Motion Controls?

Are motion controls going to be standard additions to the future of game design...or are they fads like Smell-a-vision, Garbage Pail Kids and knee-high Converse Chuck Taylors?

July 24, 2011

Motion controls?

It's been a while since my last post. I could blame it on the "summer-itis" I chide as a reason the students don't show up to class like they do in the winter. I could also say it is because I've been hard at work creating a game with the game club. Or I could also say I've been working on building my create-a-class armory in MW2... all would be true, but the REAL reason is just pure laziness.

And when I think of laziness a few things come to mind. Letting dishes pile up because I'm too lazy to simply load them into the dishwasher. Letting the car reach empty when I have funds to fuel it simply because I don't want to get out of the car. And the idea of controlling a video game by waving my hands around instead of just pressing buttons. But is that laziness - or innovation?

Sure motion controls have been a round for a while, but do they have the longevity to be the "next wave" or are they going to be like the 3D technology has been for the last 40 years? (oh and the thought of 3D being the new "hit" is a whole other topic for another post. With the release of the Wii and it's innovative wireless motion-based controller in '06, it paved the way for the new breed of gaming style. As the years passed, the Move and the Kinect caught up and the appearance of the "get up and off of your duff" style of gaming to seemed to hit the public full force. But does this style of control for the Next Next generation of consoles and games (Vita, Wii U 720...) have the longevity to keep gamers intrigued?

I'm more of a traditionalist so to me gaming means holding a controller and pressing buttons. That's how I've done it since I was a child with the joystick and button on the Atari 2600. Maybe it goes back to the "too lazy" idea I opened with... but I just don't have the energy or stamina to bounce, run, jump and dodge all around my living room to enjoy a game. I've played all three of the big-wigs, and I own two of them. I don't own an XBox, but I will say the Kinect looks impressive; Especially with the new titles announced @ E3 with Kinect support. As cool as the features look, I can't imagine them taking over where the controller can do the same function... sometimes easier. I simply do not see the "motion control" system taking over where the controller was placed on pause.

As I said before... I'm a traditionalist in that I like to hold the controller. I like the idea of the Kinect sensing my motions. I see how it adds new games to the library of a console. Imagine playing a game like Dance Central without the Kinect? Won't happen. The game itself could not exist without the motion sensor bar. But how about the Move's Sports Champions? Until the release of that game (and it's distant kin titles from the Wii and Kinect) I couldn't imagine an ping pong or tennis type of game on a console. Imagine if the Atari had a tennis game? Huh? It did... oh yeah, that's right... it was fun! Ping pong as a video game before motion controls? Yup. more than 40 years ago. likely before programmers in the motion control arena even graduated high school. Hell, they probably owned one of the Atari or Sears home gaming systems.

In closing... I don't want you to think that my opinion is negative against the motion controls. They have their place and certainly can add to the realism of a game. I love frisbee golf on the PS3's Sports Champions. It brings me back a handful of years to the courses I used to play in the Arizona desert with my roomate. Good times. Good fun. I still send that damn disk awry with a wrong angle of my wrist today at home in front of my tube... the same way I did on the course with Travis. I like the feel of the shoulder soreness after a match... albeit from a controller and not a disk, but it is still the same "I got a work out today" burn that I liked in Mesa and Scottsdale. What I am afraid of though (and I'm not alone it seems) is the idea of FORCING motion controls into a game where they may not be necessary. I don't need to change out my weapons in Ghost Recon by opening and closing my arms. That's just a gimmick to sell the Kinect and be able to use it for the new game. I do need motion sensing controls for a title like Dance Central or Sports Champion, but I don't need it for a Zelda title. Like I really want to swing my arm around the room for 20+ hours of gaming. I'd rather sit on my couch and press buttons and be lazy.


Chad is an Adjunct Faculty member teaching video game design in Boston, MA. His school web site is He can be reached for comment there.

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