Monday, July 14, 2014

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Must Read: The Frustratingly Indistinct World of Gaming With Color Blindness

IGN Gaming with Color Blindness Super Puzzle FighterJanine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's a new article on IGN today about the experience of being a color blind gamer, and I'd say it's a must-read if only for the valuable perspective it will offer. In addition to providing some truly illuminating visual aids like the screenshot comparison on the left, the article also touches on the many ways that developers are addressing (or failing to address) accessibility for the considerable number of color blind players out there.

For example:

Some of my favorite gaming personalities are color blind, and watching them play games has certainly opened my eyes to the degree that many games overuse color to quickly communicate vital information to the player. Surprisingly few games offer color blind play modes or alternate color-schemes for that matter (SimCity and FTL are a couple significant recent exceptions) and many rely on plain colors rather than colored patterns or icons that would help color blind players to differentiate between them.

At its worst, a developer's failure to account for color blindness can make their game unplayable to a notable segment of their audience. Without seeing a game through the eyes of a color blind player, it's impossible to comprehend just how difficult and limiting it can be. I suppose it boils down to a lesson as true of life as it is of games: When you haven't experienced something for yourself, it's hard to imagine its effects on those who have. 

Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times, and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.

Comments

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Arcadia Codesmith

If you're not testing your graphics for color-blindness, you're doing it wrong. It's less than 10% of the total market, but that's still millions of potential customers.

And it's so easy to test and fix. A lot of the time, it's just a matter of picking shades of color that have sufficiently different luminosities (especially red and green), even if you can't use different shapes and patterns.

Quick and dirty test: print out screenshots on a black-and-white printer. If you can't tell the pieces apart or read the text, neither can a significant portion of your users. Simulators can give you a more nuanced picture of what your art looks like to people with various degrees of color-blindness.

It's cheap, it's easy, and it can get you more eyeballs. What's not for a game developer to love?

Adeon Writer

Nvidia drivers can hue shift your entire screen, which can be handy if you don't mind messing up skin tones. Good for games like the picture in this post. It can make the colors stand out much better.

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