The gaming world is abuzz with discussions surrounding the latest iteration of the popular fighting game series, Tekken 8, particularly concerning its colorblind mode.
This feature, intended to enhance accessibility for colorblind players, has ironically become a source of concern among accessibility experts and players alike due to its potential health risks.
The controversy ignited following the circulation of a video on social media demonstrating Tekken 8’s colorblind mode. This mode represented characters as stark white and black lines, vertical for one and horizontal for the other, set against a monochrome stage. As characters move and attack, these lines shift, creating a dynamic visual pattern.
While initially praised for its inclusivity, the mode quickly drew criticism for its eye-straining effects. Players reported experiencing migraines and vertigo, with concerns intensifying over the possibility of triggering seizures in individuals with epilepsy and other photosensitive conditions.
The mode’s visual effects have been likened to a “high-frequency flashing, like an invisible strobe,” as described by James Berg, senior technical program manager for accessibility at Xbox.
Community and Expert Feedback
Accessibility folks, please stop directly sharing the tweet showing Tekken characters as striped lines.
The video autoplaying is giving folks migraines. Due to it having parallel lines moving unpredictably, covering much of the screen, I'd expect it's doing worse as well.
— James Berg 🍉 (@JamesBergCanada) December 27, 2023
The adverse reactions weren’t limited to players. Morgan Baker, EA’s game accessibility lead, personally experienced an “aura migraine” from the video.
Accessibility expert Ian Hamilton expressed concerns over the technology’s safety, comparing its potential effects to the infamous 1997 Pokémon episode that caused seizures in children. Hamilton’s main contention is that while the intent behind the feature is commendable, its execution might be hazardous.
Tekken 8 Director Responds
A few people, albeit very few, have either misunderstood the accessibility options we are trying, or have only seen the video without actually trying them out in the demo play.
We have "multiple types of color vision options" for players with different color vision, not just… https://t.co/cEdcUTI8n3
— Katsuhiro Harada (@Harada_TEKKEN) December 28, 2023
In response to the burgeoning concerns, Tekken 8 director Katsuhiro Harada issued a statement. Harada suggested that the issues might stem from a misunderstanding of the feature or judgments based on the video alone, rather than firsthand experience.
He affirmed that the final game would include various color vision options, though he acknowledged these might not cater to all players’ needs. Harada also mentioned collaborations with research institutes and communities in developing these options.
Despite Harada’s assurances, there remains a palpable anxiety among players and experts about the inclusion of this specific colorblind mode in the final game. The concerns highlight a critical aspect of game development: the need for inclusive design that also prioritizes player health and safety. As Tekken 8 nears its release, players are advised to approach its settings with caution, particularly those susceptible to photosensitive reactions.
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