Going Gold

Going Gold: It Just Feels Right

Christian Ward | 26 Aug 2009 17:00
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I had always thought that the hate directed at motion controls stemmed from irrational fanboyism - the usual "It's not on my console and is therefore crap" mentality. Once motion control was something coming to all consoles, I thought, even the self-proclaimed hardcore would be more than happy to change their minds.

But even though motion control is a clear hit with the mass market, the hardcore continue to view it with suspicion. The type of cynicism that gamers have over Natal - and to a lesser extent, the Sony motion controller - is more usually reserved for Italian politicians. Discussions about motion control cause otherwise rational people to froth at the mouth at the mere idea of their games being poisoned with "waggle," or the suggestion their relaxing game time might have the slightest bit of physical work involved (a damning reflection of our lazy-ass society if ever there was one, but I digress).

This thread on the Escapist's own forums is the kind of thing I'm talking about, or the comments section to the last column I wrote on the subject. To read some of these opinions, you would think Microsoft was re-branding their system with an all-new pink color scheme, replacing the TV with a mandatory Virtual Boy interface and renaming it the WonderSwan 2. I knew gamers were cynical, but when we're writing off potentially revolutionary technology over a year before release simply because it's different, it's time to take some deep breaths and calm down.

We cling to our controllers, not realizing how they limit us. Developers' ambitions are already outgrowing what can be comfortably done on a pad with two sticks and 16 buttons, as a finger-warping playthrough of something like the MGS games will show you. Our desire to hold on to what we have reminds me of the days when technology shifted from carts to CDs. And while,sure, there were certain things that we could have done without, like the acceptance of long loading times and the mercifully brief era of overpriced memory cards, is there any doubt that the shift to digital media was the right one?

Just as with that debate, gamers today frame their discussions in terms of what they know right now. They talk about how motion controllers can never be suitable for twitch games like Tekken - and you know what? They're absolutely right. They're right, because those games were designed around the types of controller available on the development platform. Motion controllers could never hope to mimic the type of sensitivity demanded by the very fixed mechanics of something like the fighting genre.

What these gamers either don't realize - or else they realize yet fear - is that motion controllers will not just change the way games are played; in time they will change the very way games themselves are designed. Our current controllers are very good at twitch gaming because that is primarily what the controllers have been designed for. Natal may not be as responsive as a button press if, say, you were to duck your head to take cover - but our thoughts about what games it could create are limited by the types of games available right now. Those games, in turn, are limited by today's interfaces.

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