Playing video games is something I have done religiously since I was a small child. My dad picked up the Sega Genesis when I was about 3 years old, fully loaded with Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mortal Kombat. I used to just mash on buttons as my dad would unplug my controller and say how great I was doing! As I grew older, I got a Gameboy for Christmas and fell in love with Nintendo. Games like Zelda, Pokémon and Super Mario catapulted me into the video game world and I never looked back. As video games got more and more advanced, I ate them up like candy. My mom purchased tons of games for me, which at the time required a different skill set than the games of today. When I play games today, I can only hope that developers have a gamer like me in mind.
Third grade was when I had the pleasure of finding out that my eyes were not like everybody else’s. Not only did I have glasses by then, but I was also struggling with matching colors, seeing patterns and my teachers were concerned as I was a pretty bright kid. So I was brought into the nurse and asked to look at a book and identify numbers hidden in balls of random colors. Well, there were a couple of pages where I didn’t see any colors and the rest is history. I am a person who has Shade Blindness, in which I see all colors but, I see a lot of them incorrectly. Red/green blue/purple brown/green. These are the big ones that affect me as a gamer. The cones in my eyes were bent in a way that reflects light different than typical people’s eyes (SCIENCE!). Kind of a bummer for me, I guess. Flash forward to 6th grade and playing games became frustrating because I couldn’t keep track and see what my friends saw hidden in the graphics.
I first started to notice the issues playing games like Call of Duty and Halo when I was forced to try and find people on other teams based on the color of the name above their head. Usually these colors were red and green, my worst enemy. It was frustrating to say the least because I know I wasn’t as bad as my record showed. I just literally couldn’t see them coming. As time progressed, I just dealt with the issues, mostly in that I was not as good as my friends and I would just turn the games off for a while. However, most recently, games like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Overwatch have answered the cry from millions of people over the world and started incorporating various kinds of color blind filters to help people see what they need to see. There are quite a few different types of color blindness that affect gamers daily. The type of color blindness will affect what colors you see correctly and what ones you do not. The big 3 that video game developers are now including in their color blind modes are:
Protanopia – unable to perceive red light, resulting in red brown and greens looking murky, and blues and yellows standing out
Deuteranopia – unable to perceive green light, resulting in red and greens looking murky, and blues and yellows stand out
Tritanopia – unable to perceive blue light, resulting in green’s looking murky, and reds appear pink
Now these filters are helpful for some, but not for all. I still struggle with which filter to use because these filters basically paint a film over the game, often giving the colors a weird tint and people who are not color blind are very confused by the look. I usually use a Deuteranopia filter when I play because the blues and yellows of the screen stand out more for me and the red, brown and green colors blend into the background. Also, when playing multiplayer, this makes the icons above enemies heads blue or purple instead of the regular red that most people see. This can be helpful but I know in my case, I want more from the developers to help me see what I usually can’t. Icons and outlines are very helpful in games like Destiny and Battleborn, where icons or a lack of icons help decipher which team you are shooting at. It is little things that make the gaming experience just that much better.
I know this isn’t a terrible world issue and that it shouldn’t be that big of a deal but with almost 10 million people in the US alone who are color blind, this issue has seen some national attention. Most recently, the NFL has had to change colors or uniforms in their new “color rush” campaign due to a Thursday night game between the Bills and the Jets. The Bills uniforms were completely red and the Jets were completely green. Needless to say, millions of people complained and even people who were not color blind were frustrated by the color scheme. This year, they are more conscious about their matching of color and have made it so the away team is all white. It might seem tedious but it’s nice to get some support on this issue. In countries like Romania, people who are color blind cannot get a driver’s license and even in the US, people who suffer from any color deficiencies cannot be enlisted in the Army, Navy or Air Force. It can really negatively affect a person’s life.
All in all, I think the future of the gaming industry is trying to make games more accessible, not only for people with color blindness but other disabilities as well. Communities such as Able Gamers are going out of their way to raise money to help people with severe disabilities game in comfort or even at all. Software on consoles are helping as well, adding zoom features, bold text, closed captions, button mobility and more. Video games are a multi-billion dollar operation around the world, so tapping into and making games accessible for all is not only helpful for people who need it but it is also a good move to sell more games. With virtual reality coming down the pike, we will look forward to all of the different options being immersed into a different world will hold and how game developers will open new worlds to people who have never experienced them before. For people like me who have loved games all their lives, I cannot wait to see what is on the horizon for accessibility options!