Jim Bottomley, based in Prince Edward Island, is the Design Director at Other Ocean Interactive. I met Jim online and asked if he would share his experience as a colorblind video game designer and tabletop game player.
How did you get into tabletop games?
“I’ve played games for as long as I can remember. I’m old enough that, as a young kid, we had no home computer – they didn’t yet exist – so my brother and I would spend hours making our own games, or adapting other games by adding new features. I doubt that they were very good, but I remember having fun!
When home computers arrived on the scene, board and card games took a back seat. I wasn’t reacquainted with them until many, many years later when I moved from the UK to Canada. When I joined Other Ocean Interactive there was already quite an active community of board and card game players here who had grown up during the 90s with Magic The Gathering – a game that had totally flown beneath my radar because I was too busy making video games. I had no idea how far board games had come since my childhood and was hooked instantly!”
When and how did you learn about your own color vision deficiency?
“My earliest recollection of my deficiency causing me embarrassment was in a color-based geography lesson at school. The teacher asked me why I’d colored the land brown and sea purple. The extent of my condition became known when we were covering color deficiency in a science class. We were shown those cards that have a circle of colored dots on them, and we had to correctly identify the letter or number that was contained among the dots on each of the cards. I scored one out of eleven.
School was the most challenging part of my life as regards my color deficiency, because some kids can be quite cruel when they realise someone else is different. It was also character building, and I learned at a young age not to give much heed to others’ unwarranted negative opinions of me.”
What colors do you tend to confuse the most?
“Red/green is the major bane of my deficiency. Blue/purple is also tricky for me to distinguish, and a few other combos cause me grief: red/brown, green/brown, pink/grey.”
What are some of your favorite games? Have you modified any so you can play?
“Pretty much anything by Paolo Mori (I love Libertalia); most of Button Shy’s output, which are amazing games squeezed into an 18 card format; and Coup, which is just amazing. I love a bit of Space Empires 4X, and I’m quite enamored with Merv at the moment.
But, my favorite game is the best game ever created in any format – that’s Android Netrunner.
One of my favorite games of all time is Race For The Galaxy, but I really do think that the graphic designer on that game really had it in for colorblind players! I eventually enlisted my wife’s aid to help me mark up the cards with a sharpie so that I could play properly.”
What do you wish people would know about your vision deficiency? How do you describe it to others?
“I don’t expect people to understand my color deficiency. I can imagine it’s tricky for them to come to grips with. When people ask me about my color blindness, the best description I’ve come up with is to draw a parallel with a conversation in a busy room.
Imagine you’re in a room with lots of people, all chatting, and someone across the table is speaking to you, but they’re kinda shy and quiet and you don’t hear everything they say. Some words are clear, others are half-heard and others still are lost entirely in the noise all around you. Given this limited information, you try to reconstruct what they’re saying to you, and you often get things wrong.”
What color vision issues have you run into during your work?
“Believe it or not, I spent my first few years in video games as an artist at Core Design (the creators of Tomb Raider and many other titles). I had painted a character in a game we were working on – a demon in human form – and one of the other artists commending me on my use of color, saying how ‘original’ and different the character’s skin was. To me, it was a simple mistake. I thought the skin color was normal!“
How can we see more of your work and follow you online?
“You can head over to www.otherocean.com to check out Other Ocean’s fine line-up of video game goodness. I don’t have a personal website – I’m too old for that kinda stuff, and besides, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to listen to what I have to say. But I do lurk on Twitter, so if you really want, you can find me at @jimbotmasey.”