Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Color Blind Design

A comment in MLC's recent "LARP Thing a Week" Post really struck home, and I want to talk about it.

I suffer from a form of red-green color blindness called Daltonism (named after the guy who discovered color blindness). Essentially, the green color receptors in my eyes are either absent or extrememly diminished. In day to day life, this is really a minor inconvenience more than anything else. I can still identify the colors green and red if they're sharp, but I tend to have a difficult time with green-brown-red and almost no hope of distinguishing between blue and purple.

My condition is pretty rare (1% of males, about 0.01% of females), but it's been reported that about 7-10% of males suffer from some form of red-green colorblindness.

What's the point?

The fact of the matter is that on a 15 person module, there's a pretty good chance that someone involved is red-green color blind, and you should design with that in mind. Does that mean you can't use colors at all? Of course not! But there are some tricks you can use to make your modules color blind friendly.

Use Sharp Colors
When you're using reds and/or greens (or for that matter, any color), try to use sharper colors. I can tell the difference between a red apple and green grass. I can even tell the difference between a red and a green light. This is because they use bright, sharp colors that are easy for me to recognize. Using green-brown or red-brown hues tend to cause problems. In this same explanation, if you're going to use both red and green as a mechanic for the module, use a light green and a deep red - as those are the easiest ones to discern for the various forms of red-green color blindness.

Allow Collaboration
Sometimes modules make people pick options without being able to confer with anyone. If you're going to do this, don't have people discern between red and green on their own, as they might pick the wrong one. Alternatively, allow for players to collaborate, so that the team can aid the color blind player.

A good example of this is what Matt talked about on the post mentioned above, since everyone could inform the color blind person where to step. With teamwork, the player was able to overcome his deficiency.

A bad example of this is the tasty treats trap used at the NCN specialty event. Players had to interpret a riddle and eat the correct color M&M without conferring with others. If you're going to do this, avoid color pairs like violet-blue and red-green.

Combine Shapes with Colors
If you're dead set on using color combos, tie them in with shapes. If all the green objects have a triangle and all the red objects have a square, I'm going to be able to identify them quickly with 100% accuracy. If shapes seem too unlikely, you can use other patterns to pick them out.

When in Doubt, Tell them the Color
If you've got a bomb and the player knows he has to cut the red wire and he asks you which is the red wire, just tell him. As with any other time you marshal, don't offer that up unless the player asks. Obviously, if someone asks you that and it's pitch dark in the room, you can make them produce light. If the environment dictates that he should be able to discern it, then hook a brother up.

As an electrical engineer, I'm essentially incapable of interpreting resistor color codes. I learned the codes, but without being able to read the colors it means nothing. On a practical test in my first year, I asked the teacher what the colors were on the sample resistors. He told me "I can't tell you that, it's testing your ability to decode the colors," and I explained that I didn't need the answers, just the actual colors. He never did give me the colors and I think to this day he thinks I was trying to pull something over on him.

There are a ton of people who are color blind and don't even know it. Help us all out and use these strategies to make it easier for us color blind LARPers.

No comments:

Post a Comment