Usually, I would wait till Thursday to post a Tech Talk discussion, but since this is pertinent information and a recent development, I figured that before it gets swept under the rug by other media updates. Here’s the issue at hand: controller chaos.
What do I mean by controller chaos?
Well, recently, Mr. Peter Molyneux had some choice words to say about today’s industry and current market controllers in his interview with an online game publication Beefjack. His statement was as follows, and thus where my frustrations begin:
“I am just sick to death of having my hand clamped to this controller – of having to be forced to use my thumb in a certain way, and having my other hand clamped to the other side of the controller, and having games say ‘No, you will do it this way, and if you don’t do it this way then we will punish you’.”
Now while I don’t necessarily agree with him, I don’t want to be reduced to using motion control in any way either. Mr. Molyneux there was a time in my gaming life when I used to look up to you as a designer. I loved [ and still love ] the original Fable, but quite honestly there comes a point in time when I just have to ask:
Why would you want to alienate your consumers by telling them that Kinect is the way to go? You are only doing yourself a disservice by expressing that you hate having games tell you how to play them right? Well then why would you express your verbose opinions of Kinect and next-gen gaming on us as if your opinion is the wave of the future? I’m not try to rant, because I truly look up to you as a designer – but come on man – doesn’t that sound a little bit hypocritical?
If you came out and said something like – I don’t know – this:
” I feel like the current game trend and controllers that are sweeping the market don’t provide nearly the amount of accessibility that we could achieve with games today. That’s why I’m so adamant about making sure the game controller trend changes.”
I would have totally backed that! – but instead you stuck your foot in your mouth and stated an opinion that most core gamers are going to be exceptionally disappointed with. Here’s my whole take on controllers, just so everyone is aware – because I think I’ve talked about this before on my blog already. We’ve discussed the possibility of button remapping, but motion control is a different animal. Motion control is different, because it was originally designed for the casual gaming industry. Nintendo came out with the Nintendo Wii to allow for families to get involved with gaming together instead of separately with visceral experiences.
Here’s the problem: Everyone saw the idea and ran with it. Now there’s too much.
Look I’m an advocate for the controller, but I’m also an advocate for accessibility. This industry is filled with pressure to conform to motion control and controllers that require us to use both hands in order for them to function properly, but what if we can’t move much? – it makes motion control absolutely pointless. Kinect is meant for people to get up and get moving, and sure, I’ve seen videos of players in wheelchairs trying to use Kinect, but that’s not what gamers want either. We want accessibility not conformity.
The controller, in and of itself, hasn’t changed very much. Why break what formula seems to have worked for years right? Well, here’s a video I’d like to share with you from the AbleGamer’s Foundation. Mark Barlet and Steve Spohn have made some amazing strides in getting the word of accessibility in games out there.They express why game accessibility is so important, and they show off a wonderful prototype piece of equipment I talked about in an earlier post, the Arodite Switchblade controller. The controller allows for disabled individuals to remap their button schemes accordingly throughout a game to provide an easier and more accessible play experience.
Instead of focusing on how can we get players more active in games, we should start focusing on how we can get more players to experience our games in the first place. You know what I’m sick to death of folks? – companies cramming this ‘new age’ of gaming down my throat and claiming that ‘motion control‘ is the way to go. It’s not from my perspective [ and many others ] we want great games – not great tech. The tech we have works, we just have to utilize it properly to make games more accessible. Now, hold on, there may be a shining light at the end of the tunnel in this rant and that’s with Nintendo.
Nintendo has been promoting their new Wii U system pretty well at conventions, and I have to say I’m excited to see what this thing can do. If it does what I think it can, it may very well provide a brand new form of gameplay and accessibility to gamers who couldn’t play with traditional control schemes in the past.
Does that mean that I think disabled gamers should be reduced to touch screen gaming?
No. Absolutely not.
There’s something meaningful about button inputs and having the feeling of full control in the palm of your hands, but some folks don’t have the luxury to experience that sensation. This is why I think providing cutting edge technology like the Wii U touchscreen, the voice activation in Kinect, and the Arodite Switchblade are great signs for the gaming industry. We’re learning methods of game design that promote accessibility. The controllers are alright as they are for most gamers. We don’t want to ruffle the feathers of a mass fan-base by any means. I mean look at Sony – their control scheme hasn’t changed in years and they still make bank off sales.
This is point proven in a rant by IGN’s Luke Riley who shared his thoughts on the whole Molyneux/Kinect bit:
My point here is that Molyneux, you may be a ranting gentleman, but some of your points stand. The gaming industry does need to look at how games are played. We need to be more cognizant of the audiences we provide for, but at the same time we should open up venues for the most accessibility possible. If that means new controllers, if that means changes in gameplay, etc. I’m excited for either, but I will say that I want to see a change. There needs to be one, and it’s either going to come in the form of hardware or software. I’d prefer the software first, but that’s just me.