Motion Control Can Be The Future

By Adam Ma on July 16, 2011, 3:09PM EDT
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Watching motion controlled gaming make a slow rise to power has been an interesting struggle, particularly when viewed from afar. The rise of the Wii, innovations using the Sixaxis controller, and the general explosion of cheap shovelware titles have all led up to this moment in history where motion controlled gaming is being used to rehabilitate children in hospitals and guide unmanned robotics further into the future. So where should a gamer who has never remotely been interested in motion gaming begin, and what's worth looking into these days? It all depends on what you're into now, and what kind of investment you choose to make while this new technology is still developing. For some it's a waste of time, but if you've ever been interested in seeing what the technology is all about, now may be a good time to invest. There's plenty on the horizon for just about every type of gamer, and not all of it is bad. Some of it is downright amazing.

We'll start off with the Wii, which can be seen as both the forerunner of sensor-based gaming and at the same time an absolute abomination to the industry. It's pretty well known that anything outside of a first party title on a Nintendo console has a high chance of being an incredibly weak experience, and games on the Wii tend to suffer more than most due to its unique control setup. These days the Wii lineup has seemed to slow down from a crawl to a slow drag, and many of the major release titles are difficult to follow due to Nintendo's release habits. There isn't really a household out there that hasn't had some experience with the system, and frankly most of those who ever wanted to own one already made that purchase. As for the few of us who really haven't decided if they want to invest in the thing, peripherals like the Wii-U are definitely something to consider.

What exactly the Wii-U will provide gamers has, up until this point, been only vaguely hinted at, but you'll be a fool to write off the device as absolutely useless. Even assuming the absolute worst with the peripheral (such as only one being usable per Wii, or an incredibly terrible price point), it's easy to see how the single player benefits could severely outweigh the negatives. While competitors are attempting to find a way to make motion-control more accurate and less controller dependent, Nintendo is searching for new ways to integrate the controller into the experience, and frankly the idea of playing an Aliens game where I get an extra screen to view from what direction xenomorphs plan to decimate me is pretty appealing. There's a good chance that this extra screen won't do much aside from offer a nice HUD and some bonus info, sure, but on the same page it's hard not to see the potential in the device.

Playstation's Move on the other hand, is a system that really hasn't gotten enough attention as it deserves. A pretty weak release lineup followed by some equally disappointing marketing moves meant that the Move was mostly ignored by customers and retailers alike. Except for when it comes to FPS games. The thought may take some getting used to, but from first-hand experience I've come to appreciate and respect the amount of fun that can be had with the Sharpshooter, Sony's first major Move attachment that converts the two 'wands' into a a deadly piece of plastic weaponry. Well, not deadly to anyone outside of a game per se, but definitely deadly in it.

I highly encourage anyone who has ever been a fan of a first person shooter, particularly on a console (and obviously a Playstation) to give the Sharpshooter a chance. Not because you're guaranteed to like it, or because it will convert you into some sort of motion-sensing shooter badass, but because it represents a very clear future of gaming. Yes, it can have a few accuracy issues now and again. Sure, playing online can take a lot of getting used to. No, it's not a device that can simply be picked up and jumped right into. Using the Sharpshooter takes a little bit of time and adjustment, and finding the right settings that feel really comfortable when it comes to moving, aiming, and cycling through weapons will take some time. But those who have the patience to adapt to the attachment's learning curve may just see what all the fuss is about; the Sharpshooter provides a unique experience that the Wii has time and again failed to deliver across any of it's FPS titles and that the Kinect cannot hope to win against on a competitive level.

From boxing to the sword fighting I personally felt that the Move had very little to offer until the Sharpshooter came along, and without the device I'm not entirely sure what to suggest from Move's library that would make the purchase worth it. Perhaps it's taken the device to really define where Sony should be pushing their brand of motion controls, as from what I understand player feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Either way, as a motion control pessimist I find that it's been the Sharpshooter that has not only gained my attention, but kept it firmly locked on the Move as being a very serious contender when it comes to pushing the future of motion controls not simply online, but offline as well.

Despite Kinect's triumphs in just about every single medical field that centralizes around rehabilitation, or it's multiple uses for robotics, or it's pretty intense sales in the field of dancing, I've personally found it hard to pay attention to the device. Anyone who has a hard time imaging themselves having fun waving a plastic stick in front of a screen is going to find it equally difficult to want to wave their arms in front of the screen for an hour or so. In fact, for as well as Kinect has sold the entire game lineup has reeked of the very same shovelware that the Wii has been attempting to sell me for years now. Games where I jump a lot while pretending to be on a raft, or demos where children fist-bump after 'flying' like Peter Pan hardly endear me to any electronic device. But amidst a wave of garbage there are always going to be some gems, and though I remain speculative as to how many gems will show up in this years tide of Kinect titles there are a few things that keep me hopeful.

I'll start off by admitting that while the Wii and Move have made their mistakes, they also seem to have the clearest heading when it comes to motion control and how they would like the approach the industry. One is searching out casual gamers while at the same way trying to find new ways to present existing game concepts in an entirely different light, while the other is attempting to hone and refine an unexpected hit while expanding on original intentions. Investing in them at least means you'll know where you're going, even if you've never paid attention to either device until this very article it's clear to see where the two may be headed. This is where the Kinect loses me, it's impossible to know where to begin.

On one hand you have the more media dominant games like Kinect Sports, and licensed games like Disneyland Adventures or  Star Wars which are clearly designed to draw in young gullible gamers. These are the kinds of titles which are unavoidable on a popular console, but really unfortunate nonetheless because they represent all of the shortcuts that have made motion controls such a pest in the past. Then you spend an evening or two enjoying a title like Child of Eden and you realize that there's a lot of potential in the Kinect that's simply yet to be realized. Having no controller makes things difficult to be sure, but that very same crutch can be a massive advantage when you design a game with Kinect's unique demands in mind.

A fantastic example of this is Once Upon A Monster, a children's game for the Kinect which looks to be a lot of fun despite it's extremely clear franchise link. Knowing that you can invest in a console and draw from it a particular sort of experience is something that we all value as gamers, and though all three of the major players have seemingly struggled with that goal this generation it would appear that at the very least they've begun to understand what they need to do when it comes to their peripherals. If the Wii is for casual gamers, Nintendo fans and general children and the Move is for the more hardcore FPS crowd then the Kinect can be considered a social experiment. Almost every single game on the console calls on playing as a group, or sharing the experience as part of the fun, and while the more gimmicky titles will only serve to make you feel stupid, the better thought out ones actually are a lot of fun. Of the three it has the longest way to go to prove that it deserves a permanent spot in any household, but it also provides the most memorable experiences.

Console fanboys have most likely already made their choice, and the super rich really have nothing to fear from trying out all three of the services as they develop, but for those who are on the fence about the subject of motion controls, take heart, there's quite a bit to look forward to on all three systems, and by the end of the year there will no doubt be more to take in on the subject. From the looks of things so far each of the three major players have a clear goal in mind which help us put both a personal value on what they're trying to accomplish and to better understand what decent 'content' for this new generation of gaming really is. At the very least, it's better than how we started off this craze to begin with.

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