Influence and Control

2011 could be the breakout year for video gaming. With Nintendo releasing their Wii Motion Plus peripheral and Microsoft and Sony due to release their motion controllers later this year, things are looking bright for the evolution of game interfaces for interactive media.

Now I know that Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’ Move controllers are due out for the holiday season, but it will take another six to eight months at least for quality titles that fully exploit the capabilities of the hardware as evidenced by the stellar game play of Red Steel 2 and The Conduit on the Wii.

As a lifelong electronic gamer and technophile, I have witnessed the advancements in software from text adventures and midi songs to ultra-realistic graphics and full orchestral scores. Though, in order to enjoy these technical wonders, I have had to use:

  • Joysticks with one, two, four, six, eight or ten buttons;
  • Keyboards, ergonomic and not;
  • Mice
  • Dance pads;
  • Joy pads with one or two joysticks and up to ten buttons;
  • Flight sticks and throttles; and
  • Others best forgotten.

My hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills have never been stellar and I have been sorely challenged by games that interest me but I have struggled with the interface. Remembering lightning fast button presses or using complicated keyboard templates does not help to foster immersion within the experience.

As I have matured and been able to see benefits in video gaming as a tool for learning, parenting, enrichment and skill development, I realize that the game interface is as important, if not more, than any other media content. Which is why I am personally excited about motion controllers and their potential to provide truly immersive experiences.

We interact with video games very simply – through what we see, hear, read, feel and do. These sensory inputs provide great potential for interactive media experiences. I have bought and used many game peripherals that seemed promising but turned out to be “horripherals” or “pooripherals.” I haven’t decided which term to use yet.

There was the baseless flight stick that you extend like a beer bottle twisting and turning until your carpel tunnel kicks in or you spill your beer, whichever is first. And the Sega Activator. And the P5 Virtual Glove that I really didn’t give much of a chance because it wouldn’t fit my girthy fingers. Or the Xbox 360 Max Shooter that I’ve been too lazy to configure to improve my FPS performance online.

With the new generation of motion controllers, I can hardly contain myself. We own a Wii and give it a good workout as a family. The nunchuck cord is too short for my wingspan and I can’t use a wireless nunchuck with the Motion Plus accessory. The sensor bar and Wii speak have to be finely adjusted for maximum response. Even then, the controller creates authenticity when bowling, hitting and throwing baseballs, fishing and a host of other game challenges. Sony’s Move controller with the Wand looks to copy the look and feel of the Wii, capture much of their motion control market while retaining the PS3 faithful.

Ah, the Microsoft Kinect is a beast of a different controller. A motion camera with at least two microphones, this could be the game changer I’ve waited for. Actual movements translated directly into the game for success and improvement of game play. Most importantly, no worn out, broken or chargeless controllers. Woo-hoo!

It is a great time to be a video gamer. As an adult, my media interests have not changed much but now I can pay for my own toys. And I can dream about the future of interactive hardware and software in the hopefully near future. Like a next generation computer/game system with a built-in projector, surround sound system and motion controllers. Within my budget. Now you can wonder what I’ve been smoking.

Sebastion A. Williams

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

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