Taking Control - o_JMan240_o Blog - www.GameInformer.com
Switch Lights

The lights are on

Taking Control

The options gamers are given to customize our experiences today are astounding. We can stream music, watch TV, and open web browsers with our consoles. Choose between 3D and HD display. Download retail products directly or store our saves in the cloud. Heck, there are even games built around the idea of allowing players to choose their own story. All of this choice makes it even more astounding that what lies at the core of the gaming experience, the thing that physically ties consoles into the games themselves, are so often configured in a way that directly contradicts the growing number of options given to those playing the game. 

So my question is: Why exactly can we not customize our inputs?

With each new release, each different game, comes a different set of controls. Sometimes this is out of necessity, we can all agree that Dragon Age isn't going to require the same controller layout as Call of Duty, at other times it is due to some sense of tradition on the part of the developers. That's not to say we haven't seen games with a lot of option; however even in games that present a wealth of different configurations to the player very few, if any, allow the players to create their own on consoles.

In defense of this practice it's very likely that developers would claim that they are leaving the option out so as not to confuse the people playing their games. Is that really a solid counterpoint though? I for one do not believe it is. While maintaining accessibility for a market comprised of a higher percentage of not so technically inclined consumers is, indeed, important... it doesn't mean that the inclusion of this option would hinder that or that the option couldn't be worked in so even those who have no interest in tinkering with their buttons might find it useful in some way. At the same time I'd venture to say that anyone with the know how to access this site is capable of figuring out how to configure their own PS3 or XBox360 controller.

On the PC side of things developers are, in most cases, more than happy to allow customers to alter the key bindings. In fact, the ability to customize controls on PC is so ingrained into that culture that a game in a popular series releasing without out the option to do so would cause an uproar. Again it begs the question as to why exactly this feature is not extended to console gamers. The prevalence of the feature on PC shows that its only hurdle is the developers including it. Why should swapping the functions of buttons on console be an issue?

Now granted, having players messing around with the analog stick input isn't necessarily a good idea when you designed a game around that specific hardware, but there's no reason that the same concept of key binding that PCs work with and the same protocols that keep players from going ahead without assigning a primary function to a key couldn't be applied to your home console just as easily.

There's also no reason to say something like this wouldn't be beneficial. Take for example one instance I came across while considering this topic. I am a pretty big fan of the Battlefield series, enough that I volunteered my time to a community site for the game, and at times I find the game's controller layout on XBox360 gets in the way of playing.

I aspire to play with in-game objectives in mind at all times, and helping out while playing with a group is important to my experience. However, in order to spot enemy players for the rest of my team using any of the game's layouts I must stop moving and use my left thumb to press the Back button. At the same time, when arming an MCOM station, the objective for attacking teams in the game's Rush mode upon which the player is charged with planting and defending an explosive charge, I must remove my thumb from the analog stick used for aiming and press the B button, leaving me vulnerable to anyone who approaches. For me both of these actions seem awkward, so it would follow that the option to switch these two buttons operations around to fit how I would like to play might be beneficial to me.

Take one last thing into consideration. How likely is it that someone who lacks the desire to change their controller layout will find their way to that option and wind up screwing up their own experience in the process of fiddling with it? If the developer informs the players of what they are doing then I'd say it's not likely. With that taken into account it's hard to view the ability to remap buttons on console being confined to the modded controllers of the internet's shady underbelly as anything other than a disservice to the gamers like myself who would enjoy having that option. It's also hard to think of this lack of player choice in an industry that is becoming more and more about customized experiences than anything other than odd.

comments