It has been way too long since I have written for Vagary. Thankfully — since I screwed up my day job schedule today — I am left with several hours of downtime. As much as I want to get back to Mortal Kombat (review to come soon), I am going to be a good girl and write an article since I have this awesome topic. Today I ponder the trials and tribulations of color blind gamers.
Honestly, before speaking to a customer at my day job, and doing a little google research, I have never given a thought to color blindness and how it would affect a gaming experience. I do know there are issues that can make gaming more difficult for some people. Take myself, for example, I have an extremely difficult time with most FPS’s because of the camera angles and the shakiness of the camera. I can play for about 45 minutes before I am crippled with a migraine. In general I just avoid these types of game because the cost isn’t worth the short enjoyment I gain from them. I have seen doctors for this condition; basically there is no cure – apart fom medicating myself beyond the point of being able to game. NO THANKS!
Color blindness can make certain aspects of some games extremely more difficult. Most noteably, in games where friendlies and enemies are distinguished with the colors red and green. The most common type of color blindness (Deuteranopia) makes it near impossible to tell the difference between red and green. They basically both turn into an orangish color. Puzzle games often become more difficult as well when colors are used as the only identifying quality. Another type of color blindness are Protanope. In this form the brightness of red, orange, and yellow is reduced. Tritanopia, which is rare, blue is confused with green and yellow with violet.
Imagine spending 60+ dollars on a game only to find out that it is completely useless to you. Now, to us game collectors who will buy anything, anytime — even if we know it will remain shrinkwrapped forever — this may not seem that bad. Put yourself in the position of a teenager who saves his allowance and holiday money for nothing but that one game that he and all his friends are getting the day it comes out. The first thing you discover is that your friends won’t play with you because everytime they turn around you are shooting them and giving away your position to the true enemy. Imagine the disappointment and embarrassment. It is this exact situation why there are groups out there fighting for a label to be placed on all games that have color dependent features. Personally, I would hate for another label to be placed on the game cover. It takes up room and takes away from box art. I think there are so many easier or at least alternate solutions.
Treyarch, a part of game giant Activision, is behind the latest installment of the Call of Duty series (Black Ops). Black Ops is now the best selling game of all time. As with most FPS’s, Black Ops uses red and green to distiguish friend and foe. They have included a game option that allows you to change the distinguishing colors to orange and sky blue (colors that are not affected by being color blind). They also employ other tactics to aid the distinction – subtle things like uniforms and shapes give the color challenged indivduals a fighting chance. Treyarch has commented that the reason they are so intune with these needs is because of one major factor… their lead tester is color blind. They have said that basically if he can get through the game without being miserable they know they have made some headway.
It is estimated that color blindness affects one out of every 20 men and one out of every 200 women. Despite the very large number of people suffering from this, very few producers and developers give a second thought to color blindness. How easy would it be to render the reds and greens in games into more color blind friendly colors? Maybe I’m being naive and it’s not that simple, however; I do believe that there are simple enough options that can be implemented via in-screen options to make it possible to overcome this issue. Hopefully in the future more developers take lead from Treyarch and employee color blind testers and make a bigger effort to design with everyone in mind.
Do any of you guys have experience with this issue? I am curious to know if other gamers are as ignorant on this issue as I was. Until next time,my fellow media addicts, remember: Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to indulging!