Nintendo has always been known for providing quality video game systems since 1985 and a plethora of consistently stellar first-party titles such as Super Mario 64 or the many Legend of Zelda titles. Indeed, for the past 26 years Nintendo has been an industry leader and perhaps the friendliest, and most popular, face of gaming.
Somewhere along the line, however, Nintendo seems to have decided that making good games wasn't enough anymore. Oh, wait, that point was November 21, 2004 with the release of the first iteration of Nintendo's portable console, the Nintendo DS. This dual-screened machine came out around three years after what was to be Nintendo's last, shall we say, conventional console, the Game Cube (R.I.P., old buddy), and sought to revolutionize the gaming industry by eschewing graphical improvement and instead focusing on changing the way we play games.
The DS was most definitely a departure and was unlike anything anyone had ever seen; it was the first time multiple screens, one of them touch sensitive, and a stylus pen had been seen on any system—much less a portable console. The DS has since seen several re-releases and started the current trend of Nintendo's experiments with game control. The current Nintendo home console, the Wii (originally called the Revolution; apparently controls weren't enough for Nintendo—they felt the need to make up words too) is almost entirely motion based and has enjoyed immense popularity since its inception in 2006.
I know it seems that I have been singing Nintendo's praises thus far, but, to be candid: I find few things more damaging to the industry in our time than motion controlled gaming. This doesn’t mean that there aren't any good games that have been developed around motion controls—examples like Super Mario Galaxy 1 &2 and Metroid Prime Corruption come to mind—but I would offer them as an exception rather than the rule. Most of the great games for Nintendo's latest consoles have all been first party titles like the ones I just mentioned, with most third party developers choosing to release their products on other consoles for various reasons. Many titles appear on multiple consoles at once, and the Wii's vastly underpowered hardware ensures that its version is going to look like the hung-over imposter of the other two. Furthermore, trying to shoehorn motion controls into a game designed without them is often disastrous.
This brings up what is probably my biggest issue with motion controls: when you design anything around a single feature that doesn't necessarily add to the experience, it's what people like to call a gimmick. I don't remember anyone sending a strongly worded letter to Nintendo that read “Oh, hey, Nintendo—really good stuff by the way. Paper Mario 2 is my SHIT! And, um, it's not that you're not doing great already by any means. I just feel like my gaming experience could be improved by waggling my arms in a motion vaguely similar to swinging a sword. Button presses aren't really doing it for me anymore. You should totally get on that.” If you own a Wii or know someone who does, watch them play a motion controlled game. If they don't illicit either a laugh or a sad, guilty thought of Michael J. Fox (too soon?), then motion gaming may be just what you needed after all.
Let me be clear: I'm not against the idea of motion gaming or alternate control possibilities in and of itself. I am, however, vehemently against motion controls as the main selling point of a title—especially when the technology supersedes a developer's ability to create meaningful content for it. For my money, the role of a controller is to be a transparent device through which player impulse seamlessly results in a desired output in a game. I don't think it's a stretch to say that one of the chief reasons gamers ever notice the controller in their hands is due to what they feel to be a disconnect between impulse and action. This dysfunctional relationship often manifests itself with an exacerbated gamer shouting “WHAT THE FUCK DUDE, I PRESSED A. I TOTALLY PRESSED A. If it weren't for this controller I'd be wrecking you so hard you'd look like the economy.” As of right now, considering the Microsoft Kinect especially (Nintendo isn't solely to blame, but they did make Sony and Microsoft nervous enough to follow suit; wait, no, I do blame Nintendo), motion controls just are not precise or sophisticated enough to avoid such surprisingly topical outbursts from players who just want their games to control with ease and finesse.
To conclude, I don't think the kinds of controllers we know and love today are going away any time soon. Perhaps in a relatively distant future we will see motion/alternate control systems take hold and bring games to a place they couldn't have gone before. Until then, I offer you this thought: We haven't drastically changed the way we read books, watch movies, or view plays, and until developers can produce more meaningful experiences with motion technology, I don't think we need to change the way we game.