Tekken 8’s eye-grating colourblind mode is causing concern among accessibility experts

The director of Tekken 8 has responded after a video of the upcoming fighting game’s colourblind mode was reported to have caused migraines and vertigo among players, with accessibility experts expressing their worries that the filter could cause even more serious side effects among those with epilepsy and other photosensitive conditions.

A video of the filter was shared around social media last week, showing two fighters replaced by stark white and black lines – vertical for one character, horizontal for the other. The two models were then placed against a monochrome stage background. As the characters move around and perform attacks, the lines move with them.

While the original post praised the filter for offering a colourblind mode, a number of players quickly reported that viewing the eye-grating filter had given them migraines and caused sensations including vertigo. (Needless to say, please do not watch the video if there is any chance you are at risk from a photosensitive reaction.)

Among those who raised concerns was James Berg, senior technical program manager for accessibility at Xbox and a former accessibility veteran at EA, who explained that “patterns of lines moving on a screen creates a contiguous area of high-frequency flashing, like an invisible strobe”.

EA’s game accessibility lead Morgan Baker was those who confirmed they had been affected by the visual effect, saying that the video had “induced an aura migraine for me”.

While tolerance for the strobing effect can seemingly vary by person, the worry is that it may trigger even more serious side effects in those with photosensitive epilepsy and other conditions. Accessibility expert Ian Hamilton echoed Berg’s worries, saying that “the intent was good and the technology is good” but nevertheless urging Tekken 8 director Katsuhiro Harada to delete the filter before the game’s full release.

“It cannot be present at launch as it may hospitalise players (or worse), in the same way as the infamous Pokémon episode,” Hamilton wrote, referencing a 1997 episode of the Pokémon TV series that inadvertently caused hundreds of epileptic seizures in children.

“The way that people find out they’re prone to seizures, which can be fatal (SUDEP), is by having one. The intent, behind it, i.e. separating characters by something other than hue, is fantastic. But this isn’t the way to achieve that.”

Harada posted a lengthy statement in the wake of the reports and concerns raised, claiming that “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”.

The director said that there would be a number of different colour vision options in the final game, but added “we have never claimed or publicized that these options cover all players’ color vision”.

Harada also said that the developers had worked with “several research institutes and communities” to help create the accessibility options, adding that “they are still being researched and we intend to expand on them in the future”.

“Currently, we have received positive feedback from many demo play participants, but we understand that this option does NOT address the color vision of ALL players in the world (said again),” Harada concluded.

All of which seemingly does little to address the actual issues raised directly by players and experts about the video of the filter, but does seem to imply that the striped colourblind mode will make it into the finished game when it releases later this month. Obviously, if you do plan on picking it up, please be careful to check the settings carefully before you jump in.

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