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A Rose By Any Other Color...

Hi, I’m Vince. Here’s a few things you might need to know, or maybe you just forgot… (Oh and yeah, NERD ALERT! You’ve been warned.)

Awesome opening intros aside, the purpose of this piece is to bring something to the attention of gamers and developers alike. One simple message I’d like the entire video game industry as a whole to hear. That message? I exist. I know it’s hard for you to hear and apparently impossible to accept, but I promise you, I exist. And I’m not alone.

If this road had some street lights, we wouldn’t need these torches
(Photo Courtesy: FOX)

Let me explain. This isn’t a rant about not being appreciated or being “taken seriously,” my problem is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed; a problem that, if I’m lucky, may even be dealt with. You see, I’m left handed and, even worse than that, colorblind. Not monochromic (black-and-white color blind), mind you, although sometimes I think that would make things easier. I’m affected by what is called deuteranopia, the much more common red-green colorblindness. Now before you write me off as part of a minority that isn’t worth catering to, you should know that as many as 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some form of colorblindness.

Why does this matter? Well, any gamer worth their salt should be able to answer that, but since most developers themselves don’t seem to notice/care there’s a problem, bear with me while I answer that question with a few of my own. Have you ever seen a character’s health bar in, umm, any game ever? Do you have fun with hacking/side-puzzle mini-games? Have you ever played a cel-shaded game with an unimaginative color palette? Are you a fan of puzzle games? How about dungeon-crawlers? Do you enjoy picking up color-tiered loot off the floor? I think you get the point. This industry is dominated by three main colors: Red, blue, and green. I’ll give you just one guess (because you smarties won’t need a second) as to which EXACT three colors folks like me have a hard time distinguishing between… Did you guess red, blue, and green? Booyaka… erm, Cowabunga dudes and dudettes, you rock!

They’re making me say WHAT!?
(Photo Courtesy: Nickelodeon)

For those curious, allow me to provide a few specific examples that offer a brief glimpse inside the mind of someone who’s colorblind so that you can better understand my frustration. (Because let’s be honest, you’ve all forced someone else to play the “what color is this?” game at some point. Jerks.) A prime example is BioShock. I love BioShock. I love everything about it. When it came time for the sequel, I was just as excited as the rest of the world. And while some felt let down because the second game failed to match the storytelling of the original, I have a different problem with BioShock 2: I can’t partake in the hacking mini-game. For some reason, the developers (2K, not Irrational) not only decided to replace the previous puzzle system, they went ahead and focused the new hacking game on an entirely red/green/blue color system. A pretty big deal considering I prefer to play games on the hardest difficulty setting and hacking is a key strategic component of battle.

It’s like playing Reverse Russian Roulette. You know, with five in the chamber
(Photo Courtesy: 2K Games)

Another game that plays havoc with my eyes is Borderlands. I’ll start by saying Borderlands 2 did appear to take an active interest in addressing this issue by diversifying the terrain, but that’s more likely due to the fact that many reviewers harped on the first game’s muted color palette. As far as the original Borderlands is concerned, the best parallel I can draw is that the majority of the game is like staring at a stereogram. You know, like those Magic Eye illusions? It’s basically that.

Until an enemy gets this close, the only thing I see is “bland brownish texture”
(Photo Courtesy: 2K Games/Gearbox Software)

While it’s true that many games, at worst, force an inconvenience on me, there are some that prove positively unplayable. These games primarily belong to the Kart-racing and Puzzle genres. I won’t go into details because there are so many, but I will say this: All puzzle games should have a colorblind mode. Not many, not most, all of them. If you are designing a puzzle game, do so with colorblind folks in mind. As for kart-racers, I can understand and appreciate how colorful and whimsical they are. Specifically, I’m a huge fan of both the Mario Kart and Sonic All Stars series. But there’s at least one stage in every game that is downright joyless. (The Coconut Mall and Samba De Amigo stages come to mind.)

So, how can we fix this? A good start would be to change our color combinations. Instead of what we have now, it would make things much easier if we switched to a yellow-blue color system to represent things like health, points of interest, and gameplay dynamics. For those who don’t like yellow, even switching to a red-blue combination would be much easier in most cases. I know, I know, change is scary and it could spell doom for all of gaming. First it’s color changes, then there’s no such thing as RPG’s anymore because they’re too time consuming… But don’t panic, I promise it won’t be so bad. I’m not asking every game from now on to be a black-and-white Film Noir. What I am saying is we need to drop this notion that “green means good, red means bad.” I hear ya folks, “that’s just the way we’ve always done things,” and I get it. But tradition for the sake of tradition is both stupid and literally unreasonable, and when it becomes a problem, it’s time to make a change. Statistically, given that colorblindness is hereditary, it’s only going to affect more people as time goes on; and also given the fact that more people are become gamers, if even only casually at first, this will soon become a (more) serious issue.

Concept art for every game from now on… I’m kidding please don’t hit m-
(Photo Courtesy: DeviantART user Makkon)

At long last, we’ve reached the end of this little tale of mine. If you stayed with me, hats off to you, I hope you found yourself both entertained and informed. If not, at least you killed a few minutes before the next Death Battle gets released… (Apologies, I had to.) As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m also left handed; but whereas being colorblind is exclusively a disadvantage, (aside from being a military sniper/spotter) my left-handedness offers me a unique gaming perspective that’s actually changed who I am as a gamer, but I’ll save that for another blog. Tune in next time true believers- same Bat-time, same Bat-channel! Excelsior… or something.
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About MarvelFan89one of us since 11:20 AM on 01.02.2013

I guess I'm the typical, modern day nerd. I was raised right on Batman: TAS and old-school TMNT. I've been a core gamer since I was 2 years old (I was beating Mario before I could finish sentences) and haven't thought twice about it since. My favorite game genre is RPG for sure. I love the advent of channels like Nerdist and Geek and Sundry, and will never turn down an invitation to a Con. (Though I don't cosplay... yet.) I hate not owning the latest and greatest gadgets and aspire to find my place in the world of game journalism.

Favorite Games: The Mass Effect trilogy, Super Mario World, the BioShock series, the Ratchet and Clank series, anything featuring Nolan North.

Favorite shows: FireFly (Browncoats, unite!), Bones, Castle, Spectacular Spider-Man (RIP), Transformers Prime. Anything featuring the voice talents of Steve Blum, Gina Torres, Ashley Johnson, or Yuri Lowenthal.

Favorite Comics: Amazing Spider-Man (Thanks for the memories), most things featuring Batman, any one where Green Arrow makes an appearance.