The lights are on
In the realm of accessibility and video games, colorblindness is considered one of the easier visual disabilities to compensate for. Considering the high percentage of males that are affected by some degree of color blindness, it may then seem odd that the condition is overlooked in game design as often as it is. But colorblind individuals are starting to make their voices heard, most recently in a petition to patch Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Color blind gamers, particularly those who struggle with red/green combinations, are often at a disadvantage in multiplayer shooters. Red has widely become accepted as the indicator for enemy units – both through blips on the player’s radar and as the color of the enemy’s gamertag. Conversely, green generally denotes a friendly unit in the same scenarios. In twitch-centric games where you only have a moment to kill or be killed, color is the first indicator between friend and foe.
The petition asks Infinity Ward to patch Modern Warfare 2 and enable color swapping so that these colorblind individuals don’t have to play with the inherent disadvantage. Referencing Call of Duty: World at War, petitioners suggest once again giving them the option to swap between red/green and orange/blue palettes. Infinity Ward community Manager Robert Bowling has acknowledged the issue and has stated that he will bring up the concern for a potential fix. We’ll keep you updated as to whether or not the feature will be integrated into an upcoming patch.
"Colorblindness is extremely common amongst men (estimates range from
1/7 to 1/10 men in the United States) and men have traditionally been
the target audience for this type of game," Michelle Hinn,
chair of the IGDA Game Accessibility Special Interest Group explained to us. "It's
easily the top accessibility issue in gaming and one that with a little
creativity and forethought it could be the first accessibility issue
solved across the board. It seems strange that any gaming company would
not include that in their Quality Assurance (QA) testing practices at
this point in time, particularly a company that makes any kind of FPS
or other twitch-style games. It's extremely frustrating to continue
hearing about this being an issue and I urge Infinity Ward to listen to
From an accessibility standpoint, relying on color as sole visual indicators is always risky. Accessibility conscious developers often instead use symbols or shapes to differentiate between teams or objects, or allow the user to swap colors to ones that suits their particular condition.
Several developers repeatedly cater to colorblind gamers with little fanfare, including PopCap Games, who include colorblind modes in the bulk of their popular titles. A colorblind mode in Peggle makes the colors more vibrant and superimposes symbols on important blocks. Valve also takes the colorblind into consideration, and you can read a very interesting account of a colorblind gamer/game developer’s interactions with Left 4 Dead here.
Do any of you struggle with multiplayer modes due to colorblindness? Would you benefit from the above patch?