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Splatoon 3's Newest Weapon Is Actively Hurting the Disabled Community

Update 12/22/2023: Just hours before this story was published, Nintendo pushed a new update for Splatoon 3 that includes changes to the Splattercolor Screen's visual effect. IGN is still gathering information on whether or not these changes are sufficient to address issues suffered by disabled players discussed below. Notably, the changes seem to only be visual, and may not impact the audio issues mentioned in this article.


The update is as follows: "Adjusted the change in color when affected by the Splattercolor Screen to make it more natural. The screen brightness of the effect itself has also been dimmed."

Original Story:

Since December 1, visually and cognitively disabled players have encountered numerous barriers with a new weapon added to Splatoon 3. The Splattercolor Screen, available as part of the Chill Season 2023, causes a player’s screen to significantly brighten – removing all color – as well as experience a high-pitched ring for several seconds. While its intended purpose is to disorient those affected, its actual use is directly impacting disabled individuals, preventing some from playing the game altogether, and even causing major health issues like triggering seizures.

The Splatoon series famously relies on color as a core theme for its varying modes. Covering maps with bright ink is not only necessary, but also part of the fun. Even though accessibility options like Color Lock exist – a setting which enables the selection of different colors for easier differentiation – the Splattercolor Screen nullifies this accessibility tool, albeit temporarily. IGN spoke to a number of disabled players, who discussed the varying ways this new weapon impacts their health, the potential solutions for its inclusion, and how the overall Splatoon community is responding to its use.

Dangerous Equipment

Seraphina D. has enjoyed Splatoon since the first game, clocking in approximately 3,500 hours across three games. Despite their immense enjoyment of the series, they acknowledge Splatoon’s overall accessibility can be bothersome. Mechanics like gyro aiming cause tendinitis flares, and while it’s possible to use joy-cons to fully play, the Splatoon community traditionally “tends to look down on people who use sticks instead of gyro controls for aiming.” But Seraphina notes the occasional harassment from this gameplay method is nothing compared to the painful, disruptive, and dangerous effects brought on by the Splattercolor Screen.

“The color change and noise are not a concern to me,” they said. “It's the sudden cranking of the brightness for a few seconds, with no way to predict how bad it will be, as each map and ink combination is different. Even with Color Lock it still varies and hurts. It's disorienting, which I suppose was the goal, but pain very clearly wasn't their intention either. At its worst, my photosensitivity has given me
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and has gone all the way to minor seizures – specifically
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and
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. The last thing I want is to be playing in a tournament with my team and for them to hear a KA-CLUNK over voice chat because I went limp over a special.”


You really have to see this effect for yourself! Fortunately, we have a video.
Notice that in addition to ocular monochromatic enhancement, enemies who touch the screen take damage.
And for the deploying team, remember that this is not a shield—it will not stop incoming ink!
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— Splatoon North America (@SplatoonNA)
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As Seraphina points out, inaccessible barriers in games cannot be alleviated with extra accessibility options alone. The overall design of a game title heavily impacts mechanics like combat, traversal, puzzle solving, and even quest completion. Does a game need complex inputs to defeat enemies? Can objects and enemies be conveyed through visuals other than color? For Splatoon, the answer is no, but that’s when accessibility features like Color Lock are a requirement. When an item completely counters the importance of that setting, as well as introduces new, dangerous barriers, immediate action needs to be taken.

Seraphina is not the only player impacted by the visual and audio effects of Splattercolor Screen. Another disabled Splatoon player going by Spirit notes they are unable to play after being hit with the weapon, leaving them in a weakened and exhausted state. Visually, Splattercolor Screen “causes extreme strain on my eyes, so much so that I’m unable to make out what’s on my screen, and it just looks like a bright, blob of white.” But it isn’t just the visual effects that are stopping Spirit from completing matches where Splattercolor Screen is used.

I feel physically ill after being hit with screen, and there have been instances where I’ve thrown up after being hit.

“The sound that screen makes when hit with it hurts my ears and triggers my
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,” they said. “There’s been many times when I’ve had a migraine after being hit with [Splattercolor Screen]. I’ve had to stop and move away from my console because of the pain, or times where my sight is greatly impacted by auras or dizziness. There’s also been times where I’m barely, or unable, to play due to one side of my body becoming extremely weak. Sometimes I’ve just had to stop playing because of the effects of my migraines. I feel physically ill after being hit with screen, and there have been instances where I’ve thrown up after being hit.”

