The Witness is Nearly Impossible for the Color Blind

The Witness, Jonathan Blow’s expansive puzzle game released yesterday, is already a pretty difficult game, but for color blind players, it’s nearly impossible. Responding to an inquiry to color blind players by Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo, AbleGamers Charity responded with this image highlighting the difficulty color blind players face:

For most players, colored puzzles like the one above would be no issue at all (beyond the obvious), but for players with certain types of color blindness, like Deuteranopia and Protanopia, the puzzle is simply indecipherable.

Speaking with Totilo, Blow addressed the issues:

“We definitely thought about colorblindness but ultimately there was not much we could do in terms of the individual puzzles,” the game’s lead developer, Jonathan Blow, told me today.

“So the approach instead was to ensure the game did not require you to complete any particular area to get to the end. Colorblindness is only an issue with a fraction of the puzzles in the game, and our design focuses these puzzles in a small number of areas, so the workaround is just to skip those areas.”

It’s unfortunate that the game excludes color blind players in that way. It’s a bit of a shame that Blow and his team couldn’t find a way to design those puzzles in such a way that they wouldn’t lock out players with those specific impairments by including a color blind option so affected players won’t need to simply skip those puzzles. Still, from Blow’s comments, it sounds like they genuinely tried to accommodate color blind players, but unfortunately for the design of that puzzle, it just wasn’t possible. Blow even mentioned trying to give color blind players an interesting advantage:

“We actually tried to put a puzzle in the game that only colorblind people could solve!” he told me. “But we were not able to engineer it because colorblindness is a very individual thing.”

The Witness is out now for PC and PS4, and our reviewer called it a game that “will influence video game puzzle design for years to come.”