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Alienated by motion controls

As a Nintendo fan since the NES and brought up entirely on Nintendo controllers, I can't help but feel somewhat alienated by the Wii and this sudden obsession with motion controls. Surely the reason we've been playing video games with buttons for all these years is because they are the perfect way to control video games. Control that Nintendo perfected. Button controls offer unparalleled fun, simplicity, satisfaction, tactility, feedback, reliability, responsiveness, precision, efficiency, convenience and comfort and they work across the board, 100% of the time. Despite what the actors in the Wii commercials tell me, I just don't find shaking, waggling, miming, flailing and gesticulating very fun. Rather I find it really gimmicky, annoying, unresponsive, unreliable, inconsistent, awkward, uncomfortable, slow, cumbersome, tiresome and inane. Surely when it comes to control, subtle, intricate nuances of fingers and thumbs are quicker, easier and more intuitive and than big, slow, clunky arm movements. It amazes me how some toadying fanboys pretend to dismiss traditional controls all of a sudden, how anyone can disrespect everything they've ever loved. How on earth did you become gamers in the first place? I can't be the only one who, when playing Virtual Console games with the GameCube, Classic or Wii Remote (on its side) controllers, remembers how nice it was to be able to just play a game, safe in the knowledge that at no point will I be forced to shake, mime or flail and have to struggle with broken motion control gimmicks. Their controls have a simplicity, exactness and purity that motion controls severely lack. Yet some claim that anyone who doesn't like waggle should "get out while they can". I beg to differ. After all, as Miyamoto himself said, there are "things that are accomplished better with buttons".

Before I continue, I must add that I do totally agree with some aspects of the Wii philosophy. I'm a huge advocate of simplicity and accessibility (and I hate snobbishness and elitism), so I have no problem with the casual approach (I like Wii Play for God's sake). The Wii's desire to strip overly complicated and pretentious modern games back to their bare essentials is something I'm all for. I can also see the benefits of IR pointing for aiming, so when I refer to motion controls I don't necessarily mean the pointing functionality.

It does annoy me, this suggestion that motion controls are fun because they offer ďa more realistic experience". Firstly, I would find Wii games more fun without the tacked on charades. And secondly, ďa realistic experience" isn't and has never been what we play video games for, especially Nintendo games. Why do you want video games to be reality simulators all of a sudden? Video games are entertainment, escapism. Plus, isn't the whole point of intuitive electronic interfaces to reduce motion and effort? Surely in technology terms motion controls are a step backwards, somewhat missing the point of what video games are. As Itagaki said "The reason video games are fun is because you get a big output from a small input. You push a single button and the character does something amazing on screen, but the Wii philosophy is to make input as big a part of the experience itself... The output is reduced... It could potentially be disastrous". Wii Tennis seems to be billed as the ultimate tennis game, but I find other tennis games a lot more fun. If I want to swing my arm as if Iím swinging a real tennis racket, Iíll just play tennis. Using the baseball bat in Wii Baseball with motion controls may be more "realistic" than in Super Smash Bros. with button controls, but I find the latter a lot more fun and satisfying. I want to control games, I donít really want to mime them. And yet I hear things like "Wouldn't it be neat if the next Wave Race was controlled by holding your arms out like in Wii Sports Resort?" No, it would be agonizingly uncomfortable. "Wouldn't it be neat if in the next Zelda you controlled the bow and arrow like in Wii Sports Resort?" No, it would be irritating, awkward, slow, clunky, impractical and intrusive in a Zelda game (though bafflingly that one is happening...) What's next; "To drink your potion, put the controller to your mouth and do a drinking motion"? Don't get bogged down in this gimmicky mentality. I can't believe I'm hearing Nintendo fans now championing realism in video games. Surely Nintendo fans are anti-realism, wanting escapism into Nintendo's bright, vibrant fantasy worlds, stories and characters, not into bland "realistic" simulators.

I also can't understand this claim that motion controls offer more immersion. The most immersive game I've ever played was probably Metroid Prime. A game that drew me into its world so deeply that I remember it almost as if it was an actual adventure that I went on. It did this with its incredible atmosphere, its sense of exploration and discovery and its amazing visuals and sound. That's where immersion comes from, not from gimmicky controls. Some of the motion controls in Metroid Prime 3 are incredibly unimmersive. Like the parts where you had to unlock something by holding your arm out, pushing the Wii Remote towards the screen, turning it and then pulling it back towards you (it's as fun as it sounds...) completely took me out of the game as I was made very much aware that I was just miming with a bit of white plastic in my hand, doing something that felt so obviously and jarringly contrived, tacked on and out of place. Motion controls do not feel natural or seamless in the context of most games. Good controls should be unnoticeable, motion controls can't be. Plus you usually have to perform these irritating gestures numerous times before they actually work because motion controls by their very nature are so inherently vague, ambiguous, erratic, impractical, inconsistent and unreliable, so inherently broken as a control scheme. Motion controls put the focus on actions you're performing outside of the game environment rather than the actions taking place within the game environment, so how can they possibly be immersive?

Another thing that motion controls are intrinsically linked with is exergaming. Now of course, exercise is great and exergaming has just as much right to exist as any other genre. Itís great that such a healthy genre exists. But surely the proliferation of motion controls means exergaming becomes a standard. After all, with Wii Sports and Wii Fit, Nintendo has pretty much sold the Wii, its motion controls and its "lifestyle" with exergaming. As Wii fans always say "The Wii gets you off the couch!" But don't we play video games to relax and unwind on the couch, a blissfully passive experience? After a tiring day's work or school, the couch is where we want to play our games. "The Wii changed the way we play games!" Oh, but I love the way we play games. The cheesy, aspirational lifestyle marketing persists in spreading this sole image of Wii active-gaming. I mean, the standard Wii commercial is basically an aerobics workout video. Apparently it's impossible to play Wii games in a relaxing or comfortable way. You must be standing up, jumping about, shaking, waggling and flailing like a lunatic. It seems to be more about embarrassing yourself than having fun (an image that's particularly galling for gamers who are understandably protective of their hobby). I was relieved however by the Iwata Asks with the Monster Hunter Tri developers, where they discussed the awesome Classic Controller Pro, that playing a big action/adventure game with motion controls would be too tiring and (like in his interview with Sakurai on Super Smash Bros. Brawl) Iwata acknowledged that Wii controls aren't always appropriate.

Sorry, I hate to rant. I know I'm probably applying way too much disastrous thinking. While things will get worse before they get better with all consoles now jumping on the bandwaggle and the imminent motion control (flail your) arms race, maybe the situation is only bad now because motion controls are the new and trendy gimmick/novelty and are hence being so horribly, crudely and needlessly implemented. I don't mind motion controls existing, new ideas should always be welcomed and I have on occasions even enjoyed them (for example, despite my initial fears of sacrilege, the tacked on motion control bits in the fantastic New Super Mario Bros. Wii are surprisingly infrequent and inoffensive), but most of the time theyíve just been an annoying, confused, ridiculous mess. Oh well, I guess Nintendo's next console won't be solely defined by goofy, wacky waggle controls, won't have quite such a relentlessly gimmicky approach and won't have a video game controller quite so awkwardly crowbarred into a TV remote/rattle. It does give me some hope that I was able to use quotes from Miyamoto and Iwata addressing these concerns. After all, they are the most important people in video games and I trust them.
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About Haywiredone of us since 8:45 AM on 06.06.2010