Electron Dance
21May/14Off

Of Mice and Gamepads

musclecat-showdown-controller-photo-george-buckenham

Okay, this is an actual first. I have written an article for Rock Paper Shotgun.

Since the last Warm Up, I’ve had this idea about using Luxuria Superbia (Tale of Tales, 2013) as a starting point to discuss how controllers define the kinds of games we can make. But then recently I was asked if I’d like to write for RPS and came to the conclusion this piece on the physical player/game interface would suit them.

But I made it bigger. I did some Q & A with Doug Wilson, George Buckenham, Robin Arnott, Steve Willey and Tale of Tales to beef it up into something more substantial than a personal opinion piece.

Here's an excerpt:

Wilson can only see Microsoft’s recent decision to make Kinect optional for Xbox One as a negative development. By reducing the number of players who own Kinect, the financial risk for developers increases and, inevitably, chokes off the supply of games. “Console-based motion control and physical play was already largely ‘dead,’ but Microsoft dropping the Kinect is a symbolic moment – another nail in the coffin. What Microsoft lacked was developers who knew how to think beyond the immersive fallacy and subvert technological constraints. As I see it, Microsoft could have done a better job supporting and incentivizing Kinect developers.”

The finished article is up on Rock Paper Shotgun right now.

(And, yes, this is precisely why Oil and Water was late last week.)

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Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Too many tags, didn’t read.

    Fascinating article Joel; Doug and George were absolutely the right people to approach! Deep Sea sounds really interesting and I remember as a kid playing games based around chase and having to hold my breath to avoid detection (very difficult when you’re gasping for air after running for so long!). I can see that being a very unnerving mechanic/dynamic though.

    As for Three Monkeys, I didn’t get a chance to play it at the EGX but the premise reminded me of an idea I had years ago that was based around three players — one being unable to see, one being unable to hear and one being unable to communicate verbally (or textually) — working together to overcome hazards and obstacles. Kind of like Knightmare but with more of you ‘in the game’ and with varying limitations on how you can relate the world and interact with each other. I think it would lead to all sorts of interesting scenarios and really make people think about what they take for granted in other games.

    As for interfaces, I’ve been playing Tearaway on the Vita recently and that uses practically everything on the device (the gyroscope, accelerometer, front and rear touch pads, front and rear camera, face and shoulder buttons/sticks, the mic) in some very cool ways. I’m betting no other Vita game comes close to exploiting the technology so fully as Tearaway does though, which is a shame.

    Anyway, congrats on the guest editorial! I’ll never look at that balloon in the same way. I THOUGHT IT WAS A TONGUE.

  2. Very cool article, and well done for the RPS action!

    Devices are something I so seldom think about but you’re right, they’re completely central to how we experience games. I think my lack of thought about them is because I’m so used to either a mouse-and-keyboard setup or a console controller that they’re my default brain template for games and little else gets a look-in. After all, if System Shock and Thief did just fine with good old mouse and keyboard, why should we worry about touch or movement controls? (said the straw man.)

  3. Also, isn’t it interesting (and fantastic) that so many of these games with unconventional control schemes end up being about sex? :P

  4. Heh, way to blow the current ‘blogs of the round table’ out of the water. ;)
    I did write a thing for that, I should dust it off and actually post it.

    Lovely piece on RPS, congratulations. I certainly agree with the point that it’s difficult to conceive the possibilities suggested by what does not yet exist. And as an owner of a Wii, a Kinect and a solitary sad PS Move I sympathise with the interviewees who rue the collapse of their possibility spaces.

    I note you weren’t introduced as ‘the Electron Dance guy’ and there’s no link back here on there? ‘Tis a shame!

  5. Congrats on the RPS piece! Out of all video game news sites I frequent, they are the ones I respect the most and I would consider it a life achievement to write a piece for them. Can I ask how you were approached to write this? Do you know some of the RPS guys personally, or did you offer to write something for them a long time ago?

    It was a great article as well. I recently returned home to the US after living in London for 1.5 years, and near the end of my stay had the opportunity to go to a Wild Rumpus event but passed up on it (mostly for financial reasons). I really regret not finding a way to make that happen as it seems like a staggering amount of creativity focused in one location. However, I did play Johann Sebastian Joust at a board game convention last week and immensely enjoyed myself. It was an experience that cannot exist outside of its interface. Really fascinating to read about other games that are unique based on their input devices – there is little focus on this in the industry. I hope to try Deep Sea someday…and not have a panic attack in the process.

  6. @Gregg

    I know, the tags, right?

    I don’t know if anyone else has this problem but when I ask developers a question, they usually respond with interesting, verbose answers… and then I feel shitty to cut down these essays into bite-sized chunks.

    You also want to play Asphyx by Droqen which invites you to hold your breath “in the real world” when swimming – and if you can’t hold it anymore, you must tell the game you drowned.

    …and I also thought it was a tongue.

    @James

    Thanks! I used to be mouse/keyboard only but 2D shooters were a nightmare; I ended up buying an XBox controller and that makes much more sense in certain games. I actually like Luxuria Superbia on touchscreen, but with a controller, it just didn’t make as much sense to me. If you haven’t played the touch version, it might seem “okay” but I played touch first, and the PC controller version felt “wrong”.

    I don’t know why there are so many sex examples. I don’t know if you caught my “withheld example” in the RPS comments: Joydick.

    @Shaun

    I had no idea what you were talking about until five minutes of searching turned up the “Blogs of the Round Table” at the start of April. Hah, I had no idea. This piece has been fermenting since last year! Well, I’m sure I won’t cause no trouble as I don’t seem to turn up on Crit Distance no more.

    I think RPS rarely gives link credit to guest writers. There are a few exceptions like Duncan of Dead End Thrills, but there the link is being shown off to attract your attention. I was aware this might happen but, on the upside, this is the first time I’ve got paid for writing. Like, ever.

    @Andy

    Others had suggested I pitch at RPS at some point, but I just couldn’t sanction spending valuable Electron Dance time on another site. But after Stop Crying About Choice hit the big time, I was asked directly if I’d be interested in pitching to them – I’ve appeared on the Sunday Papers quite a lot in the last few years (Choice being the latest). Having been invited, there was no question of not doing it. The problem was – what idea to pitch? If the invite had come a couple of days later, this controller/interface article would’ve ended up on Electron Dance already…

    You can build your own Deep Sea mask – the instructions are online. Also, I heartily recommend Tenya Wanya Teens. That shit is tight!

  7. @Andy – In terms of knowing RPS people personally, I should mention that Adam Smith of RPS has been a big Electron Dance supporter for a while. I can’t say I know Adam that well, although I begged him to look at Cart Life when no one was paying it any attention in 2012 – and he wrote something fantastic in response.

  8. There’s something very special about receiving money for words for the first time. :)

  9. Down payment for a yacht, that’s what it is.


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