Friday, 12 August 2011

The Fine Line Between Gaming Godsend and Gimmick

Since I spent most of the week talking about things like motion controls and 3D gaming, I’m guessing that it doesn’t really come as a surprise that the finale for this week deals with whether or not these innovations are ultimately good for games or not.

While I’ve extrapolated that both of these technologies are going to be somewhat pivotal in getting to an experience that is totally immersive, from what I’ve seen this generation, a lot of the applications honestly have me asking if the games could have been done better had they not bothered integrating 3D, doubly so for games that integrate motion controls. There’s no problem with experimenting per se, but when the public is your main guinea pig and source of income the clashes over what they enjoy and what they don’t might end up costing you money, perhaps even your company if you falter bad enough.

Now, I can hear people saying “But Grahf, the Wii has been the most successful console this generation!” and that is a valid point. But when looking at some of the prime factors the motion controls contribute a hell of a lot less to that than the fact that it launched at the lowest price point. The Playstation 3 launch was absolutely disastrous, and the 360, though solid, was nothing ultimately special. So in this case, the fact that the system was the cheapest option meant that it was also the most attractive one. Perhaps the motion controls got some people to buy the system when they wouldn’t have bought a more traditional method of control, but you have to realize that most of the gaming market is well entrenched, and most people already really knew which console (or consoles) they’d be buying from the onset, and would only really consider something different if something utterly blew them away.

So, that aside, I believe that this push to include such features, especially motion controls, might have actually hurt their perspective usefulness in the future. There is no doubt that motion controls can and eventually will be utilized as one of the main methods of controlling games, but at the moment they are a clumsy and often sub-par way of playing a game. The technology needs - or rather, needed - time to catch up with what people ultimately expected of it, rather than being released early to an eagerly awaiting public which is then profoundly disappointed that the fledgling potential doesn’t translate into everything they want and then some. Let’s face it, we’re a finicky bunch, and the first impressions that motion controls seem to have made on most people is that they are underwhelming but cute at best, and a waste of time and vastly inferior to the kinds of control schemes we’ve grown up with at worst.

The latter reaction makes future attempts, even ones with vastly improved technology, that much harder for the already somewhat jaded gaming community to accept. We’d rather have the developers and game companies focusing on how to improve the already existing aspects of games: story, scenarios, artificial intelligence, flexibility through design, and many more factors that while decent in some of the AAA titles could always use more work on all fronts.

I guess what it really boils down to is really something that we’ve all heard or perhaps even thought of before: before trying to introduce new gaming innovations, make sure that the games themselves are worth playing first. And when you do introduce those innovations, make sure that they’ve already gone through a couple of in-house generations to ensure that they can meet or even exceed consumer expectation. It sounds difficult because hell, it probably is, but it’s not bloody impossible. It just means that people - god forbid - actually have to exercise some patience, and this is coming from both sides of the fence. I firmly believe that good things do come to those who wait, and that it doesn’t take much more to turn good into great.

On a final, pretty much completely unrelated note, I have a twitter account that’s mostly gathering dust. Feel free to follow me at http://twitter.com/#!/GrahfGames and prod me to actually post shit that’s 140 characters or less.

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