Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Plight of a Colorblind Gamer

(This was an article that I had originally had published on Nitpixels on June 28th, 2011)

A recent College Humor roundtable discussed the topic of enabling disable gamers. In the video, they featured a quadriplegic gamer who plays Call of Duty multiplayer (rather successfully) with just his face. This gamer, Chuck Bittner, is petitioning game developers for one simple thing: custom button remapping. If the button layout for a game is a certain way, he can't play it. So he wants the ability to change the layouts to something that works for him.

I can't play Aquaria because I can't tell the differentiate the colors for the different songs well enough. I didn't buy Super Puzzle Figher II Turbo HD Remix because I couldn't tell the difference between some of the blocks. I have massive trouble with Zuma because my eyes have trouble telling the difference between the blue and purple balls and the green and yellow balls. When I play Risk: Factions I can't tell the difference between the green and yellow territories and have to ask my fiancée which ones are which color.

That's four statements that I shouldn't really have to make, but I have to because I'm red-green color blind. Normally, my colorblindness doesn't affect my gaming. For example, I have never had problems in World of Warcraft because of it, apart from the fact that I didn't know that the experience bar is a different color depending on if you're rested or not. However, when it does affect my game playing, it usually does so in a very significant way.

I firmly believe that making the design choices or putting in the options to accommodate color blind gamers wouldn't be hard. Several games already have colorblind modes where they will place patterns over the colored objects to help the player tell the difference.  But not all color-dependent games have features like this. My appeal to game developers everywhere is to allow us to edit the colors, to have or allow us to turn on easily distinguishable patterns, or be more considerate and thoughtful with color choices. It would really make a difference for those of us who have this problem

For Chuck, he is arguing that we should be fighting the game and not it's controls. For me, I argue that I should be fighting the game and not struggling with my eyes' ability to see color. These changes aren't going to give the disabled a competitive edge. Even if they did, then everybody could elect to use them. It's two small things that would really improve the quality of gaming for many people.