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Video Games

February 9, 2008

I’m not really into video games. I’ve played the original Halo once and thought it was pretty cool, and I’ve played the Wii a few times as well. These are well designed systems/games that immerse the player in worlds beyond our own, which I love. However, there’s one big thing holding me back: The connection between what you want your character on the screen to do and the multitude of buttons on the controller.

Experienced players don’t have a problem making that connection. In their minds, clicking the A button means jump, B kick, and so on. But that seems like an extra step to me, and it’s a step that prevent a player from being truly immersed in a new world. The Wii took a huge step toward closing the gap, but you’re still limited to using controller to indicate your on-screen actions. My question is: When will video game makers create controllers that we strap on to our hands that let us be the on-screen character? When you want to throw a punch, you actually punch. When you want to create a fireball and hurl it at an enemy spider-monkey, you make the motions with your hands and hurl it. When will this be possible?

I was just reading the other day about a new Star Wars video game coming out this summer that will redefine gaming artificial intelligence and physics. If you push a storm trooper off a building, he’ll hang on by his fingertips, and if his strength allows, he’ll pull himself back up onto the ledge. If you throw a brick through a window, the ensuing crash will be very different than if you throw a chair through the window or a person. And most of all, you’ll have free reign of the Force, meaning if you’re strong enough, you can pick up or move anything with the Force, and it will react as if you were actually picking it up and crushing it.

I was reading this, and I have to admit, I was getting pretty excited about it. I love the original Star Wars trilogy, and the prospect of being able to enter that world is pretty cool. However, the gap in the connection between the controller and the on-screen character is still there. If you want to pick up a robot with the Force, I’m sure you have to click a combination of buttons, and then you have to click a different combination to toss the robot around. To me, that’s not full immersion. Why not let the player use his actual hands and body to do that stuff? When will that be possible.

Until that day, I’ll just watch Episode V and watch Yoda use the Force.

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