Mid-Week Poll: Do You Even Want Motion Gaming?

Now that everyone’s got their motion tracking peripherals out and ready, there’s still one question that needs to be asked: Do we even want motion gaming in the first place?

It seemed so cool in ‘Robot Jox’, but motion control in general hasn’t lived up to the hype of our imaginations. We picture an environment where our every move is mimicked on the screen – and a game where somehow that works out well. It’s a fascinating idea, but is it really something we want?

It’s simple to see the casual applications of this new tech, but the application for traditional hardcore games is a bit fuzzy. The traditional controller works just fine for everything we’re doing today. I’ve never felt limited while playing ‘Halo’ or wished that I could have made a huge arm movement instead of a quick thumb movement while playing ‘Street Fighter’.

There are potential applications, such as the new ‘Steel Battalion’ (a game that required a complex $150 controller to use on the original Xbox) by From Software, and the ever-present desire for just one good sword fighting game. Still, we have to ask ourselves: Is motion controlled gaming something we actually want?

Do You Even Want Motion Gaming?

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  1. I liked Zelda, and Mario Kart was kinda cool, especially if you used the wheel, but technically, with those, you are still using controllers. And I can’t even play Zelda anymore – my health took a sharp decline since I bought my Wii, and motion gaming just really does me in. I like little things like on the PS3 with the Six Axis controller and stuff like that, but if I have to stand and get physical with a game… Its just too much. Guitar Hero and Rockband are about as physical as I can get at the moment.

  2. Prayformojo

    Shocked by how well the kinect works, but the games still need to be good games, motion by itself does not get the job done. That said dance central and kinect adventures bring some new aspects to motion gaming and the ease of no contoller gives it an approachability not even the wii could achieve.

  3. JoeRo

    There’s really not an option here that represents me in the poll. I’m one of those die-hard controller people. A pair of sticks is all I need, and furthermore all I want. If I’m being entirely honest, even the controller is only a so-so peripheral when you put it up against a mouse and keyboard. The mouse and keyboard are king. That’s where I stand now, and this has been my position since … forever. But I have to say, while I’ve never once wished for motion controls I’ve actually had a good deal of fun on the Wii. I’ve sampled the Move and it’s a pretty badass peripheral; sadly I have yet to get any hands-on time with the Kinect, but I hope to remedy that soon.

    Now that every system out there is competing on an even footing, excepting the Wii’s lack of HD capability, it’ll be interesting where motion controlled gaming development goes. The thing I always liked about the Wii is that the motion control aspect of it is a complete gimmick. There’s nothing wrong with that, a good gimmick can be contribute to a fun experience when implemented well (3d anyone?). But the brilliance of the Wii is that it also allows you to use the standard gamecube controllers, which I maintain are the best designed controllers of all time (but that’s a topic for another column perhaps … wink wink nudge nudge).

    I remember playing SSB:Brawl with some buddies on the Wii when I visited them a few years back. These were guys who were Wii first day purchasers, and hardcore players of the gamecube version. These were the kind of guys that would humble you with Donkey Kong or Bowser when you lucked out in a round and beat them with Star Fox (a character whose speed is his greatest asset). The point I’m making here is that these guys are serious gamers, they know their shit, and they had the skills to back up any boast they might’ve made. We were all excited to sit down and spend a night beating each other senseless in Brawl after not having played together in years. I instantly requested a gamecube controller, and was shocked to see these guys using the nunchuck+wiimote combo. I shrugged, said whatevs, and proceeded to shame those chumps for four hours. It didn’t matter which character I played (Luigi, Ness, Cpt. Falcon, Bowser, you name it), I handily destroyed them.

    What I’m driving at here is that some games are just designed with a traditional controller in mind. Regardless of their familiarity with the Wii’s controller and that particular games gesture based controls (of which there are admittedly few) using a standard controller from a previous generation console was simply an overwhelming advantage. This is the case with many Wii games and will undoubtedly be the case with games that utilize the Kinect and Move.

    My stance on the gesture vs. controller argument is similar to view I hold regarding the old movie adaptation vs. original source material argument. The latter doesn’t erase, change, or supplant the former. They coexist. The real problem for motion controlled gaming, for me at least, comes down to two things; these are space limitations in the home and poorly thought out controls.

    One of the biggest problems with gesture based gaming is that you have to hit a sweet spot with input design. There are some games out there for the Wii in which the motions recognized by the game are so dissimilar from the actual motions needed to execute an action in real life, that the interface gets in the way of the experience (aka counter intuitive). The control scheme becomes a barrier to enjoying the game; this is called dissonance. On the other end of the spectrum are games that require such precision that you are essentially pantomiming the actions occurring on screen. This creates its own kind of dissonance. I vividly remember playing billiards on the Wii for the first time, and I remember even more vividly how frustrating that experience was. In the real world you have a table to stabilize your off hand. Without that physical contact accurately lining up and executing a short is more akin to target practice at a gun range than playing a game of pool.

    The trick to creating a good control scheme that’s intuitive and fun lies in finding gestures that are suggestive of the action occurring on screen. Game designers have to give players gestures that “feel” accurate to them. I’m never going to be a basketball star, or a samurai, or a soldier; as a player I don’t want to have to master the requisite gestures that would allow me to become such. Controls should evoke within the player the feeling of being a samurai, gunslinger, cartoon Italian plumber, or anthropomorphic hedgehog etc. With a traditional controller this is a non issue since for the player the controller essentially disappears or becomes invisible once you’ve been playing long enough.

    Motion gaming is still in its infancy, and there remain quite a few hurdles the genre still has to overcome. But the technology is there, the corporate will and dollars are there, and based on the success of the Wii it’s been firmly established that the demand is there as well. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether or not game developers can capture that elusive middle ground in control design that makes games engaging without straying to far into in either direction of overly simple or overly complicated. Whether or not I want to play motion games is almost irrelevant, because for good or ill this is the direction a good chunk of the gaming industry is heading.

    BTW thanks for the post Dick. I don’t comment on the gaming related posts all that often, but I read every single one. Please keep them coming.

    • Dick Ward

      Hell of a comment there sir!

      I’m a mouse and keyboard kind of guy myself, though my lacking computer relegates me to the Xbox. I’m amazed at your love of the GameCube controller though – for me it was one of the worst! (not as bad as that dreadful tri-banana N64 controller though)

      Still, I think you hit the nail right on the head. Motion gaming is oftentimes more frustrating than using a controller and does little to immerse me further into the experience. As you said, in the hands of most players, the controller disappears, just as the TV set disappears. We don’t pay attention to the means of input and output, just the result.

      I think I’ll always prefer standard controllers over the motion control option, but as with 3D, I’m ready to be convinced.

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