Being a color blind gamer is certainly a challenge. What comes easily and without thought to some is one of the most frustrating aspects to a small group of players. While there are different forms of the condition, each with its own severity, for at least this author, it’s been a lifelong issue to overcome. Take something as simple as crosshairs turning red. Some people have no clue what that is like. Heck, even being able to tell your team apart from the enemy can be nearly impossible. But just because something is a challenge doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome and turned into a positive.
Let’s quickly back up and talk about what being color blind is like, at least for the author of this article. You don’t see in black and white, although that does seem to be a common misconception. It’s not being able to tell the difference between blue and purple, red and brown, green and yellow and even orange and green. It’s never bothering to try and figure out what color something is, because quite frankly it’s a waste of time. The concept is foreign to most, but after almost 30 years of living with it, it’s not that big of a deal… for the most part.
Multiplayer Challenges + Benefits
The biggest problem with being color blind and playing a first-person shooter is the idea of letting your team down. Most people who have a hard time differentiating between certain colors are used to it, and develope ways to overcome this on a personal level. The problem is that communicating locations or receiving those communications from your team can be maddening. When being told “He’s in the house with the blue trim,” you might as well ask us to find them with a blindfold on. It can also be very difficult to tell your squad or team apart from the enemy, which makes having friendly fire turned off a welcome feature.
Just like anything, though, when you lose the ability to use one of your senses properly, you find ways to adjust and make up for that with others. Perhaps we can’t tell you what color the trim on that house is, but chances are we can tell you the shape, as well as identify it by nearby landmarks. It causes you to pay attention to details that might not be important to someone who can identify color, and in that way at least, gives you an advantage, a heightened situational awareness, if you will. Well, at least we like to think it does.
Game Developers + Awareness
It’s not all doom and gloom for the color blind. In fact, most developers these days pack specific settings into their games that aim to eliminate the problem of telling your team and the enemy apart. A great example of this is Battlefield 4, where DICE included several different options that should counteract just about any type of color blindness someone may have. If you look at the image attached to the Multiplayer Challenges + Benefits section, you can see our specific settings for that game. They look so nifty that we are often asked by people who aren’t color blind what the setting is.
And while most gamers won’t have the honor of experiencing something like this, we also have a personal story that only happened because of being color blind, which took place at the Medal of Honor: Warfighter play test at Electronic Arts in Los Angeles back in September of 2012. At that event, we not only got to test the shooter, but when the developers heard that two of us were color blind, we were taken up to the studio and asked for input on how the game looked to those who might have a hard time telling certain colors apart. Not to exaggerate, but being involved in the development of a video game, even on the tiniest of levels, is something that makes being color blind worth it. No question.
Roles + Responsibilities
While talking about being color blind is interesting (hopefully it’s also interesting to read about), those who have lived with it long enough tend to forget that it’s even a factor. Sure, there are small reminders every now and then, but there are also some pretty big benefits (like not having to know what color your girlfriend’s eyes are, or if that shirt goes with those pants).
From a developer standpoint, every studio should be aware this is a problem for some people, and at least make sure they do as much as DICE to minimize the effects. Understand what variations and severities of being color blind exist, then try to make sure your game will provide options to everyone. Oh, and if you’re a developer, we’d be more than happy to discuss the issue.
As a teammate, the only thing that you can do is learn to communicate using left and right, east and west, as well as detailed descriptions. Things like, “The dude in the purple backpack” are nothing more than a waste of breath to someone who is color blind, although at the same time, at least from this writer’s standpoint, we don’t expect you to make adjustments on our account, but we won’t be upset if you do.