gamesVSlife: In the defense of things that go “click”

Because buttons are a pressing matter.

Buttons are awesome. Attach a developer’s creativity to a lump of plastic and a bit of silicon and we have the power to do almost anything. We can make those unfathomable leaps, we can go toe-to-toe with the fiercest of foes – we can be somebody else, somewhere else. Yeah, those small pieces of plastic are truly incredible things.

And so to describe controllers – or anything with buttons, really – as a barrier is a bit absurd. I’d argue that buttons are an enabler – they empower us beyond our wildest dreams. If I had to choose between the two, motion controls would be out the window faster than a pretend serial killer in particularly ridiculous story. They chain us to our physical limitations: we can’t double jump; we can’t wield oversized swords – and we can’t really do much of anything beyond the realm of the button.

That’s the thing – motion controls contradict the inherent pleasure of video games. That need to escape to another world and do things that my body could only dream of. Put me in front of an experience that’s inherently tied to what my body can actually do, and it’s reduced to well, relatively little.

So, to interact with an experience not-so-seperated from reality is usually mundane. If I can control the protagnist’s move set with my own body, then the chances are that it probably isn’t worth doing. And if my movements are merely commands to trigger the on-screen action, as opposed to the tracking and mimicking of my movement, then I’d ask “What’s the point?”.

That’s not to say that motion control has no place, though. It’s to say that they aren’t an all-encompassing solution. Resident Evil and Silent Hill are experiences defined by human limitations in bizarre and terrifying situations. To overcome these obstacles despite such limitations can be incredibly rewarding.

Buttons, though, let me escape “me”. Children tap into their imaginations to pretend they’re defeating an evil wizard or saving a member of royalty in distress. Video games are simply an expansion of that imagination, and buttons are the most efficient and effective way of joining the two.

But there’s certainly no denying that buttons can be tricky. With a myriad of things that go “click” on any given controller, it’s not difficult to see why the interface might turn some away. Software, and not a radical and limiting shift in hardware, is the answer. Developers don’t have to create tutorials with the assumption that their audience is a gaming know-it-all.

They shouldn’t be afraid to include live-action demonstrations on how to use a controller. Make them optional, of course – but don’t be afraid to accommodate the newest of the newcomers.

In short, I don’t want to see the controller or the keyboard sacrificed in the name of “accessibility”. I want to see more would-be gamers pick up the controller, to become empowered like I am every time I traverse the rooftops of Venice or pilot a Warthog.

And I certainly don’t want motion controls shoehorned into an experience for the sake of novelty or gimmickry – yeah, that really pushes my buttons.

gamesVSlife is a weekly column dedicated to video games, life, and how games relate to life. Feel free to leave your comments and stories below.

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