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Motion Control: Needing to Move (Forward)

When I was a kid I loved fighting games (read: Street Fighter II). My friends and I would pretend we were SFII characters at recess and set up mock-fights. You better believe I was Guile, complete with hair-comb celebration. We had to stop once we got older because the girls were just too attracted to us and it wasn't safe anymore with all of the girls chasing us, what with all the girls and stuff and the attraction. At least that's the way I remember it.

Anyway, the fact is, I wanted to be a Street Fighter (cue Rolling Stone's 'Street Fighting Man'). So when I saw the ad for the 'Activator Ring' for the Sega Genesis, with a kid standing in the Ring in a martial arts stance, my imagination ran wild. I thought of all the cool karate chops and roundhouse kicks I could do with that ring, punishing my enemies with the skills that I didn't possess. Alas, I didn't have a Sega, but a Super Nintendo. So, I never was able to experience the 'Activator Ring', or the utter disappointment that it carried with it. It seems the kids that ended up getting the 'Activator Ring' were destined to use their imaginations just as much as the kids without it. It wasn't exactly as advertised.

So, I stuck with the 'old' way of controlling. "Oh well," I said. "Maybe in the future I can sweep kick Ryu. For now I will just weep and develop carpal tunnel syndrome."

For years I waited and waited for a system or peripheral that would allow me to play a game using just body movements. And then the Wii showed up.

I was introduced to the Wii at my friend's house. Wii Sports was the game of the night, with Wii Bowling taking up 90% of our time. I walked away wide-eyed and envious. Knowing that Nintendo would throw First-Party support behind the Wii, I bought one. Being older and more sensible than the naive child I once was, I wasn't expecting to be able to get all "Kung-Fu pose" with the Wii remote. I wasn't going to duct tape remotes to my feet and start kicking at my television while using the Wii Nunchuk as a, well...nunchuk. But I saw the potential for further "immersion". (Sidenote: It's funny that a major selling point for motion controls is "immersion", because so far, motion controls haven't made me feel any more immersed than traditional controls. I feel just as immersed in Dark Souls as I do playing Dance Central, if not more-so.)

Major point: I enjoy the Wii. There are many games for the Wii that are among my favorite games of the past 5 years. Outside of a few games that were a bit more inventive (Metroid Prime: Corruption, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword), my experience with the Wii's "motion controls" was limited to waggling and slicing, with a little bit of pointing thrown in for good measure. In fact, many of my favorite Wii games really downplayed the motion controls in favor of traditional button pressing. The Wii has made me rethink my childhood dreams for motion control.

"What about the Kinect, Breadloser? Or the Move?"

Please, call me Adam. Breadloser is just my uninventive GI Handle.

"Don't dodge the question, Adam."

Okay, sure. First of all, I haven't played the Move, so I plead ignorance. However, I have played with the Kinect. When done right, it's a blast (despite an ever-so-slight delay). With the right game, I can finally interact in a way that is very similar to what I imagined as a child. The Kinect picks up my every movement. But herein lies a problem.

I can't do a Flash-kick. I can't move as fast as Guile. I'm not a super-human. I can't do all of the things that I want an onscreen character to do, running into a problem that is similar to the issue faced when producers attempt to turn a cartoon or comic into a live-action spectacle. There could easily be a fighting game created to take advantage of current-gen motion controls, however I don't know how fun it would be. I have a feeling the novelty would wear off pretty quickly. 

What does all of this mean to me? And possibly to you?

Well, for one thing it means that traditional controls not only should stick around, but must stick around. There are too many genres of gaming that absolutely require some sort of traditional input to achieve any sort of satisfying playability. I'm going to take a stance and say that motion controls will never be able to fully take over. Nor should they.

Another major point: I like motion controls. Or at least the idea. I've read differing opinions regarding Skyward Sword where some people (Phil Kollar for example) really loved the motion controls, while others absolutely despised them. Many people don't want them to return. At times, I really struggled with them, to be honest. However, I want them to return and the reason I want them to return is because I don't want developers giving up on motion controls, but instead improving them. Even 5 or 6 years into the technology, it is still very new. There is an enormous amount of room to improve. If they are given up on, though, how are they going to improve? There could be a magnificent way to play a game that relies upon things we have yet to discover in relation to motion controls. Why would we throw that away because we are in the infant stages right now (complete with growing pains)?

Video games are all about opening up worlds of possibilities to the average person. I think with a little patience and wisdom, motion controls could lead to very satisfying avenues of gameplay. For now, I will continue to support well-designed and innovative motion control games, in hopes that we will see an improvement over the coming years.

What do you think about motion controls?

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