The most recent episode of Watchpoint: Recap showed how the Overwatch League caters to deaf fans in the live audience.
Overwatch is a six-versus-six game which is built heavily around compositions, teamplay, and the interaction between multiple heroes at once, so no single perspective can really capture everything that’s going on in the game at any one time – or even necessarily convey all of the most important aspects.
As a result, the commentators – who also have access to multiple viewpoints as well as what’s being shown on the stream – are perhaps even more important for breaking down exactly what’s going on and highlighting elements that might not be visible or immediately obvious.
As such, it’s not at all hard to imagine that being unable to hear the commentary makes understanding what’s happening in-game all the more difficult. While Blizzard has yet to come up with a solution for deaf viewers of the online streams, they have accounted for fans in the live audience.
In the Blizzard Arena in which the Overwatch League is held, a sign-language interpreter relays the commentary for deaf fans in the audience, allowing them to experience the entire broadcast rather than just seeing the perspective of the camera.
One of the core elements of an Overwatch broadcast is of course the heroes being referenced, but naturally there are no universal signs for the names of these heroes. In fact, sign language doesn’t have universal signs for personal names at all, with names instead needing to be spelled out.
To avoid constantly spelling out names – which would in this instance be particularly impractical given the speed at which the commentary often flows – signers often create individual sign names, particularly among friends. This is the solution used for Overwatch heroes by signers at the arena, with each hero having a unique sign name.
In the most recent episode of Watchpoint: Recap, deaf Overwatch League fan Danik Soudakoff talked about his experience at the arena and showed off some of the signs he and the interpreter use for the cast of Overwatch heroes.