Montageman: A dude who writes

February 12, 2007

Controllers, Control, & Interactivity (Part 1)

Filed under: console, controllers, videogames — montageman @ 4:09 am

Jeff Han’s presentation got me thinking about games. I agree with his assertion that we should move away from the restrictions of the keyboard and other physical devices. The interface needs to be changed. When he’s moving the images around on screen, thoughts of Minority Report (Spielberg, 2002) come to mind, but even more than that – playing the Wii came to mind.

Very rarely, if at all, in videogame schloarship is there any talk of the appartus. I would argue this is because not much has changed since Pong hit the streets so many years ago. Sure, there have been alternative methods of control like the Dance Dance Revolution pad, Nintendo Track and Field pad (a.k.a the power pad), or the power glove, but for the for the most part, if a side by side comparsion is done between early arcade games, the first consoles up and through the next generation consoles, most glaringly obvious is that out method of control has not changed much. Nintendo is the one company that has begun to change that, but we will return to that momentarily.

atari controllerTake, for example, the Atari 2600 controller (pictured left) – a seemingly simple device, a joystick and one button. In contrast, the Xbox controller (pictured right), more complex, right? Visually, yes – more buttons, more control pads, etc. However, the essential function of both is the same – to give the gamer the ability to control the onscreen avatar throughout the apparatus (console). Both controllers are physically connected to the console, which then physically connects the gamer to the console. The hardware then becomes an extension of the player. Even prior to consoles and arcade games, games like the one pictured left (c. 1924) allowed players to control a series of players with a joystick or some similar type of lever. Interactivity has always been an issue. Videogames bring interactivity to a level of mirroring. It follows that if a player is to become affectively interested in a game and its characters the game must respond attentively to the player’s commands.

Part of the enjoyment of gaming deals with, as I’ve mentioned previously, the ability to control someone or something normally considered not controllable. While the control given the gamer is within very strict constraints, the responsiveness of the controller is paralleled by no other activity.

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