Motion Controls for Hardcore Games: Exploring the Complexities of Gameplay
By James Farrington (08.03.10)
Since the official unavailing of Microsoft’s ‘Kinect’ and Sony’s ‘Playstation Move’ at this years E3 many gamers, game critics, and game journalists have been questioning the place of motion controls in a hardcore gaming market. Do motion controls have a place in ‘M’ rated hardcore games?
To answer this question one must look at the different experiences classic and motion controls create. Mature hardcore games are often played with classic controls (the use of a controller with buttons and joysticks) as opposed to motion controls. The focus on classic controls in mature hardcore games is due, at least in part, to a focus on creating extraordinary experiences. Motion control games seem to offer “mundane” or “tame” experiences when compared to the extreme action and speed of mature hardcore games. I believe the disparity between the excitement of hardcore games and the seeming simplicity of motion control games is due to how each form of control uses the player’s body. The classic controls that hardcore games use allow for extraordinary actions to occur with ease (such as fighting monsters on alien worlds, exploring post-apocalyptic wastelands, engaging with fantasylands that defy physics, playing and fighting heroes and villains that can do impossible physical actions, etc.). Hardcore games create sensational experiences by limiting and reducing the ordinariness of the player, which I believe is the reduction and limiting of the player’s body to finger motions (button presses). Motion controls, by being tied to the physical body of the player are necessarily tied to the “ordinariness” of the player and thus have great difficulty in creating the extraordinary/extreme experiences that hardcore games offer.
However, have hardcore games become too focused on creating extraordinary experiences? Does “the ordinary” have a place in hardcore games? I believe there is a potential for motion controls to add a level of social awareness and complexity of gameplay to ‘M’ rated games by engaging with the complexity of everyday experiences. I am not arguing that games focused on “the extraordinary” are necessarily simplistic or socially insignificant. Rather I am arguing that the inclusion of motion controls as a representation of everyday experiences can add to the social significance and complex gameplay of mature games. In order to explore the potential of motion controls in mature games one must engage with the distinction between “ordinary/everyday experiences” (motion controls) and “extraordinary experiences” (classic controls).
The Myth of “the Everyday”
That which is deemed “ordinary/everyday” determines that which is considered “extraordinary.” Extraordinariness is simply that which exceeds the ordinary. For example, too much of “the ordinary” (such as eating excessive amounts of food) is “extra-ordinary.” As well, actions and experiences that have no real connection to one’s idea of “normal” or “everyday” are also extra-ordinary or “outside” the boundaries of what one might consider ordinary. For example, in Southwestern Ontario, terrible terrorist attacks and power outages that last for days are all extra-ordinary experiences outside Southwestern Ontario’s social construction of “the ordinary.” However, I believe this definition of the extraordinary as that which exceeds the ordinary is based on an inaccurate definition of “everyday/ordinary.”
Everyday experiences are often deemed mundane, simplistic, or uninteresting. Theorist Barry Sandywell in “The Myth of Everyday Life” argues that ordinary experiences are often viewed as a part of a holistic system common to all people of a given society (163). Sandywell argues it is a myth that “the everyday” is similar for all people. He claims that “everyday experiences” are extremely diverse with a multitude of specific experiences not shared by everyone and this multitude of “everyday experiences” exposes unique ways people critically engage with their world (173). Sandywell’s assessment of everyday life opens “the everyday” to critical engagement and social importance. Furthermore, the uniqueness of everyday experiences Sandywell argues for offers a chance for an artistic exploration of the complexity of everyday life. I think videogames (specifically motion controls) can offer an artistic exploration of the complexity of everyday life through unique forms of gameplay. Unfortunately I also see the videogames industry perpetuating (though not necessarily intentionally) the myth that everyday experiences are mundane and uninteresting. This “myth of everyday life” is perpetuated by videogames because videogames largely ignore the complexity of differing everyday experiences by either reducing such experiences to points based mini games or by oversimplifying the world through extraordinary circumstances.