Here’s The Best Color Temperature For Gaming Battlestations

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The color temperature of light is known to influence our circadian rhythm and impact our cognitive abilities.

This means an understanding of just how the temperature of color impacts our brain could be used to hack our own neurological systems to provide a number of advantages, including in the world of competitive gaming.

For fast paced multiplayer games such as Blizzard’s Overwatch, the best color temperature for gaming is achieved by setting your monitor to emit a cooler light temperature of 6500K or higher, as this will trigger the body to produce less melatonin which in turn allows you to stay focussed for longer.

For sandbox games such as Minecraft, it’s best to reduce the Kelvin rating of light emitted by the screen to a warmer 4000K. This creates an environment that is more comfortable for the eyes and mind over long sessions of continuous play.

Grab yourself some tips below as we explore:

  • how you can measure the color temperature of a monitor
  • how you can change the color temperature of your monitor
  • what kind of advantages you can expect to receive by playing in the best color temperature for your game of choice

N.B. How color temperature is measured is fully explored from a productivity perspective in our Brain vs Light Color Guide, so in this article we’re going to concentrate on how this knowledge can be applied to the gaming niche to your advantage.

How does color temperature affect your gaming abilities? 

Our neurological and hormonal systems have evolved to use the rising and setting of the sun as indicators for when our bodies should become active and when to rest and recover. 

When our eyes are exposed to light with a high color temperature the production of melatonin by our pineal gland slows to a fraction of levels produced when the night sky is at its darkest.

Artificial light sources such as those installed in offices, shops and restaurants can be designed in such a way as to hack these evolutionary traits to elicit particular responses.

For restaurants that might mean having tables basked in a warm light (3500K – 4500K) to create a relaxed atmosphere that encourages patrons to stay longer, and thus spend a little more money.  

For offices, cool light color (6500K) helps workers stay alert and focussed for longer during working hours.

Applying colored light to the monitor or RGB lights of a gaming battlestation can therefore (in theory at least) be used to slow or postpone cognitive decay brought on by tiredness when times of concentration are needed most.  

For games that are decided by milliseconds, such as first person shooters or racing simulations, this type of advantage might just provide the edge you need to take the win.

How can you check and change the color temperature of a monitor? 

You might find some preset color temperatures in your display settings.

For my own Dell S2715H there are only two presets, simply referred to as ‘Warm’ and ‘Cool’, but fortunately the monitor also has the ability to customise a color using either RGB or the YPbPr format. 

You can check the color temperature of a monitor my using the color – temperature tool on Academo.org. This allows the color temperature of your monitor to be known via a simple slider that displays temperatures ranging from 1500K to 15,000K. 

To check the current color temperature on Academo simply run the slider up or down the scale until the color displayed in the sample box blends in with the color shown on your monitor.

For example our monitor is currently set to 6500K (most monitors are set to display at 6500K straight out of the box) and a match is achieved when no distinct color is displayed by the slider sample box.

6500K shown on the Academo Color-Temperature Relationship Slider

For reference, here’s the same color temperature tool displaying what a warm 4500K looks like.

4500K shown on the Academo Color-Temperature Relationship Slider

If your monitor display does allow the  ability to customise RGB values then the table below contains the color temperatures you will need to gain an advantage across all types of game play.

Light Color Temperature HEX Code RGB Values
4500K
#FFDABB
255, 218, 187
5500K
#FFEDDE
255, 237, 222
6500K
#FFFEFA
255, 254, 250
7500K
#E6EBFF
230, 235, 255
8500K
#D7E2FF
215, 226, 255

Tip! When gaming, color temperature doesn’t necessarily need to be finely calibrated as you would do when retouching photographs or editing a video. However if you are a stickler for detail, to get a true reflection of light color you might want to start first by calibrating the monitor using in-built color settings on Windows or iOS.

What kind of advantages can you gain by gaming in cool light?

Cool light offers the ability to delay fatigue during gameplay. It does this by tricking the body’s hormonal system into delaying secretion of melatonin that would normally aid us in dri

The exact impact of cool light can be manifested in terms of how much it moves your body clock in just one night – described as “Phase shift”. 

When gaming, “phase shift” created by exposure to cool light could be used to delay the onset of tiredness for as much as a few hours if exposed for long enough (a few hours) at the right time of day (before typical bedtime).

The amount of cool light emitted by a device, as well as the age of the gamer taking the hit will also have a bearing upon the expected duration of a phase shift. 

If you find yourself gaming into the wee hours and you’re already exhausted don’t expect to switch on a blue light and be able to snap you back into full focus mode. To truly take advantage of cool light you’ll have to plan ahead. 

Light Color Temperature Device Age of User Distance From Screen Phase Shift Expected
5000K
iPad Pro
18
12"
1hr 24mins
5000K
Macbook Air 2012
36
20"
40mins
6500K
iPad Pro
18
12"
1hr 58mins
6500K
Macbook Air 2012
36
20"
57mins

Pure blue light (R = 0, G = 0, B = 100) emits a color temperature of 100,000K, which you might think being the “coolest” light of all would cause our circadian rhythm to be most significantly impacted.

In fact, in a paper published in the journal Chronobiology International – ‘Phase Delaying the Human Circadian Clock with Blue-Enriched Polychromatic Light’, researchers found no significant difference between phase shift times when study participants were exposed to blue enriched light measuring 17,000K or white polychromatic light measuring 4100K.

Both severely knocked the circadian rhythm out of sync, but one no more than the other.

This study suggests that blue enriched light doesn’t extend phase shift beyond that of regular white light, and that if a light is bright enough irrespective of whether it’s on the warmer side of the light spectrum a phase shift will be experienced.

Conclusion

Cool light of at least 6,500K emitted by monitors or RGB lighting is the best color temperature of gaming as it can be used to improve focus during gameplay and delay the onset of fatigue at the end of the day. 

Chances are however that most other gamers will be sitting in front of monitors with stock settings (around 6,500K already) and so after playing for a few hours all advantages of delaying tiredness would be experienced equally by all. 

Caution should be taken when playing in cool light for extended time, as similar to jet-lag the effects of phase-shift could end up working against you should it take your regular gaming sessions further into the wee hours. Tiredness cannot be postponed forever!

If your game doesn’t concern itself with hi-tempo gameplay which requires fast decision making, consider switching down to a warmer light temperature (4000K or less) to create a more relaxed atmosphere that is eye and brain friendly over longer periods of play.

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