There's little more annoying as a colorblind person than being asked what color something is. Children love this game, and I like the little weirdos enough that when they ask me I play along. I can't tell you colors of crayons without reading the crayon - and if you rip off the label, I'm lost. If the brand of crayon lacks a color label, I'm just as bad off - I needed Crayola as a child.

Until I had an eye exam when I was nine which determined that I needed glasses, my parents just didn't know why I couldn't grasp colors. That test included a color blindness test, and as it turned out, I was not good at colors for a reason. I can't really see them very well. When I do an exam now I've gotten in the habit of asking how many I get correct; I usually get one or two out of the ten cards they show right, but only because of guessing.

To help you, the non-colorblind see a little of what I see, I'm going to give you some examples. You'll get the normal colorblindness test thing side by side with one colored in to show what I see. I'll open Paint and make little squares of colors in the groupings that make sense to my eyes, with the labels I use when I try to name them.

I can tell you one thing right off the bat - where blue and purple are concerned, unless the purple looks like red, I can't tell you anything about which it is. I generally guess blue for lighter shades and purple for darker shades, just like I did when I was a kid. When I see a rainbow, you might see seven colors, but I see four. The orange and green run together, and blue/indigo/violet is one band.

Before we get to the examples, though, take a look at this:


This is a graph of my results on a colorblindness test which measures based on sliding tiles around until they're in the correct hue order, whatever that actually looks like.

It's not the worst score I've seen. I know people whose scores are worse. But it's not a very good score, either. When I open Paint and see the default colors available, this is what I think's going on there without looking at what Paint says they are. The three yellows are practically indistinguishable (the one in the white half is slightly darker, I guess). The three blues I labelled "some kind of blue" are only called that because they're kind of blue-y but they're also kind of like really light pink or gray? I honestly couldn't tell you what's up there. That one I point out as green? If I were to draw a person with tan skin, I'd use that color. I've actually done that. I'm also pretty sure that weird reddish gray is what normal people call brown.


Last year the Huffington Post ran a piece on the Ishihara Colorblindness Test, from which all the following pictures come. I'm going to take you on a tour of what my vision sees, in side by side comparison to what you see. These are designed to diagnose what type of colorblindness you have, and I assumed that since I don't see everything in grayscale I wasn't completely colorblind, but nope. According to the Ishihara test, I'm super blind.

There are apparently both a four and a two here. I can only see the two, which means I'm red colorblind. Seeing the two means I can distinguish what looks blue out of that mess (I think), but if there's a four in there, I can only take that on trust. I see some red dots and some not dark dots, but no discernible pattern in there.


Ishihara tells me there's a 73 somewhere in that mess. Only if you're high. There's nothing in there. Point me to a 73 in that and I'll probably think you're a wizard before I believe there actually is a number in there.


I can't even with this one. Ishihara says there are two numbers in there, to trap and trick different types of colorblind people. Apparently if you see normally, there's a 74. If you're red-green colorblind you'll see a 21, I guess. And if like me you see some kind of weird dog face with half a Fu Manchu followed by /u (because apparently this dog needs to be underlined), then apparently we're totally color blind.

The only reason I know that what I'm seeing in there is a six is because I've been told it's a six. To me, it looks like a mutant 8. And I'd never just guess six or eight anyway, since I've never seen one with only one digit. So I'd pick one at random. They really need to make this test either have bigger fields of color so the numbers are spaced father out, or implement some of the cards which only have one digit to them. Also, I see nothing in addition to the "6" - apparently you're supposed to be able to strongly see one and faintly the other if you're red or green blind. Well, I sort of see one, and don't see the other at all. Which apparently means I'm completely red blind and mildly green blind?


It's ones like this where I begin to wonder if there's perhaps a better way than a two digit system to measure colorblindness. Why not make actually use just a single digit, optometrists, and break the ability for people who, like I do, pick up on patterns like this and throw random guesses for the other digit (I know where what I can see is, so I know which digit it is, too)? Or why not make the field bigger, rectangular, and throw two or three digits in, left middle center (with the middle always meant to be readable regardless), to discourage us guessing. If I knew there might be either two or three but couldn't see one entirely, I'd stick to the one I can see and the one I can maybe partially see.

Or, they could do more non number-based ones like some of the later examples. I like them better:


Supposed to trace the wiggly line. There's no line as far as I can tell - just a few fragments, but everything else is lost in a sea of green.

I sure hope I'm never called upon to describe in court or something the color of a suspect's shirt or of a car, because I'm not going to have a clue. My wife tells me repeatedly that this one shirt I have is "seafoam green" whatever that is, but as far as I can tell, that color's what I've always seen people refer to as tan. There are a lot of shiny pokemon whose colors are very close to their normal color, and fans complain about that:


Of the ones in the second category, I literally cannot tell the difference between any of them and their normal colors, except Scyther, and only Scyther if I look at the bit of its leg not covered by carapace, because that's a slightly different color than the white (well, it looks white to me) that it has normally.

Which, let's be clear - as someone who plays Pokemon primarily to collect shiny Pokemon, not being able to tell a number of pokemon's shiny and normal forms (Whismur, I'm looking at you) is a minor annoyance.

It also makes some games actually difficult to complete. Like, in Metroid Prime I can't tell the difference between a door that doesn't require any specific beam to get through and one which requires the Wave beam. Or in Metroid Prime 2, the final boss has different core colors which are affected by different beams: the Annihilator beam affects all three, but eats your beam ammo, while the yellow core is affected by the Power beam, the white core by the Dark beam, and the Purple core by the Light beam.

I took a six month break from Metroid Prime 2 when I got to that boss because I just couldn't figure it out. I could tell the white core, but the yellow core looks red to me, and I can only barely make out the existence of the purple core at the beginning of the fight and couldn't make it far enough to actually see it in the latter half. Not to mention that literally half the game is terribly monochrome and I couldn't even see some of the detail people with full color vision could make out among it all.


It's the main reason I tend to favor a very simple single rule for my clothing: just wear black. I can't tell if colors clash, so better to avoid it entirely. I couldn't even honestly tell you what it means for colors to go together or clash. I simply have no ability to understand it.

It doesn't generally impact my life too much, fortunately, since I've chosen to get into a field where I don't usually need to identify colors. When I do, I can use the dropper tool in paint, get the Hex code for the color, and look up the hex code online to find out what it's supposed to be. So hooray for the digital age, because it means I can at least find out some things.

But it does kind of suck looking at small children coloring and realizing that even if they're three and can't even spell the word color, most of them are doing far better than I will ever do. I am jealous of your Crayola skills, children. Teach me your secrets.

And please don't make me play the "What color is this" game. Please. I beg you to find it in your tiny, sociopathic hearts.