Seraphina and Spirit’s experiences are not unique, and until Nintendo patches the weapon or completely changes its function, its existence is detrimental to the health of disabled players. But Nintendo has yet to acknowledge the issue, forcing disabled individuals to think of solutions on their own.

Possible Fixes

Since its release, Splattercolor Screen has been met with ambivalence at best and disdain at worst. Aside from outright removing the weapon, disabled players like Spirit and Seraphina are actively trying to create appropriate redesigns that stay true to the Splatoon experience. For Spirit, this means changing the color palette and sound altogether, as well as increase Nintendo’s awareness of disabled individuals.

“Anything from greyscale, swapping ink colors, and making the audio sound muted or muffled,” they said. “Something that’ll still create that initial ‘disorient and confusion’ effect that screen is intended to do, without causing pain when you’re hit. Hopefully, next time they release a new special they’ll put it through accessibility testing, or at least think about how it would affect a player, considering a large chunk of their fan base are disabled and neurodivergent.”


Seraphina is in agreement with a complete rework, noting that an accessibility feature may not be the best approach. Since it negatively impacts individuals through audio and visual mechanics, developers need to address the issue directly, rather than create a new setting to act as a fix that may not even work. Thankfully, for those who still enjoy the uniqueness of Splattercolor Screen, Seraphina states that a proposed fix can still ensure the weapon is disruptive without being harmful.

“Make the environment get covered in a standard grayscale filter, that doesn't mess with saturation and artificially increase brightness,” they said. “Switch the fizzing noise with some other noise already in the game, like the sound of someone shooting ink or hiding in it, which could fit the special's original goal of ‘disorient the player so you can overwhelm them easier’ much better. You could even just tone down the noise. The special was a good idea, I just don't think anyone tested it with anyone who could've possibly had physical discomfort with the brightness.”

Accessibility relies on direct feedback from the disabled community. Nobody knows what disabled players need better than those with lived experiences directly relating to inaccessible barriers. And unless Nintendo calls upon the disabled community to work in tandem to create a solution, Splattercolor Screen will continue to cause immense discomfort and physical symptoms.

Community Concerns

Seraphina and Spirit are just two of many Splatoon 3 players calling for a response from Nintendo. Individuals with varying disabilities are finding it difficult or impossible to continue playing matches if Splattercolor Screen is used. And as Seraphina notes, Splattercolor Screen is available in all PVP modes, leaving only PVE activities like Salmon Run or private matches where it’s agreed to not use the weapon. For X/Twitter user
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, this constant presence of Splattercolor Screen has drastically reduced how much they play.

“I have
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and I'm very sensitive to bright lights,” they said. “I've not really been playing much since the special was added to the game. The last time I got hit by it, I had to set the controller down and stop looking at the screen to avoid eye strain.”

Numerous disabled individuals with visual, auditory, and cognitive processing disabilities are losing access to Splatoon 3. But it’s not just disabled players who struggle with this weapon. Even tournament organizers are imposing restrictions on its use, citing its disruptive effects to be too much for competitors.
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– a major Splatoon tournament organization with thousands of members – announced on
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that “IPL has decided on an org-wide ban on [Splattercolor Screen]. The ban will be temporary until nintendo patches/fixes it enough that we feel that it is no longer a safety concern.” Further,
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– a competitive Splatoon website that allows players to activate varying filters to locate tournaments and matches –
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.

The last time I got hit by it, I had to set the controller down and stop looking at the screen to avoid eye strain.

Accessibility isn’t just designed to eliminate inaccessible barriers. Inclusive designs and accessible features allow disabled players to comfortably enjoy the same experiences as their able-bodied peers. While games will always include some form of a blocker for varying disabilities, no title should ever cause harm to those who decide to play. Seraphina and others in the Splatoon community are still avid fans of the series, but the addition of Splattercolor Screen makes them question Nintendo’s commitment to accessibility. And as Seraphina explains, disabled and able-bodied individuals should have the same safe, enjoyable experience.

“If the devs somehow were able to see this, there were a few steps forward with Splatoon 3 for accessibility,” they said. “There also were a few backwards. Splattercolor Screen unfortunately was nowhere close to intention, but with a few small changes, it can still be true to its original form. Disabled players (and abled players) deserve to be able to play the game comfortably, and disorientation is possible without discomfort.”


Grant Stoner is a disabled journalist covering accessibility and the disabled perspective in video games. When not writing, he is usually screaming about Pokémon or his cat, Goomba on Twitter.

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