I have an anomalous trichromacy color vision deficiency (I’m green-red color blind). That doesn’t mean I can’t ever see the difference between green and red, but it does mean that I have trouble telling the difference between certain pairs of colors when they’re of similar tone and saturation. Examples of such pairs would be:

  • Yellow/Green
  • Green/Red
  • Blue/Purple
  • Green/Brown
  • Red/Brown
  • Orange/Yellow

 

When they’re of different enough tone and saturation, I can tell them apart. For example, I’d never confuse dark orange and light yellow. (Many thanks to kfredericks who’s color examples I stole.)

In every day life, this “disorder” doesn’t really effect me much. I’m terrible at matching clothes, but that can be mostly avoided by wearing blue-jeans and khakis, and letting my wife pick out my daughter’s outfits at the store and at home. I do have trouble with traffic lights regularly, but green is usually on the bottom or the left (or is it right….I guess it can be a problem sometimes).

But when it comes to playing casual video games, a color vision deficiency can be a real pain. I say “casual” because this isn’t much of a problem in action based games like Half-Life or Bioshock. There are puzzles in these types of games, but they don’t usually involve colors. Every now and then an adventure game (think Myst) will throw color puzzles at me, but I always play those with my wife, so she bails us out nicely.

No, it’s casual games that always get me with colors. One of my favorites is Zuma (I even have it on my mobile phone), and it unfortunately starts with yellow and green in it’s color mix, and a few levels later adds a purple that looks just like blue to me. They could have made these colors have different tones and saturations and I would have been ok, or even gone a step further with different patterns (the balls do have different faces, but they can be hard to see since they’re rolling, and special power-up balls lose their pattern and have to be matched by color alone) for people with even worse color deficiencies, but they didn’t. I still play the game, but I often goof up the colors, especially on my little phone screen, and have to “die” in frustration,

I had kind of given up on every expecting games like these to have support for color blind people. But then I had a chance to play Peggle (came free as part of Half Life 2: Episode Two), made by PopCap Games (the same company that made Zuma), and it has a Colorblind Mode that adds a triangle to the green pegs and a plus to the purple pegs to make them easier to distinguish.

Come on PopCap, keep it up! Don’t stop at adding colorblind support to new games (although way to go for setting a new standard for other companies to follow). Go back and fix some of your older, but just as popular games like Zuma.

Roughly 5% of the male population is colorblind, so the problem isn’t a microscopic one. Throw in some patterns and help us out!

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