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Portrait GamingFocus week1238

«The colourblind mode in most games is crap»

Colour vision deficiency is much more common with men that it is with women. Some probably don’t even know they’re affected. I talked to Nicolas Franken to find out what this phenomenon is all about, what it's like to live with it and in which ways it makes technical applications and gaming more challenging.

25-year-old Nicolas Franken is a student of Multimedia Production at University of Applied Sciences in Chur and is currently writing his Bachelor thesis. He’s chosen to write about the topic «Colour blindness online».

We meet in our company bar «Pause». It’s decorated with lots of plants and has a jungle vibe about it that makes me feel relaxed and forget about the hustle and bustle of life. The perfect place to talk about the phenomenon of colour blindness.

Tell me, what’s the colour of this table we’re sitting at?
Nicolas Franken: To me, it looks white. At least in those parts that are in the sunlight.

And those that are in the shade?
There, it looks grey. Having said that, the way you’re looking at me tells me it’s probably a shade of green. Maybe mint green?

That’s it, the table is mint green. What about everyday life – how to you tell what colour an item has?
While the eye itself – or rather the colour cones on the retina – transmit a signal that is interpreted by the brain, the actual colour only develops in our minds. The information from the sensory cells is combined with information that's based on our experience. In my case, especially secondary colours cause problems. Yet, my short-sightedness is more of a problem in everyday life than my colour vision deficiency. By the way, many people don’t know they have a colour vision deficiency. It's often only discovered once people start training as an electrician or pilot.

So Nicolas, when did you realise that colours look different to you than to others?
Until the end of November 2018, I assumed I had a weak red-green visual impairment. My teacher in sixth grade discovered it, as he was explaining the concept of cases in the German language. He used a different colour on the white board for each case. I confused the red with the green one.

So you didn't know the full extent of your colour vision deficiency until recently?
In December 2018, I was doing research for by Bachelor thesis and realised I probably have quite a severe deuteranomaly. I found out because I talked to various opticians and took the Ishihara test several times. However, this test doesn’t give scientific results on someone’s colour vision deficiency. An optician’s view can be confirmed with the help of an anomaloscope. I’m hoping to get an appointment to have my eyes tested with this instrument at the end of January.

Ishihara coloured plates used for colour perception testing

*A few weeks after this interview, the HRR (Hardy Rand and Rittler) Standard Pseudoisochromatic revealed that Nicolas has slight to moderate red blindness or protanopia, not deutanopia.

Are there official statistics on the percentage of the population with a colour vision deficiency?
About eight to nine percent of men and less than one percent of women are affected by red-green vision impairment. The reason why it's more common with men is that it's a hereditary and the genetic defect is on the X chromosome. As women have two X chromosomes, a defect on one chromosome is usually compensated by the other one.

What's the effect of this genetic defect on the eye?
We have sensory cells or cones on the retina which enable us to distinguish colours. There are three of these cones; red-sensitive L cones, green-sensitive M cones and blue-sensitive S cones. People with colour vision deficiency have fewer cones than people with unimpaired vision.

There are rods that are sensitive to brightness and cones that are sensitive to colour on the retina.

You did an apprenticeship in mediamatics. Did your colour vision deficiency cause any problems?
I work with the colours that I like and that look good to me. This has always resulted in harmonious work. So I’ve never had any problems. However, during my training, I decided not to go into web design. With my handicap, what’s the point?

What are the challenges when it comes to technology? What do you have to pay attention to when working on a layout for new media?
There is hardly any difference between the Internet and TV: Whenever you're working with colours, it's about making sure the contrast is right. Adobe and other providers of software for graphic designers provide colour palettes which are optimised for those with colour vision deficiencies. Let's say you're illustrating a statistic. In this case, it's important to work not only with colours but also with shapes. For example, if you're creating a graphical representation with years and values as bars, these should not only consist of thin lines and different colours, but also include other distinguishing features – varying thickness of lines, hatched areas or similar. In short: If you follow the current design guidelines for barrier-free web design, everything will be fine.

By the way, there are tools that simulate a colour vision deficiency. One of them is available on toptal.com. What surprises me on this page is that when I select the deutanopia filter, there's hardly any difference between the original and the simulated website to me. Therefore, I assume this filter comes pretty close to how I see the world.

Comparison of a picture without (left) and with deutanopia (right).

**Are you into gaming? And if so, do you know the colourblind mode which many games offer? Yes to both. The colourblind mode in most games is crap. Battlefield 1 is a good example: In this game, the muddy ground is often brown or green, which makes it very difficult to see a small, red, opposing dot. If you activate the colourblind mode for greens, your own team's colour is adjusted, but almost everything remains as before with the opposing team. Sometimes, the red pointer gets a bit brighter. For my eyes, there's no difference.

Overwatch, unlike Battlefield 1, has a slider that lets you adjust the intensity of the colour-blind mode. I was delighted to see this, but when I tried it out, I didn't really notice any improvement. After browsing through internet forums, it became clear why this is so: It seems like the game only reduces the intensity of the colours. This isn’t of any help. In the meantime, Overwatch has released an update for this mode, which makes it possible to adjust the team colours. This makes sense.

The colour blind mode in Far Cry 5 isn't ideal either: If offers neither different colour-blind modes nor a slider for colour intensity. The colouring works well in colour-blind mode and all enemies are displayed in yellow. But if you're shot, the edge of the screen doesn't turn red, but purple. That’s confusing, isn’t it? To me, it feels like I’m gaming on an LSD high. Sure, this may make sense for some people and make sure they realise they've been shot. But who wants to play a game with ugly colours?

