Are you at a disadvantage if your colour perception of the environment in a game differs from the colour spectrum of other gamers? Being a colour blind gamer is certainly a lifelong struggle. You lose your ability to utilise one of your senses properly and this has also a negative effect on your gameplay experience.
As a colour blind individual you do not see the world in black and white, although this seems to be a common misconception in our society. You simply can not tell the difference between specific colours and shades. I, as an example, am unable to distinguish the difference between green, brown, yellow and even orange. This disability changes my perception of visual works.
Problems and struggles
Recently, I played Assassin’s Creed – Odyssey and found myself running around in one of the many forests in the massive open world. In this green and brown coloured environment, I was unable to hunt down a deer, or any other animal. Due to my colour blindness, I can not distinguish the colours and shapes of the animal from the background.
The use of different colours to indicate specific elements in the game world is not helpful for all types of players. This is the reason why I stop playing a title, or even a genre of games.
Role-playing games are notorious for using colour codes to express the rarity of items. I lost count of the times I thought I found an epic weapon or other loot, just to find out it is a common or basic item the game throws at you every few monsters you slay.
Competitive online games
In Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege the visual differences between the two teams are hard to distinguish. On multiple late night gaming sessions, I got kicked out of the server for accidental friendly fire. Even after explaining the situation in a short chat conversation.
The colour of the crosshair is also a source of irritation. In Battlefield you are allowed to change this colour so gamers can better see the marks on their screen, but some games do not offer this options. Depending on the background, I can not even see the crosshair in specific situation. This makes aiming harder than it should be.
A colour blind gamer is certainly at a disadvantage in any competitive multiplayer game. To me, the biggest problem with being colour blind is the idea of letting your team down each time you make a mistake. Of course, there are also good experiences.
Visual elements and improved level design
In Mirror’s Edge the use of colours plays a massive role in the level design. Surprisingly, this game did not cause any problems for me. Although the colours used in this game are not always distinguisable for colour blind gamers, the developers found alternatives to help all players navigate the world at speed. In addition to colours, the level designers introduced other visual elements to indicate routes.
A wooden plank at the edge of the roof is a clear indication that players will be able to jump to another roof, floor or platform. These subtle additions help create a game that is easily accessible for all gamers. Eventhough it might seem useless to some, it can help make another person make a distinction.
Perhaps I am not able to tell you what color an object in a world has, but chances are I can tell you the shape, as well as identify it by nearby landmarks.
When you lose the ability to use one of your senses properly, you find ways to adjust and overcome. I pay attention to details that might not be important to someone who can identify colours. In some cases, this situational awareness gives me an advantage over other players.
Awareness and development process
Despite the large numbers of gamers affected, awareness among game developers is relatively low. Only a handful of publishers make noticeable efforts to adjust their games to people with this condition. The simplest solution is to increase awareness of the issue and to make sure that colour blind gamers are considered in the design and development process, or at least in a later test stage.
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Disclaimer. This post contains copyrighted images from Assassin’s Creed – Odyssey, a video game developed by Ubisoft Quebec and published by Ubisoft. The fair use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting or research is not considered as an infringement of copyright.