When I started with computer games, you had a paddle with a button. Or a joystick with a button. And it was glorious. We swept through the skies, trundled our tracks upon the ground and raced upon the seas. We fired glowing balls of energy at rainbow walls and sniped at invading aliens who relentless floated towards our bases. The sky wasn’t even the limit.
With those simple controls we were able to wage our wars and fill our memory with what would now be called nostalgia for 8 bit gaming. These games were quick to start, quick to throw aside (unless your score was such that a personal best could be defeated) and everything was in the gameplay. They were casual games even before the term had been invented.
These days, now I have the opportunity to play more games because I carry around a phone with more processing power than the Dreamcast console and much more than the Nintendo Entertainment System or the Atari 2600 (icons of retro gaming both). I have the opportunity because casual games are quick to launch and quick to drop. It occupies the time in a waiting room (which would previously have been occupied only by uncomfortable silences) and makes sitting in a car while the other half pops into a shop a much more pleasant experience.
Apart from the adding of more buttons, game controls didn’t change that much. They did add force-feedback to game controllers in order to provide some sort of haptic feedback to gamers – and yes, in most cases it enhances the gameplay by involving more senses. But the model stayed the same – buttons, a joystick/D-pad and it didn’t matter if it was wired or wireless.
Nintendo’s ‘revolution’ device which eventually became the critically acclaimed and best selling ‘Wii’ is probably responsible for a lot of recent changes in interface and controller design. It was wireless but that’s not where the innovation lay. It used attitude, pitch and yaw to provide control cues. It transmitted location data via bluetooth and direction data via an infrared sensor. It was, in control terms, a revolution and opened up a whole new world of customers to Nintendo. And with the later addition of the Wii Fit, it showed that a set of pressure-sensitive bluetooth bathroom scales could outsell just about anything from the traditional controller world. Add to that a WiFi card and you’re now networked with millions of other people.
So, what did the other console makers do in response?
They put blue-ray drives into their consoles. And increased the size of the hard drives. And did nothing to address the shortfall in gameplay or game control which they now found themselves in. I presume they must be working on something revolutionary to compete.
Consider then the iPhone. It has accelerometers, proximity sensors, touch screen, GPS – and apply those to a gaming console.
Have a look at Radius (iTunes).
This sort of gameplay is new and exciting. Whether or not Radius itself holds your attention is not relevant – when you consider the possibilities for controlling the games we play, the Wii and the iPhone present some amazing opportunities. And we have but to wait to see what comes out as their successor.