What's needed to improve the quality of colourblind modes in games?
A possibility to adjust more settings yourself to make the game suit your personal colour vision. In my opinion, a minimum requirement is being able to choose all team colours. But even if enough settings were available, the question remains whether this would actually help people perform better.

Thank you for this interview, Nicolas.

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Avatar

Martin Jud, Zurich

  • Editor
I find my muse in everything. When I don’t, I draw inspiration from daydreaming. After all, if you dream, you don’t sleep through life.

12 comments

3000 / 3000 characters

User Raptor91

Why not just create a custom box between the computer and monitor which can move specific colors to another hue ?
Ok we need a Kickstarter here if it's not already done 😂

24.01.2019
User Anonymous

This is called a lut box. A lut is a matrix (2 or 3 dimensional), with a defined size which take colors as input and map them to different color as output. You can create a color blind specific lut and use it in the lut box to adapt the color for color blind people. This is however quite expensive hence it would be much cheaper to develop a low level program which uses the same lut but within the os.

26.03.2019
Answer
User bumi84

Ich bin ebenfalls farbenblind (Deuteranopie) und kenne daher die beschriebenen Symptome und Probleme. Im Kindergarten hatte ich Bäume mit grünen Stämmen und braunen Blättern gemalt - da hat man sich wohl gedacht, dass irgendwas nicht stimmen könnte ^^

Jedenfalls finde ich persönlich den Farbenblindenmodus in vielen Spielen tatsächlich hilfreich, zumindest ansatzweise. Wenn beispielsweise das eigene Team grün und die Gegner rot dargestellt werden, ist das für mich nicht gerade einfach zu unterscheiden. Blau und rot hingegen: kein Problem. Aber grade in älteren Titeln hab ich auch schon mal Teamkameraden abgeknallt - und das Verständnis ist dann natürlich nur bedingt da. "Don't play it then!" hiess es manchmal, wenn man sich dann als Farbenblinder zu erklären versuchte.

Das ist auch einer der Gründe, weshalb ich die meisten Spiele ignoriere, die in einem Dschungel Spielen. BF1942 Vietnam? Keine Chance. Die Vietcong Titel? Haha, vergiss es! Auch in Bad Company 2 gab es einzelne Maps bei denen ich enorm Mühe hatte, die Gegner zu spotten.
Ich finde ja, wir farbenblinde sollten auch auf Behindertenplätzen parken dürfen! ^^

24.01.2019
User KINGP7N

Danke für diese Erfahrungen!

25.01.2019
Answer
User KINGP7N

Interessant, einmal die Meinung zu den "Farbenblind-Modi" zu hören, von jemandem, der wirklich einen solchen benötigt!
Hoffe auch, dass die Entwickler hier noch einen Schritt weiter gehen und den betroffenen Usern die Einstellungen selber überlassen...
Wenn bereits ein solcher Modus im Spiel implementiert wurde, sollte eine "Customizing" Möglichkeit keinen all zu grossen Mehraufwand mehr darstellen...

24.01.2019
User sammyblaze

Ich habe Battlefield 1 nicht zur Hand, aber ich sah ein interessantes Video-Essay vor einiger Zeit, und darin wurden die Optionen für Farbenblinde im BF1 gezeigt, man kann die Farben der Gegner etc. genauso wie in Overwatch individuell einstellen, keine presets, sondern per RGB color codes einstellbar.
Ansonsten ein sehr interessanter Einblick!
Das erwähnte Video ist ebenfalls sehr interessant und zeigt die verschiedenen Methoden, wie man als Game Designer mit Farbenblindheit umgehen kann.

youtu.be/xrqdU4cZaLw

02.02.2019
User Chilld0ne

Sehr Spannend, aber als Mediamatiker die Lehre abgeschlossen als Farbenblinder?
Irgendwie suspekt da du ja sicherlich auch z.B. Web-Pages designen musstet und das geht mit einer Farbensehschwäche einfach nicht.

23.01.2019
User CysteK

Sicherlich geht das, man hat ja kollegen als zweite referenz ;-)

und eine andere mögliche alternative ist eine Brille die das ausgleicht ;-)

enchroma.com

23.01.2019
User Yuppie

Doch das geht. Ich kenne hervorragende Grafiker die Farbenblind sind. Teilweise ist es sogar von vorteil. Bzw. sieht er andere fehler als ich sehe, und die Form wird wichtiger als die Farbe.

23.01.2019
User Anonymous

Hatte im Militär einen Kameraden der war gelernter Maler. Für ihn sieht jedoch jedes Grün gleich aus. Da ist Webdesign gleich einfach dagegen. Da dort meist die Farben bestimmt werden, welche angewandt werden sollen. Und man den genauen Hex Wert kennt. Wenn du Farben mischen musst nach Auge, wird das etwas schwieriger.

23.01.2019
User schnaiky

Hey CysteK, interessanter Link. Hast du allenfalls Erfahrung mit der Brille? Wusste nicht, dass es so etwas gibt. Wie kann ich mir die "Korrektur" mit der Brille vorstellen?

23.01.2019
User CysteK

Hallo Engeli87

Leider habe ich keine Erfahrung, da ich nicht farbenblind bin.
Ich kenne bis jetzt auch noch niemanden der eine solche besitzt.

Die betroffene person muss zuerst einen Test auf der hersteller seite durchführen, anhand dessen wird dann die "korektur" vorgenommen.

Ich habe bis jetzt nur solche "werbe videos" gesehen vom Hersteller.

hier ist noch ein richtig gutes testvideo:
youtube.com/watch?v=PR1Qobh...

23.01.2019
Answer