4 Downsides to Motion Control Gaming That Need To Be AddressedBy Luis Prada
Motion control gaming is the future! Or so we’re being told by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. The truth is, motion control, for as fancy and Minority Report-y as it is, is still in its infancy. There are a lot of bugs to work out and kinks that need to be smoothed. While the Nintendo Wii has been tearing up the console sales charts, the implementation of the hardware hasn’t been as revolutionary as its once mysterious codename alluded so many years ago. And while Microsoft’s off-puttingly named Kinect and Sony’s Wii-ish Move are hoping to offer us everything we’ve been hoping motion control would be, so far nothing has blown any minds.
This is probably due to the limitations that are inherent within motion control gaming, which is a bit strange seeing as motion control was supposed to free us of all the limitations of those dastardly controllers with their antiquated stiff, plastic buttons that our grandparents once used to dial phones and turn on blenders. If the big three console makers want to convince us that motion control gaming is the glorious future they are telling us we’re already living in, then they’re going to have to address some of its biggest drawbacks, most of which involve asking gamers to accept certain things that gamers – specifically, hardcore gamers –have historically been known to shy away from.
Influx of Party Games
All gaming nerds love a good party game. I myself have been to more than I can count. For a gamer and his gaming buddies, there’s almost nothing better than gathering with a bunch of friends, buying a bunch of beer and pizza, and playing Rock Band, or Smash Bros. for hours on end until everyone has passed out. It’s for this reason that party games are as popular as they are nowadays – especially on the Wii, where party games are pretty much all you’ve got to choose from after you’ve played your way through Zelda and the Metroid games.
This kind of scenario is indicative of what we’ve seen from motion control gaming thus far: too many games that want to get the whole family and all of your friends involved, but leave you bored when you play them alone. This is the hurdle that Nintendo has yet to successfully leap over without sandwiching its junk between themselves and the hurdle – it’s a system that seems as though it’s only designed for party games, sacrificing the hardcore games that hardcore gamers want. This is also indicative of what little we’ve seen from the Kinect and Move. Hardcore gamers don’t want to have to deal with game after game filled with cutesy-wootsy characters, almost zero story, and game play as deep and richly rewarding as an episode of Jersey Shore. Too bad that’s all we’ve been given and have seen thus far.
As mentioned earlier, the ending of limitations is actually a limitation in and of itself. Or rather, by getting rid of one limitation, you are replacing it with a newer, more future-y one. To help you better understand these last couple of semi-confusing sentences, let me put it this way: when you’re playing, say, Uncharted 2, to toss a grenade all that is required of you is a push of the L2 shoulder button, a quick aim, and a release of L2. It’s a simple, easily repeatable action that you can perform most of the time, unless your finger slips or something like that. Now, how would this work on the Kinect? You reach back and pull out a grenade — but you’re under fire, things are getting crazy, and you’re in a bit of a panic. How will the Kinect recognize your version of a unique hand motion? Everyone will have their own way of reaching back and pulling out a grenade, but can a developer create a system of movement recognition that compensates for the different ways we all do the same things?
As the Wii has proven, this can be done well enough when it comes to common moves, but when something more complex is involved (like a spinning sward attack in Zelda) the Wii-mote has a harder time picking up the subtleties involved in waving your hand like a maniac, because we all manically wave in slightly different ways – and that’s with a controller! Imagine the confusion a Kinetic might have.
In essence, when we play future motion controlled games, we are expecting the device to understand us as individuals. It needs to understand how you or I move and what makes our body movement different from anyone else’s. I’m very optimistic that these systems will be able to do something to that affect at some point, but there’s a good chance that at some point right after that these systems will become sentient and kill us all…and they’ll have learned exactly how we move and they’ll know what it looks like when we reach for a gun.
Hardcore Endurance Test
So if you want your motion control system to be a true success (read: not just a financial one), you’re going to need to give hardcore gamers, the people that are willing to pour 20+ hours in to a game, an experience that’s worth the time. Another thing you’re going to have to convince them that the experience is even worth it at all. To understand what I mean, fire up your copy of Red Dead Redemption and check your stats. How far did you walk? Probably a lot. With a Kinect, you probably would have had to walk all that while standing in your living room, working up a sweat. We haven’t been told how a game that isn’t on rails will function, so we’re all left to assume that if you want to walk to the other side of town, you’re gonna have to hoof it all the way there.
But that’s just me signaling out the Kinect – let’s try the Move. God of War 3 is easily one of the best gaming experiences on the PS3, and it’s a title that the hardcore fanboys adore. But if in this grand sci-fi future where motion control gaming rules all, will we really have to swing our arms around for more than 10 hours as we kill every last living thing in the Greek pantheon? The games hardcore gamers like typically require a bit more work than an E for everyone game that can be played with Granny and your technologically disabled mom. There are strings of moves that need to be remembered and fast reflexives are a definite must; and we’ve all had a moment when smashing the same button for a few hours has gotten tiresome, so what happens when this is expanded to a series of repetitive full body motions that span the course of many hours? A whole lot of tired gamers that probably don’t want to pick that game up again.
So either games get a lot shorter, required actions become over simplified, or gamers realize the error of their lazy ways and start to appreciate a little sweat and exhaustion when they play.
Yeah, which one do you think isn’t going to happen?
Where Is the Innovation?
Of course, all of this could be avoided and negated if someone, one brilliant designer, comes along and radically alters the way we look at and play motion controlled games.
As of yet, that designer is nowhere to be found. But if motion control is the next big thing like everyone says it will be, then this mysterious game changing game designer had better make his or her presence felt, and soon. If not, the fanciful idea of controlling onscreen action with the movement of your body and not just your fingers will go the way of the Virtual Boy.
So far, the leading contenders are Peter Molyneux, a man that hypes his remarkably average games beyond belief, and – well, that’s pretty much it, except for Kudo Tsunoda, but all he’s shown is more party games.
The point is, the big three are hailing motion control as the second coming but they don’t really have much to show for it. Sure, the technology is pretty spectacular and it has a lot of potential, but if you can’t program innovative software that goes hand-in-hand with your innovative hardware, then is the wondrous, game changing hardware very revolutionary and innovative?
It’s only as innovative as we make it, and so far, we haven’t done much with it.