Color-Blindness Accessibility Guide

This guide was written by Douglas Pennant, Creative Assembly.

People with color-blindness have difficulty distinguishing some colors from each other; purple might look like blue, brown might look like green, and red might look like black. These are just a few examples.

Gamers with color-blindness experience a variety of problems in video games. Information presented through color can be unreadable or completely invisible, friendly players can look like enemies, and game elements can become camouflaged against each other. This can lead to frustrating gameplay experiences, and some games can be rendered entirely unplayable.

There are several practices that you can employ to ensure your game is easily playable by color-blind players, without having to become an expert on the condition.

  • Understand where you are using color as information in your game. This could be character colours, UI, puzzle elements, lights, items or even text.
  • Use color-blind preview tools/simulators to better understand how color-blind players will experience your game
  • Don’t just use color for presenting information. Consider using sound, shapes and animations to support the information.
  • If you cannot avoid using text colors for information, ensure there is another visual element present to inform the player, such as an icon, image or border. Don’t be tempted to make the text itself more visually complex, as this can make it harder to read for players with dyslexia, or reduced vision.
  • If you cannot avoid using color to distinguish information, then consider developing a color-blind mode for your players to use. The best color-blind modes allow the player to choose the colors of the most important element. For example if your game is a team-based game, let the player set the colors for “my team” and “opposing team”.
  • Giving the player control over colors doesn’t just mean they can distinguish elements from each other, but they can make them distinguishable from everything else in the game. If you have a red team and a blue team in a brown environment the teams will be distinct from each other, but the red team will likely be hard for color-blind players to see against the environment.
  • If you have a large artistic team, create color presets that they can assign textures to (e.g. “color=enemy”). This will allow you to manage the color information of your product as a whole and work it into your color-blind modes.
  • In multiplayer games, character customisation often allows color-blind players to create a character silhouette that they can recognise. For example; I don’t need to know that my character is green, I just need to know that it’s the one wearing the top hat.
  • Make your color options easy to find in the menus. Either have a specific accessibility menu or include them in the top-level graphics options. Make it as easy as possible for players to find the options that can make the experience playable.
  • And finally, talk about your features with color-blind players to see if they’re usable.  Remember that some color features may be completely invisible to them, so be sure to explain the gameplay intentions of your features, systems and art.