Colour Blindness

26th January 2006

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

I learnt today that a person I occasionally work with is colour blind. As strange as it may seem I have never met or known anyone colour blind before. He has trouble distinguishing between greens and yellows. Not bright yellow or dark green but the lighter shades.

I also learnt that there are different types of colour blindness. I found the whole thing fascinating because it touches upon one of my favourite gaming topics, that of visual perception. Put simply he perceives the world differently to me. Sure, the difference is minor and it is unlikely to change his general outlook on life but it is still a difference.

One benefit of game engines is the ability to help people experience things that either would be impossible or at least very difficult. Recently this has been used in therapy for different conditions.

Two good examples are:

  • Fear of spiders
  • Fear of heights

During therapy the participants are slowly exposed to their fears and hopefully help them overcome their fear. Now of course it doesn’t need a game engine in particular to do this but we all know that learning is easier when it’s fun!

Now imagine a game engine (probably not Doom 3 because it’s just so damn dark!) that simulates the type of colour blindness described above. Whilst this won’t cure anybody it may help people to understand what it is like to be colour blind and understanding somebody else’s view is always a good thing.

I wonder how many other unplanned uses a game engine has been put to? One that springs to mind is the surgical use of Source (link). Do you have any suggestions?

Part of a Story?

I continued thinking about this and thought that it may be interesting to try and introduce this into a game or mod. Adding details to characters is essential if you want the player to feel part of the story. Most details don’t affect the gameplay but this one could. Here’s a possible scenario:

The player is somehow informed of the playing character’s colour blindness in a subtle way. The tension builds until one crucial point where the player has to make a choice between at least two options. Of course the most obvious way to help chose is the colour but to the player they all look more or less exactly the same. There would have been little clues along the way otherwise the player simply has to guess and that’s not fair. The point is that the player has to pay attention to details. Part of the story could include some kind of dialog discussing the situation, perhaps after the choice has been made. I envisage the game characters saying: “Why didn’t you tell us you were colour blind?” And the player shouting at the screen “Because I didn’t know!”

On second thoughts I think the player should become colour blind during the game. This way the player will have a chance to adapt and pay more attention to the clues given. This idea might fit nicely into Blaze Bolden because I have been looking for some visual effects for the Phase Shift which is/will be discussed separately. Briefly the mod will start in full colour, change to black and white and slowly move back into overexposed colours or perhaps only a few colours and finally return to normal colours. The colour changes would be exploited in the level design.


1 Comment

  1. shungokusatsu

    This post is very interesting; I remember at school when I was younger, it was in an art lesson, and my friend Andrew was drawing a landscape. Now I didn’t know he was colourblind, but then he began painting the horse green and the grass brown, but as I didn’t know he was colourblind, it felt a little awkward when I told him his mistake! So how about a game where everything seems normal, until you stroll through a field and see… a green horse!

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