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How "Colorblind-proof" should games be?

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 07/29/2008

No one wants to discriminate against people with disabilities but, at the same time, every additional design decision that goes into game construction also costs money and time (along with resources and effort).

From my understanding, the color combination of red, yellow & blue are the most "colorblind-resistant" colors that are out there besides the obvious white & black. Again, if someone is afflicted with some degree of color blindness, those colors will still tend to look distinct from one another (although not to the degree of someone who is not colorblind) as opposed to other color combinations.

My question is how far should one go to "colorblind-proof" a game to accommodate those with colorblindness and other sight-impairments? Should the types of pieces be slightly different? Significantly different? Has anyone ever encountered a boardgame design that needed altering because it was significantly difficult for those with colorblindness from playing the game? Thanks.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Accomodation = Exposure

For consumer products in general: the more accommodations you make for discrete demographics, the larger your audience. That goes for likely all facets of design: colours, theme, mechanics, marketing, component fabrication, on and on. It doesn't necessarily make the game any better, but more people may consider it because you've gone to those lengths.

I remember walking through a big-box store many years ago, looking through children's toys, and noticing a specific colour palette on several different types of toys. "Everything looks like it's been soaked in mustard," I remember thinking to myself. But then I realized that a company had specialized in accessibility for infants and toddlers. It was a new concept to me, and I was ignorant of the notion - at least in terms of the world of toys for babies.

I've seen a lot more of these kinds of accommodations for computer games and software, likely because it's so much easier to change digital palettes on the fly, even to the point of using patterns.

Incidentally, I personally concentrate on using patterns for differentiating components between players in my prototypes, using dots, stripes, zig-zags, and the like. This way, print-and-play components with black ink/toner will still provide the needed differentiation.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I think the issue is more for

I think the issue is more for printed components, considering the shades can be more subtle, and the print result might be different than on the screen.

There are tools that allow to visualise colors as a color blind person. Issues with red and greens is very common, I saw a players that could not differentiate one or the other. Another person had problem with lime green and pink.

5% of males are color blind, so it your target audience are males, you should add some consideration in your design.

Personally, I don't have problem with strong colors (Ikea style), it's more problematic with subtle colors, for example, I am going to see greyish-green pants as grey.

As for a board game example, I am the one who pointed out a color blindness issue in the game Eclipse. There was 4 planet colors: Bronze, silver, gold and grey. I pointed out that silver and grey was similar. The reply was that the planets were actually brown, pink, orange and grey. So the pink and the grey looked very similar.

He made a thread on BGG about it and more people confirmed the color blindness. So he ended up putting some rings around grey planets (like saturn). It was elegant.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Try to use this

Try to see how a color would look to several people. I think only yellow, blue, black and white are really useful if you want to have 100% of the people that can see. Of course, you can add red. But it has to be the one at the far end. Which can go wrong.

So find someone with protanope to see if red is different than yellow.

Also, adding white to yellow helps a lot. As long as the tritanope can still see a pink-isch color.

And blue has to be taken in such a way that it is also blue for the tritanope.

So, what do the people see?

Blue: blue, blue, dark blue
Yellow: yellow, yellow, pink
Red: black(?), dark yellow, dark pink (red)

But enough about colors. Use light colors. And add textures where possible.

Joined: 02/22/2019
My two cents

You shouldn't use just colors to show something, always use icons or symbols with colors.
A cheap way, to check, if your game is playable, try printing it grayscale.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
We have a rule in user

We have a rule in user interface design that color should never be a source of information. You should have something else like shape and icons that contains this information.

For example, Magic the gathering, have card colors, but also a mana icon matching the card's color.

In board games, I know that many times, a player uses pawns and pieces of a certain color. First you need to determine how many players or factions do you want to have.

If it's more than 5, you should consider using icons. Britania is such an example where they combine colors and icons. But just icons could work fine. In my early design for fallen kingdoms, I also had 5 colors, and 3 unique icons each. My lime green and yellow card board looked very similar, so I had an hard time distinguishing between both. Since all icons where unique, it was not much of an issue.

For my color blindness, I see all colors, but when colors are similar to each other, it takes more time to differentiate them. It's another type of color blindness.

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