The psychology of colour: How game developers harness colour to influence players decisions

Game designers and developers are constantly seeking out fresh ways to keep players interested, and gaming mechanics are usually among the main elements where they will search for innovation. However, as the bottleneck becomes more congested, with more gaming companies competing in a limited pool of innovative genres, truly unique ideas become more valuable and profitable yet also more challenging to fathom.

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The use of colour is something that game developers have been paying increased attention to recently. It’s just one of many gaming components that deserves a strong focus and now plays a key role in overall design.

Use of colours in casino gaming

Casino gaming provides one of the best examples of the effective use of colours anywhere in the gaming sector. Although traditional casino games like roulette and blackjack often focus on live tables and are streamed live with live dealers, other elements and games in the casino sector use colour to highlight the quality of the game itself. By emphasizing colour, they highlight key elements in the game that would otherwise fly under the radar.

On its own, colour isn’t a particularly effective way of creating a landmark gaming title. However, mobile app gaming and game design have evolved considerably over the last 10 years. As more gamers continue to seek out mobile games that they can play on the move via their tablet or smartphone, the industry is adapting. Better designs and enhanced gaming software have meant a greater range of colours are being used throughout the industry.

Slot games with a candy theme, for example, rely heavily on vivid, bright colour schemes that are used as a tool to emphasize the overall product. Often combined with music as part of a more extensive package, they help to sell the broader concept of the slot and what it offers.

How colours impact overall gaming design

Similarly to colour implementation in casino gaming, game designers who operate in the broader gaming industry use a blend of psychology and colour design to evoke images or certain atmospheres in their gaming titles. For example, the heavy use of red, dark red and fiery colours can stir up various strong emotions ranging from love to rage, passion or anger.

Looking at other shades, light blue colours can evoke feelings of serenity and calmness. Certain games will use this if there is an icy, wintery backdrop for their game or for a specific level or map area.

Not only can colour conjure up winter and cold imagery, but the sense of calmness it promotes can correlate directly with the intensity of the game, depending on the type of title. For example, many gamers who played the classic Metal Gear Solid title on the PlayStation 1 all those years ago will recall just how influential and memorable the colour schemes were, alongside the gameplay itself.

Enhancements in colour over the years

PlayStation 1 game colours were innovative for their time, but game developers harnessing them to influence gamers was something that was still in its relatively early stages. This is because the late 1990s was a golden age for game design. There were many innovative games, titles and ways to design games, but colours made up a much smaller part.

As more games entered the mix and the ability to innovate based on story and design alone grew more difficult, colours started to take on heightened importance in the overall package. PlayStation 5 games now boast thousands of colours, and the differences between them are so minute that it’s almost impossible for the naked eye to notice.

However, this is where the skill lies as the subliminal usage of colours can be employed, whether it is in the background of the game or more obvious implementations. Evoking fear, happiness, stillness, excitement or tension can all be engineered primarily through the use of colours, which shows just how influential and crucial they are in game design.

Colour is a crucial element of games

Colours play a small but significant role in the background of games. Most gamers believe physical map designs, story writing and overall game quality are the three most essential components of an engaging game. However, colour is one of the most crucial secondary elements, alongside aspects such as secondary character designs and other minor but specific in-game features.

Game developers play a hugely important role in the artistic development of the industry as a whole, and it’s their attention to detail – including the influential nature of colours – that continues to generate billions in profits for some of the world’s leading game design companies.