Play Stuff Blog

It's How You Play the Video Game  

How many times have you thrown a fit when you lost a game? And in turn, how many times did a friend or relative remind you that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game that matters? In today’s electronic gaming world, manufacturers are emphasizing this point in new ways. For many gamers, it’s no longer about winning or losing, it’s literally all about how you play.

Three controllers for use with Densha de GO!

Three controllers for use with Densha de GO!

Ever since Nintendo first marketed the trademark orange-and-gray Zapper gun with the game Duck Hunt, we have wanted more personal control over our games. It isn’t enough to push a button on a standard controller to send out a barrage of fire toward an enemy. We want to pull the trigger! In old arcade racing games like Pole Position, we used a steering wheel to swerve around other cars, and soon we demanded the same luxury for our  home consoles. Today, modern console manufacturers produce Fight Sticks, which replicate entire arcade control panels, complete with joysticks and oversized buttons. These controllers, often as big as the entire console they support, are especially popular for fighting games, because winning moves generally require complex button combinations that are much easier to reproduce on an oversized game pad. Some controllers function only with individual games. For example, when playing the popular Japanese simulation game 電車でGO!,  (Densha de GO! or Go by Train!), you can select from any of its three special controllers. My favorite of these replicates the handles and levers found on real electronic trains.

wii sable

Wii Lightsaber

In any discussion about unique game play today, it’s impossible to avoid mentioning the Wii. The revolutionary Wiimote takes everyday gaming to a higher level with its motion-sensitive interface. What makes the Wiimote especially fun to use is its line of special game accessories. If you want to play tennis, you just slide the Wiimote into a plastic tennis racket and swing back and forth just like on the court. The same holds true for baseball bats, golf clubs, boxing mitts, and pistols. Are you playing a Jedi Knight from Star Wars? Insert your Wiimote into a special lightsaber and viola–you’re dueling like a real Jedi! Some modern video-game controllers are disguised so well you don’t even recognize them as controllers. When playing Guitar Hero, do you think of the guitar as a controller or even a video-game interface? I’m betting you simply call it a guitar. The same is true of games like Dance, Dance Revolution, where the dance pad serves as a glorified controller. When I see museum guests moving to the beat of the music on the DDR machine we have on display, I doubt they’re thinking of it as anything other than a dance floor.

This is an exciting time to be a gamer. As game designer Don Daglow discussed in a recent lecture here at ICHEG’s home, both Microsoft and Sony are poised to add their own motion-sensitive controllers to the market, with Project Natal for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation Move for the PS3. These controllers will challenge the current supremacy of the Nintendo Wii in the gaming market, and who knows what the future will bring for additional accessories and add-ons.

As we move forward into the next generation of console controllers, remember, it’s not always winning or losing that counts, or even what games you choose to play. For many of us, it’s all about how we choose to play them.