Wednesday, August 12, 2009

EXP Podcast #38: Gamers in Motion

Let's be honest: During our early console gaming days, how many of us would fling our controller upward in a desperate attempt to make Mario jump just a little bit higher? We learned to shed those earnest, yet useless actions, but with the rise of motion controls and quirky peripherals, it seems that those old habits have been revived. This week, inspired by an article from Bob Mackey, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of motion control as it stands today. Although we are less than three years into the mainstream adoption of motion control, the phenomenon has made an impact in game design, player accessibility, and market strategy. As always, feel free to Wii-waggle your way into the conversation with your comments.

Some discussion starters:

- Which games exemplify your favorite forms of motion control and which subject you to your least favorite?
- Are motion controls capable of the kind of complex actions found in button/key-exclusive control schemes, or does motion control necessitate simplicity?
- What will the future of motion control look like? Will motion control become a kind of genre, will it be integrated into traditional games, or is it just a fad?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
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Show notes:

- Run time: 30 min 14 sec
- "Cutting the Cord," by Bob Mackey, via
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. First of all, I would point out that there is no such thing as "natural" way of controls. For example, people like to claim that a mouse is a "natural" way of controlling a pointer. That's not true. Experiments in the 80iues proved that people wouldn't know how instinctively how use a mouse if the weren't introduced to it previously. It would also take quite some time to get used to it. I see it every time when my mother uses the PC.

    And yes, PC controls like in Mechwarrior were very complicated. But were they better because of it? You need to keep in mind that these games were very different in the way they were paced. Also, they had a very different audience than games have nowadays.

    And I don't think it's an issue of the controller. I think increasing the number of way the player can interact with the game will make that game more complicated to learn no matter how the controller looks like. Of course, a better designed controller can make things easier but then that super-complicated controller might not be suitable for games with simpler controls. Generally I enjoy how the Wii has only two buttons. It forces developers to think outisde the box and really prioritize the actions they provide for players. Do I really need that fart button in GTA?

    Motion Control = Less complexity might be true. But keep in mind that you can have complex games with very simple controls. Final Fantasy Tactics for example is a very complex game, yet it requires only a d-pad and two buttons.

    I like your observation that as games we are more likely to figure out unusual controls because we are used to try out things. That's also one thing I noticed. Might be a good reason for exposing kids to games can be a good thing.

    Excellent job as always guys! ^_^

  2. Krystian, EVERY game needs a fart button. ;-)

    That is a good point though: I think it takes a lot of discipline on the part of the developer to know when to contextualize certain actions rather than dedicate and entire button to a single action.

    I think Nintendo has been leading this movement for some time. On the software side, you have control set ups like Zelda Ocarina of time. On the hardware side, you have controllers with buttons of varying sizes, suggesting that some should be used more often, for more actions, or for more important things.