I started my first play-through of Wingspan ready to struggle with its wide-ranging palette of orange, red, brown and green. The big pile of pastel eggs didn’t ease my concerns, as I readied myself to confuse white, pink-ish, and maybe-blue for the next 40 to 70 minutes.
The natural environment – home of every named and unnamed hue – is one of the most challenging for the colorblind. In particular, greens, browns, reds, and yellows can blend into an indiscernible greenish-brownish-redish-yellowish, which for me leads to confusion and frustration.
So every time I am introduced to a new game with a nature theme, I prepare myself for the disappointment of not being able to play it, the vulnerability of exposing my vision deficiency, or a need to ask for real-time help or colorblind-friendly modifications.
Enter Wingspan, which boasts all the beauty of nature. Birds, trees, and eggs dominate each player’s game board, and the colors of cubes, tokens, and bits vary widely. I was both excited to try it out and nervous about how it might go.
It turns out I had nothing to worry about. Wingspan exemplifies accessible graphic design. It is a beautiful, nature-inspired experience that colorblind gamers can play right out of the box.
I later learned that the designer and developer considered colorblindness early in the process. In a Twitter AMA, I asked Elizabeth Hargrave if she had identified any color vision deficiency issues during the design and development of Wingspan.
For some designers, color can be used as an easy distinguisher to support basic game mechanics, but in many games it is uninspired, and for me, unplayable. By replacing “set collection by color” in Wingspan, Hargrave and the team both improved accessibility for a subset of players and made the game better.
Image Credits (top to bottom): Stonemeier Games; Twitter.