Why Did Motion Controlled Gaming Fail?

Remember not so long ago, when everyone you knew had a Nintendo Wii? Social gatherings often revolved around those consoles being brought out, and the evening quickly devolving into everyone flailing madly with those somewhat phallic controllers. The phallic comparison made all the worse, I might add, by those slick to the touch rubber protection sheaths.

I remember such evenings well, since a friend of mine got a Nintendo Wii, and insisted on inviting me around for every new game he purchased. They were good times, I won’t lie, but can’t help but be absolutely amazed by how quick it all passed by, and the Nintendo Wii fell into complete obscurity.

I also recall the attempts by both Microsoft and Sony to cash in on the motion controller frenzy, with both bringing out equivalents in hopes of being the preferred choice. The Kinect from Microsoft, and Move from PlayStation. What absolute and total flops they both were. And yes, I have tried out a Kinect system. It was an appalling mess, good for nothing but about an hour of mild novelty entertainment.

Novelty Without Functionality

On paper, motion controllers seem like a good idea. And for a while, I must confess, I thought the industry was headed in that direction. After all; what could be better than immersing yourself into a game with your body, or with controllers that respond to your movement? It would almost seem like you were living the game, becoming a part of it, as opposed to being an observer controlling characters with your hands. Surely motion controllers were the next logical step in game immersion. But they weren’t.

So why then did motion controllers fail so badly? Well, it turns out that having to wave your hand around like you’re trying to chase away a fly did not, in fact, add to immersion, it became an extra and largely unnecessary hurdle between it. Game controllers, or a mouse and keyboard, have become so engrained into the way we play games, that they are virtually an extension of ourselves. That is, assuming that the control of a game is fluid and innovatively done.

Immersion Via Maximum Control

You see, pressing a button on a standard game controller takes minimal effort, to the point that you barely feel like you are doing anything at all. Your finger moves a tiny distance, so much so that the gap between thinking you would like a game character to do something, pressing a button, and that character doing it, is virtually closed.

In other words; being able to control the game fluidly is far more immersive than clumsily controlling the game with a great deal more effort. And, lets be honest, all forms of motion controller are clumsy, even at their best.

But, does this mean that there is no value to motion controllers at all? Are they a complete bust, never to return to the gaming world? I don’t think so. I think that if you refined motion controllers, and combined them with, say, a much more focused perspective of the game world, they might do nicely. A focused perspective like, say, virtual reality.

Motion Controllers Plus Virtual Reality

Now, I’ve played a virtual reality game before, a poker game, and can confirm that it is pretty damn immersive. The feeling of being inserted into a digital casino was all but overwhelming, and I think that this, for lack of a better term, is a new playground for the gaming industry.

In my experience I was using a standard controller with the VR headset, and so still forced to interact with the playing cards and chips via pressing buttons. I did not have the chance to try out motion controllers in conjunction with the VR headset, but can only imagine that being able to reach out and pick up the cards would have helped the immersion, not worked against it.

Total Immersion?

VR is based largely around the user feeling like they are literally inside the game world, seeing and hearing it as if it were a real location. And in this case the addition of using your hands via motion controllers would only add to the illusion. This does, of course, raise all sorts of questions about how far the illusion can be pushed, but I think we really are only scratching the surface in this department.

I still can’t make up my mind about where exactly the VR industry is headed, but can tell you this much; I would very much like to return to the VR world of poker, because I have never before felt so immersed in a digital casino game, and doubt I ever will without a pair of VR goggles. Yes, I still find them eye wateringly expensive, and can only hope the prices will come down drastically in the future. This looks set to happen though, so I’ll keep playing high stakes games in the hope of funding a new pair. Until that time all my online casino games will be mouse based, and how archaic that suddenly feels.

Marc Armstrong - Signature

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