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Why games need color blind modes - see SimCity with simulated color blindness

color_blind
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My eyes don't have as many green receptors as normal eyes. The common color deficiency is called deuteranomaly, and it isn't really a handicap as long as I'm not trying to distinguish between subtle variations in green and yellow. When would I ever have to do that? Oh right, games! They're full of color coded data, and if they give me any trouble, then they give people with full color blindness lots of trouble.

There's a way for game developers to help. By implementing filters to Daltonize their color coding—make it readable by people with color blindness—they can make their games more accessible to a significant chunk of the population: about 6-10 percent of men and a small percentage of women. A lot of developers already do this—PopCap comes to mind as one which strives for accessibility—but not all of them. Maxis is another that has implemented color blindness filters, and the other day I stopped by the SimCity developer's office to chat about the decision with Creative Director Ocean Quigley.

Quigley says he decided to implement the feature after chance exercise: he made a color filter to show how SimCity's color blind lead QA tester sees the game, and when he saw how difficult the color coding was to read, he decided to do something about it. After some research, he created three filters to help compensate for color blindness.

To illustrate why these filters are so important, Quigley helped us capture the footage above, which shows how SimCity looks normally, how it looks with simulated color blindness, and what the filters do. Give it a watch!

Tyler Wilde
Tyler Wilde

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley alongside Apple and Microsoft, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early personal computers his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. After work, he practices boxing and adds to his 1,200 hours in Rocket League.