Remember when the Powerglove was supposed to be revolutionary? A kids imagination running wild with fantasies about moving Link or Mario around with just a flick of the wrist , an attack with a finger twitch, and a jump with a twist it. But this was still not as intuitive partly because the Powerglove was an elephant’s turd, but also because the games weren’t built for controls other than the native controller. This is also why the gimmicks of the Wii and all of its peripherals seemed like gimmicks, because they felt like after-thoughts to the game instead of being involved in the initial inspiration of the game.
Arcade games had a better potential with these kinds of non-directional pad controllers because they had a game in mind where non-d-pad interaction was part of the core design. Light-gun games where you shoot the screen, punching games where you hit a physical pad, dancing games where you mash buttons on the floor. Having the space for peripherals outside of the d-pad helped inspire completely different genres of games or, at the very least, re-interpret the genre in a different way to help spawn different types of games.
I don’t mean to say that gaming has stagnated as far as progressing genres, but with current game design paradigms, there are only a handful of controller types available which limit the way you can play these games, therefore limiting the ways that you can design for these games. Keyboard/mouse, controller, Wii-mote and touchpad. The Wii-mote was probably the last big new controller type to change the way games are designed, but because of multi-platform support, there are only a handful of games to ever utilize the Wii-mote to where it feels like a second-nature tool instead of a tacked on after-thought. The Kinect and Eye-Toy has some notoriety because it does implement a different type of play style, but the same problem as the Wii occurs with multi-platform support. It seems like only first party games can only utilize and promote new controller types but these are only a handful per generation, making the controller once-again feel like a gimmick. Even the WiiU-Touchpad has only a handful of games where the touchscreen is useful in a competent way.
What got me thinking about this was the Oculus and the way people are trying to reconsider the uses of a VR device with 360-degree head tracking. People aren’t just coming up with play and look around through the Oculus. Though this method is a fun experience for many games, it doesn’t completely justify its existence than to make the game feel more immersive. Much like having a racing seat and steering wheel setup occupying half of the living, it does feel more immersive, but it isn’t practical enough to have around the house for the many Gran Turismo copies that you want to play incessantly.
Developers for the Oculus are focusing more on experiences rather than gaming, where you play in a shark-tank and watch in perceived terror as a few Great Whites pummel you cage trying to rip your juicy bits from your firm bit; where you walk around as a baby in a home but with the same height and depth perception to where every normal object feels enormous to your perspective; where you walk on a plank across two skyscrapers and every bird in greater Florida area is trying to knock you off, but looking down to re-stabilize yourself just adds to the fear of being four-hundred-thousand miles in the sky (at least that what it feels like since falling form anything higher than 100 feet generally means height becomes irrelevant)
I guess the point of writing this is that to keep evolving the space of games, in the types of games that are created, the types of interaction-designs that we think about, and the types of experiences that we want gamers to have, we sometimes need to put the controller down and think of a different way of interacting in our game, first.