Friday, July 5, 2013

Motion Controls: Do We Really Need Them?

The Nintendo Wii was the first home console ever released to have a primary focus on motion control gaming and it also turned out to be a HUGE success for Nintendo, making a ton of money. As of March 31st 2013, the Nintendo Wii has sold over 869.06 million units. For anyone wondering, that's an absurdly high amount of sales. Little did Nintendo know, they had initiated a trend in the gaming industry that would plague us for years to come.

This box, as awesome as it was, is technically responsible for Kinectimals.

Sony was already toying with the idea of motion control with the PS2 Eye Toy and the PlayStation 3 sixaxis controller, but neither really took off. They were cool ideas for idie developers to tinker with, but ultimately they just never worked to enhance the way we play games, they simply offered us a novelty. You simply won't get the same enjoyment out of Kingdom Hearts if the game required you to jump around and wave a stick through the air to play the game.

The reason controllers work as well as they do is because they allow for kinesthetic projection. The controller doesn't act as a way for us to control the characters on screen, the controls allow us to become the characters on screen. It's kinda like a car. They're designed so that humans can easily use them and because of that design we are able to become the vehicle in our minds. The ability to use tools as an extension of ourselves is part of what makes us human. When we're driving our cars we don't think, "I'm going to turn the steering wheel which will allow the car to turn in that direction," we think, "I'm going that way." The same is true for controller inputs. We don't think, "I'm going to press A and make my avatar jump," we think, "I'm going to jump." Without that inherently human connection between the mind and the tool, we ultimately end up with a control input that's awkward and inhuman. 

As impressive as Kinect 2.0 is, it's still the uncanny valley of controllers.

What's awkward about motion controls with Wii or PS Move and even voice controls with the Kinect is that we no longer have that conscious disconnect between input and experience. If we give a voice command, we are consciously wondering wether or not the input will pick it up correctly and the game becomes more about using the controller than about playing the game. Even with our current innovations with controllers, we still fall back to the controller. The controller works and we shouldn't be looking to replace it. We should be looking to enhance what we already have and what already works perfectly.

Kinect 2.0 aside, I think Microsoft has the right idea with their controller.
They fixed all the problems and enhanced the mechanics behind what already worked.

Am I saying that motion control will never be a viable way to play games? Well, perhaps not. The technology still has a long way to go, but we'll never advance that technology unless we invest in trying what we can. Though the Kinect and PS move may not be reliable now, I wouldn't be surprised to see technology improve enough in the future that they become good alternatives. The thing is, buttons have been around forever, so they're pretty reliable. Motion controls however, have not. Perhaps one day motion controls will be as reliable as buttons and if computer processing capabilities increase in the way they are expected to, it might even happen soon but until then, the controller will remain my input of choice. 

You just can't beat this.

1 comment:

  1. Today, motion controls are the most basic and core requirement that is met by superior precision machines. There are several companies that conform to various control strategy to enable a compensation of the mechanical system in order to achieve exacting and precise positioning techniques.
    In an industrial set-up, when the subject is about the superior performance and accuracy of certain applications and machines, it is highly imperative to have a reliable solution like precision motion control systems to ease the processes.