Motion Control: Reveling in the joy of movement

[Today’s promoted blog is from someone who should be a very familiar face by now: meteorscrap. Unlike a lot of you, he likes motion control, and he’s going to tell you why! A community blog is promoted on our Bloggers Wanted topic every weekday, so if you want to see your own blog on the front page next week, write something about our current topic, eSports. — JRo]

To say that motion controls have experienced a negative backlash from the self-labelled “hardcore” gamer demographic would be an understatement, to say the least. Ever since the debut of the Wii, the self-professed gamers have been decrying the concept of motion controls as the death-knell of gaming as a whole. They have shouted and screamed that the new people brought into the demographic would somehow soil the industry, and that the advent of this so-called “casual” gaming would destroy the games industry as we know it.

For a time, I’m ashamed to admit that I could count myself amongst them. Like a late 19th century peasant seeing an automobile for the first time, I viewed this new thing with a great amount of wary and outright mistrust. I didn’t understand what was wrong with the controller I had, I didn’t understand why I needed to get up and move my body to play a game taking place on a flat screen using polygons to convey the illusion of true movement.

It didn’t help that at the dawn of this radical change in gameplay, the Nintendo Wii, forebear to most of the in-home motion controls, was debuting a year after the Xbox 360 launched and yet was doing so in disgusting, ugly standard-definition. The screenshots I saw on gaming websites at the time made Wii Sports look like a game that better belonged on the PS2 than a next-gen console.

The only reason I picked up a Nintendo Wii was because Twilight Princess, and only then because I didn’t actually own a Gamecube: I figured if I was going to spend full-price on a game, I might as well pick up a console that wasn’t already obsolete. Now, despite the fact the blasted thing looked like crap in screenshots and I couldn’t wrap my head around the ludicrous popularity of the machine, at the time the Nintendo Wii was a bit of a hot commodity.

I knew people who had stood in line for hours to get one. Unlike them, I didn’t have the fortitude or time to stand in the blistering cold to secure myself a console. Also unlike them, however, I had a bit of an in with the manager, so I just asked him to set aside a console and a copy of Twilight Princess and by early December I had both in my hands. To be honest, when I got the system I didn’t even try out Wii Sports. Not until a friend came over and was curious.

She owned a copy of Twilight Princess for her Gamecube, and so she had zero interest in that. So, resigned to an evening of tedium, I put the game in. And to be honest, I was surprised right off the bat. The controls, especially for the time, felt fluid and responsive. Wii Sports bowling quickly became the game we settled on for the night, and I was shocked to find we’d played the game until the early hours of the morning, just bowling over and over again.

From that night on, I was a convert.

See, I quickly discovered two things about motion gaming:

First off, it’s not nearly as fun without someone there with you. To be honest, half of the fun of the titles are that you get to sit there and laugh and joke around with someone. The titles are not Metal Gear, or Final Fantasy. Most motion control games which come to mind are shallow, but enjoyable titles which make up for with fun what they lack in depth. Now, there are people who’d decry this as a bad thing, but I prefer to think of this as an alternate way of enjoying a game instead of a mark of inferiority.

Second, it’s far easier to convince someone who doesn’t game to try a motion-controlled game than it is to hand them a controller. This was true even with the Wii: It was far easier to teach someone that they had to swing the Wiimote like a tennis racket or hold it while they punched to get things done that it was to tell them to use the left side of a strange-looking TV remote to control their character and to use the right side to perform certain actions. I’ve never convinced many girls to try Soul Calibur III or Halo, but getting them to try Wii Jenga or Wii Sports was a snap.

Now, I know that the “hardcore” are decrying this as a destruction of the medium we were raised on, the medium which has been such a large part of our upbringing, but I’ve gotta ask … why? How is this harming the games industry at all? All of our fears that the games we like would be forgotten in a wave of casual titles has proven to be largely unfounded. On Nintendo Wii, we’ve still got great games like Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, we’ve got Twilight Princess, we’ve got Smash Bros Brawl. Despite the fact Sony and Microsoft recently launched their own motion-control add-ons for PS3 and Xbox 360, we’ve got Resistance 3, Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3, and a bunch of other “hardcore” titles (most of which end in 3) coming up in 2011/2012 to satisfy our cravings for the so-called traditional games.

When did we gamers forget that the reason we play video games isn’t because we want to validate some pathological urge to shoot someone in the face or beat them into the ground with an intricate 127-hit combo?

When did we forget that games like DDR and Guitar Hero excited us not just because they were challenging games, but because they offered us new ways of controlling those games that were exciting and fresh, invigorating the industry we hold so dear? When did we forget that light-gun games like Time Crisis or House of the Dead are also precursors to the motion-control market, just marketed differently?

When did we forget that games are about having fun, alone or with friends, and that the way we control the game has nothing to do with the amount of fun we can have with them? Have we grown so insecure about change that we have to cling to our dual-stick controllers with white-knuckled grips, fearful that we’ll somehow lose our gamer-cred if we dare have fun in a way that doesn’t involve them?

When did we forget that the reason our friends don’t play with us is that they don’t like controllers and not that they’re too stupid to comprehend the idea of playing a game?

Call me a casual all you like. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m currently replaying Bayonetta on the highest difficulty, just to see if I can. It won’t change the fact that I’m getting a fight stick for my Xbox 360, just because I feel I need one to keep up. It won’t alter my obsessive drive to get the most kills in a wager match, nor will it prevent me from speed-running Megaman 2 again just because I can.

However I will be inviting my friends over to play Wipeout In The Zone, despite the fact the game isn’t very good. What matters is that motion-controls have brought my friends closer to gaming than they’ve been in over a decade, and anybody who says that the fact they bring friends and family together is a bad thing is either dangerously ignorant or criminally stupid.

Games are meant to be fun, and I’ll take the fun where I can find it. Even if it means flailing about like an idiot with my friends.

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