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Motion to Dismiss

Posted on September 5, 2011 AT 10:29pm

Motion-control advocates, it may be time to call a spade a spade.

I really wanted to get jazzed about this year’s E3 press conferences—swear to Cthulhu I did. I kept an open mind as I observed a few dozen carefully crafted trailers, a whole mess of hokey onstage demos, and the occasional snippet of actual news. But, through it all, one thought banged mercilessly in my brain. Mind you, I made my best attempt to ignore it like so many creepy child actors, but the wild, wobbly reality of it all would not be denied:

Despite the core gamer’s general indifference to the whole affair, it’s clear that motion control isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The thing is, given its relative lack of progress over the last five years or so, I can’t help but feel mystified that hardware manufacturers are still trying to shove the whole hand-waving craze down our collective throats.

I mean, really.

I get that there’s a lot going on that might interest me if I really hated using a controller, such as Kinect’s voice recognition and core-game integration or a whole mess of Move-compatible triple-A PS3 games, but honestly, the whole thing seemed like a me-too gimmick from the start, and I can’t help but feel the industry has more important things to worry about.

And, sure, motion-based controls have an undeniable power that occasionally shines through in products like Wii Sports, Rock Band, and Dance Central—but, frankly, transcendent titles like those are too few and far between since Nintendo first rocked competitors with its mass-market magnet. And as an outsider looking in, it sure seems that somewhere in the process of keeping up with the Miis, Sony and Microsoft completely missed the point.

And that point is, you ask?

That the rare motion-controlled gem is something special because it gives birth to an experience that bridges the gap between things that people do in gaming and the way nongamers would like to do them.

Nothing more, nothing less.

But the stuff I saw at E3? It was something else entirely. It was a blatant attempt to shoehorn motion controls into genres that honestly function better without them, and as much as I wanna believe it’ll change everything, I don’t think turning every first-person shooter on the market into a glorified lightgun game is going to change the industry any more than I think turning every platformer into a game where I actually have to jump will end childhood obesity.

There’s gotta be a better way, and I’m sure we’ll find it, but this isn’t it.

Maybe when we have a console built around some semblance of a virtual-reality display, making the entire experience more engrossing. Maybe when we have a system where Kinect is the only controller, forcing devs to rethink modern interfaces. Maybe when some combination of the two actually makes it hard for me to go back to a traditional controller. But as of today?

We’re just not there yet.

You can argue all ya want, but the bottom line is that I sure as s*** don’t see the majority of gamers swearing off their DualShocks in favor of Move, and I don’t think you do, either. When you look at it in that light, you have to wonder if trying to replace the game controller is the best use of our collective time. But enough of me babbling. What do y’all think?

Brandon Justice, Executive Editor
Brandon Justice spent the last 17 years in the game industry wearing hats as an annoying retail weasel, an overly opinionated journalist, and game-development ninja—until he got tired of the all the caviar and groupies, returning to the ring as a rowdy, rambling writer in 2010 for EGM Media. Follow him on Twitter @jokeontheworldMeet the rest of the crew.

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