual has maniacally dissected hardware and conquered hardware/software related issues for more than a decade. Just don't ask for help on her time off--she'll stare at you quizzically, walk away, and make herself a drink.
Joseph Kaminski Senior Associate Technology Editor / Reviews
During my almost twenty years at CNET, I handled benchmark testing/methodologies for both Mac and PC systems and, sometime after, integrated testing for micro-mobility (e-bikes, electric scooters and EUCs), which is a passion of mine. Transitioning from a BMX background to this field was seamless. Despite testing numerous products, each new one brings the same excitement as my first.
Julie Rivera
Joseph Kaminski
2 min read

It's the last thing you'd think gamers would nearly come to blows about, but a recent debate in the CNET Labs over video game subtitles became surprisingly heated. We've boiled down the basics of the two competing views, and decided to put it up for an unofficial vote.

GameSpot/Dan Ackerman

I personally like to leave subtitles on. Here's why:

  • Force of habit.
  • Voice acting may suck and you'd rather read than listen.
  • Comprehension of the story is easier for some if they are able to read it.
  • Sometimes the music and sound effects get really loud and overpower what might be some pivotal dialogue.
  • Those rare occasions when a game will glitch and not play the character dialogue.
  • Accents can be hard to understand.

  • It's easier for the hearing-impaired, or if you need to keep the volume low.
  • Julie:
    I personally like to leave subtitles off. Here's why:

    • Visual distraction: As I'm progressing through levels my eyes keep darting down the screen to read out of habit of watching foreign films with subtitles; it takes me out of what's physically going on during the action sequences/cut scenes.
    • Strains the eyes: Most subtitles are too small to read on screen unless you own a 50-in TV or larger, which I do not.
    • How much do you really care to hear the distant background dialogue in an action/adventure game? I'm too busy killing stuff.
    • Laziness: I'm already doing so much in the game, why do I want to read?

    What's your take on subtitles during gaming? Vote in our poll and leave your reasons for turning the subtitles on or off in the comments section below.