The Atari 2600 joystick. The NES Advantage. The Genesis 6-button controller. PlayStation Dual Analog control. Each of the aforementioned input devices revolutionized control in gaming as we knew it. Microsoft’s “Project Natal” is no different. So, with recent advancements in technology, could we be on the precipice of the physical control scheme’s extinction?
To answer this query, it must first be discerned if the device itself is as great a barrier as we are led to believe. Joypad layouts have become increasingly more complicated over the years- from one button to two, two to three, three to six and so on. Digital pads(or “D-pad” as they are referred) were found to be appropriate input for two-dimensional space. This all changed, however, as gaming hardware transitioned into the third dimension. No longer could eight on/off directional “buttons” serve as the navigation tool in 3D space. Enter the analog stick- not only could directional movement be changed on-the-fly, it could also be changed incrementally. The more the stick was pushed, the faster an on-screen avatar could walk or run. Motion control is just as large a leap, if not more so. Some say it is the next logical step in the evolution of gaming- but is it more than a novelty?
Everyone reading this has that certain relative that falls into one of two categories: the “anti-gamer” or the “closet casual gamer”. How many times have you seen this person move the whole controller in the direction they wish to move? They plainly do not understand the input format. This is in large part due to the fact that tutorials for most games are ambiguous at best to those who alienate themselves from video gaming on a regular basis. For those of us who game constantly, a murky lesson on how to play said game is fine- we adapt easily. The method of input is no more a barrier than any other factor- in fact, learning how to play each game differently may be the highest bar set for consoles today. Developers should be concerned with creative and intuitive approaches of teaching and building on what has been learned and not so much transitioning to biological input devices. Tutorial crafting should be the next sizable leap in the near future. If more attention can be paid in that department, we may still maintain “control” and truly offer something for everyone.