Do Innovative Controllers Stifle Real Innovation In Gaming? Reprise.

Often, as an avid gamer with a lot of opinions, I have to make the decision to let sleeping dogs lie when it comes to editorials on the internet. I will read them, disagree internally, then move on. Sometimes, however, an article will come along that I feel incensed to either reprise or develop its theme further. As a bonus, being a writer myself, I am able to do so without resorting to the typical internet method of simply replying with “no, you’re wrong.” Plus, I was invited to do so.

In this modern age, with all the methods of controlling our games, are these innovations ruining gaming and creativity in the industry? This is a very good possibility (and is a very easy to argue point), or, perhaps, are they the only method in which creativity can now thrive?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the point at which Scott Colby was aiming. The amount of work that is going into making the control systems innovative by the big three could possibly stifle the creativity in other areas. Also, there are a large amount of developers that choose to capitalise on these new controllers by utilising all of the features of these controllers, even to the detriment of the games they are making. Being a Nintendo fan in fact, I have seen more of this “shovelware” than most gamers are likely to.

However, all this being said, I would actually argue that without the innovations that have been brought about by Nintendo (and their imitators), gaming wouldn’t be in the place it is today. The playing field in gaming has been changed; it is no longer solely a solitary and marginalised hobby. It has, in fact, become much more popular with far more varied groups of people. Some people (mostly purists) will disagree with the merits of this fact, but it is an incontrovertible truth that a lot more money than before is being pumped into the industry we all know and love.

Of course, this isn’t the only positive point in the discussion of innovations in controller systems. The biggest plus is almost definitely the games themselves. Sure, a lot of digging is required to find the true gems, but hasn’t this always been the case? Even back to the classic NES days, for every critically acclaimed Super Mario Bros., there was a universally panned Last Action Hero. It has always been the same. The big bonus (or frustration, depending on your opinion on this) for us, as gamers, has always been finding these gems in all the cheap movie conversions and poorly created cash-ins based on popular or trending genres.

The modern era is much of the same thing: for every game like the incredible and clever Wii Sports Resort for the Nintendo Wii, there was an awful cash-in clone like Family Games. It is true that more innovations in the way we play games will mean that more of these cheap and tacky imitations will continue to surface, but I think I would rather just endure and ignore these titles for the genuine genius that comes from these new innovations.

Games will arguably, at certain points in gaming history, feel a little stale compared to how new and fresh they felt years ago. It is at this junction that some developers will start to think outside the box. Although sometimes this doesn’t quite work out (see Ubisoft’s U-Draw tablet), sometimes people latch onto an idea and it becomes huge (see Nintendo’s Wii Balance Board). Do these particular innovations actually count as being beneficial to the gaming industry as a whole? That depends on your standpoint, but the response to these advancements is undeniable.

There is one thing for sure: some incredible games that have been released in the past few years either wouldn’t have been possible, or would have been a lesser experience, without the control systems that have been invented to drive them. Games like the incredible The World Ends With You for the Nintendo DS wouldn’t have been the same without touch screen contols. The criminally underrated Zack and Wiki for the Nintendo Wii wouldn’t exist without the motion-controlled mastery of the Wii Remote. There is also little doubt that first person shooter titles are far easier to control with something you can just point to aim.

Sure, sometimes the motion controls feel a little tacked on with certain games, but whichever way you look at it, those controls change the experience of the title. Sometimes, this new experience is to the detriment of the games, but I would rather the industry innovate and fail than stagnate and either fall apart or keep pumping out terrible generic shooters like Call Of Duty.

To be honest, you are all more than capable of making your own minds up about whether the changes in control methods are stifling or boosting the creativity in the games industry. However, motion and touch controls are seemingly here to stay, especially with PlayStation Vita and Nintendo Wii U both supporting these styles of gameplay. Sure, it will mean a lot of cheap and rubbish titles, but also some genuine pieces of well-constructed and genius software. The best is yet to come.

Reuben is a writer for Zero1Gaming.com, and was very pleased to be offered the chance to write this guest article for D Pad D Bags.

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