Why is everyone so mad about yellow paint in video games?

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IT started off with a tweet and an image of Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth with an eye-catching caption.

It reads: “The yellow paint virus has infected FF7”, and soon the internet was alive with debate.

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Mirror’s Edge was praised for its art style where interactable objects were coloured redCredit: DICE

This isn’t the first time it’s been brought up, and it certainly won’t be the last, but it’s important to know why everyone is talking about it.

The yellow paint that’s being referred to is a common technique in game design that is used to show players the path they can and should take.

Climbable areas are marked in bright yellow paint to draw the player’s attention and alert them where to go.

However, many gamers don’t like this technique as it reminds them they are playing a game and ruins their immersion into the world.

It also makes some players feel that game developers think they are stupid and cannot figure it out for themselves.

The ‘yellow paint virus’ as people have called it has nothing to do with players’ intelligence but more with their attention spans.

Studies suggest that only around 10-20% of gamers finish the games they start.

This number has decreased over the years thanks to the instant gratification of apps like social media, and short-form videos.

In playtesting games, developers have discovered that gamers quickly become bored, if the next step to progress isn’t immediately obvious.

Developers are often also fighting against many players’ experiences from other games if they try to make something different.

For example, when playing 2D games, the vast majority of people will start moving right, even if that path is clearly blocked.

While games like Super Metroid, Axiom Verge and recently Ultros have bucked that trend by moving the player left, people still expect to travel to the right.

Another example is exploding barrels in games, with the expectation for gamers being that exploding barrels are coloured red.

If they are any other colour, then players will not expect them to explode, and won’t use them to clear obstacles.

The yellow paint seems to be fairly new, but markers in video games have been around for a long time.

The Uncharted series is a classic example of this as walls are marked with white to show players where Nathan Drake can hold.

When people look at the original Final Fantasy 7, they note how difficult the terrain could be to navigate.

There was a button you could toggle on and off that told you where the entrances and exits were.

While the paint may not always be yellow, it’s been here for decades, and it’s likely going to stay.

Read more on the Scottish Sun

If you want to read more about Final Fantasy, check out our Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth preview.

Written by Georgina Young on behalf of GLHF.

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