Colors in Video Games (Part 1)

Color, which is one of the biggest parts of a person's life, is also one of the most powerful tools you have when developing or designing a game.

Colors not only affect games, but also determine our daily mood. The color of everything from our living space, workplace, car, and even the keychain we use unconsciously directs our lives.

Colors can make a game interesting, scary, or cute. They can change the atmosphere of the game from start to finish, guide the player, and even provide information about the end of the game. If a puzzle-based game is being designed, these colors can also be used to give the player clues. Of course, this is only valid when the colors are used correctly.

Game developers can try to develop games without this knowledge, which is not necessarily wrong. However, knowing factors such as color palettes, toning, and color harmony and using them at the right time can take the developed game to a higher level.

In this series of articles I have prepared for you, we will take a look at color palettes. Remember, game development is a challenging process! But one of the biggest obstacles of this challenging process is color. Let's start this article series I have prepared in a few parts and proceed step by step.

Introduction to Color Theory

Let's start by explaining what "Color Theory" means. Don't worry, I don't want to write a long and confusing article or an historical one. I will just give you some little ideas that you can impress others with. Color Theory is a combination used to determine which colors look good together. It is used not only in artistic fields but also in scientific developments. For example, the color of an invented object provides information about how "refreshing" or "reliable" that object is. Think of startups. They usually use blue or red tones. Those who use blue usually try to work on the feeling of "trust". Those who use the color red want to reflect the feeling of "love" or "warmth" to the other side.

The thing you need to constantly have with you to understand Color Theory and know color harmonies is the Color Wheel. The Color Wheel is a tool where you can examine the primary colors, intermediate colors, and which colors look better with each other. The Color Wheel was invented by Isaac Newton in 1666, who mapped the color spectrum onto a circle. (This was the information that you could use to show off.)

As you can see, the study of colors and how they are perceived goes back a long time. Color theory was used before Isaac Newton, but it was not named. Most of today's Modern Color Theory comes from deep cultural significance. A developer who is aware of this can use colors to their advantage or even break down players' biases about the game and build them up again from scratch. By using the right colors, you can instantly change the entire theme of a game.

Now, let's briefly move on to colors.

Choosing a Color Scheme

Now that we have briefly discussed colors, let's move on to how to choose color schemes. When developing a game, one of the steps you need to take is to choose the "theme color" of the game. The story, characters, animation, and even the entire universe of the game you are developing may be ready, but all of them must be decorated with an appropriate color.

You should convey the message you want to give in your game, tell the story you want to tell, or convey your character's psychological state with colors. To illustrate this with a few examples;

Warm Tones

"Spec Ops: The Line"
"Horizon Forbidden West"

When you imagine autumn, a sunset, or life in the desert, the colors that come to mind are warm tones. Warm tones can be described as warmth, comfort, and aggression. Of course, depending on how you use these colors, you can convey your desired theme in a different way. 

In the game Firewatch, we see the sunset and feeling of relaxation. In the game Spec Ops: The Line, we understand the psychology of a soldier preparing for war. You can understand the feeling that similar tones give depending on the area they are used in.

Cool Tones

"Dead Space"
"Mass Effect"

We can say that themes associated with the future, suspense, or fear are generally in shades of blue or gray. At least we can understand that a cold color is being used.

Cold color tones are mostly used in science fiction games. Both the story and the environment are usually decorated with cold colors. There are exceptions like "Bioshock". Although cold colors are used in the game, tension is also created with warm colors. This is actually how "color theory" works. 

Adding warm touches among cold tones can take your game to another level. For now, we bid you farewell with this information. In the second part of our article series "Colors in Video Games", we will continue with examples and explain how to use colors.

Author: Ahmet T. Mengeş

Science fiction and fantasy enthusiast. Game addict. Guardian of vampire mythology. Weird and equally arrogant. Amateur game developer. Very amateur.

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