Spooky Lesson About Colorblindness and Game Production

Couple of months ago I encountered one of the strangest lessons in game production so far. I learned that red and green are not good choices for colors. Basically, we had been using red, green and black colors to represent players in our (non-public) game play demo.

When I was showing the game to our new composer, I wondered why he couldn’t test the game properly. His assassin was always getting caught by my guards. I tried to explain to him that he must stay away from the green guards. At that point he gave a really good reply:

“I cannot see green or red well, I’m colorblind”.

I was stunned – and asked if he was kidding. No he wasn’t. At that point I simply said: “Then there’s nothing more to show about the game play”, closed the demo and used messenger to explain how the game works. Eventually we managed to find common understanding. I assure you, it was an interesting lesson – and has never occurred to me before.

I really think this should be planned in production: there’s lots of colorblind people out there, and if your game design relies on colors (like we had in the alpha version), you should make sure they aren’t red or green or it will be tough time for (some) colorblind people. Our composer then continued by giving then some statistics: 5%-8% of men and 0.5% of women are colorblind. Women carry the gene, but it doesn’t affect their vision. (At least this is what he said – but I suppose he knows what he is talking about)

Spooky things you can learn while producing games.

14 thoughts on “Spooky Lesson About Colorblindness and Game Production

  1. [...] but I’ve had players complain that the “blue-on-blue” scheme is hard to see. GameProducer.net also documented a problem that a color blind player had during a [...]

  2. work and play

    Got to the bottom of your blog and saw the bit about color blindness. I can distinguish between red and green very easily and I never understood how they are not seen, but I do believe it. I have a problem with telling the difference between purple and brown, also have trouble with orange and pink.

    I’d like to tell you I really like your blog! I have always dreamed of creating games every since playing games like deja vu and maniac mansion (yeah some time ago), but I lack skills, have no programming knowledge and I guess I’m too old to be taking up a course in learning such things just so I could some day hope to create a fun game.

    Keep up the good work. You’re bookmarked in my browser now.

  3. Harry, hah – thanks for the story! :)

  4. Yes the red/green dismatch is only part of the problem. Some people misinterpret only certain greens and reds, while others can’t tell green blue or some other color in between. I had a friend while in college that was colorblind.. I must say he created the most groovy GUIs I had ever seen!! :) Pink backgrounds with purple fonts and stuff like that!

    Yet the best QuakeWorld deathmatch player I faced!

  5. moiremusic, good point – thanks. Edited the post now. (and generalization was due my lack of knowledge – was no meaning to generalize)

  6. “if your game design relies on colors you should make sure they aren’t red or green or it will be tough time for colorblind people.”

    You should generalize color people no more than you generalize your audience. Not all colorblind people have difficulty distinguishing red and green. There are many different kinds of colorblindness. As always:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_blindness

  7. Nice stories (an tips) Ben and Vedran, thanks.

  8. This is so true, about having people hard to recognoze colors properly. We had similar experience while testing Fire Flower among various people. Ok, for those who’re not familiar, it is pattern matching puzzle game with colorful flowers. We had dark and light flowers on the screen, where light flowers were used to mark already used spots on the board. We noticed that people are not seeing difference between free spots and used spots, regardless the very good contrast and great variation in colors. What we did to resolve that was to use variation in shape ! That helped a lot. We made used spots to have animated flowers which were scaling and rotating constantly. We were surprised with this discovery a lot. But obviously, human brain can better recognize variation in shape than in color, at least for males, since males are only affected by colorblindness.

  9. As a game developer who is colour blind (albeit only minimally) I always make sure to have differences in shape/ texture between items to make things easier to distinguish. Whilst colour blindness doesn’t really make you see i black and white it often helps to take a screenshot of your game and then turn it to greyscale and then look at the contrast between different pieces. If they look the same/ similar then you could be in trouble (this is a good tip for web design as well).

  10. [...] » Spooky Lesson About Colorblindness and Game Production – Game Producer Resource “I cannot see green or red well, I’m colorblind”. (tags: http://www.gameproducer.net 2007 color_blind daltônico games blog_post) [...]

  11. I’ve seen some match-3s that rely on colour only instead of unique shape. Or they have a tiny hard to see emblem in the coloured shapes and claim that’s enough to make them different. If you are colourblind then that wouldn’t be enough.

  12. UlfJack: very good addition – I thought that in my mind, but somehow it didn’t translate in to the blog post.

    Cone, could certainly be.

  13. I imagine working with a colorblind artist is a unique experience as well.

  14. I always make sure that color isn’t the _only_ queue. Color is a good queue, and red and green are excellent colors for friend/foo. But there should be something else as well, such as a little icon or text that tells those who can’t distinguish color.