Now calling it gimmicks would be silly and cynical, I think it’s better to call it ‘new ways of interacting with games that seems to get everyone vigorous’ but that would never catch on for obvious reasons. By new ways I mean asides from the conventional buttons that are the stable of gaming. By the way this is not an article about which is better blah blah blah; just about why I think is essential for developers/gamers to have a positive attitude towards what everyone likes to call ‘gimmicks’.
When they announced the DS, I’m sure several gamers/critics/analysts had heart attacks, thought Nintendo had gone a bit nutty, and just went overly dramatic about the console. Two screens? A stylus? What is this an organiser? How do I play that? That marked the start of the touch-screen gaming revolution, then came motion controls, and touch-screen 2 (using your fingers instead of a stylus). Many ‘hardcore’ gamers wept at all of these as if they were plagues on the games industry. In some aspects they were, since for some insane reasons, developers started making shovelware for every console that had gimmicks. However none of these are the faults of the hardware. Otherwise there’d be no good games that incorporated touch or motion gaming- which for anyone who plays a wide variety of games or read reviews will know is complete utter nonsense.
Is it really worth having these gimmicks though? Yes. Unlike films, books and other media, gaming relies on interactivity. That’s what makes it unique and different from all other mediums. Interactivity is gameplay and a game without gameplay isn’t um, a game. Any form of new interactivity such as touch or motion controls can allow creative ways for develops to make games and people to play games. Everyone loves graphics and that’s something that will keep on getting better in games. But that’s not what make games unique. Sure when games go beyond the graphics produced in movies, developers and gamers will tango with joy. But do people play games because of how realistic the grass looks and how detailed facial hair looks on the characters? There is not dealt that graphics are awe-inspiring, yet the heart of a game is the interactive elements. It’ll be fine if TV manufactures keep on improving graphical displays and all but that just wouldn’t work the same for games consoles- it’s not enough.
Let’s look at the past. If gaming controllers hadn’t changed at all and every console that came after were simply up-resed NESs and portable game boys, then we wouldn’t have 80% of all the great games that came out. Just wipe out every game that’s made use of shoulder buttons, analogue sticks, all-four face buttons, touch controls, gyro/motion controllers, duo analogues, pointer controls, face recognition. Please feel free to add more. Mockery aside, my point is that innovation and ‘gimmicks’ have always been present in gaming and have always resulted in new kinds of games to be made.
The last issue that turns people off and make them hold irrational grudges to companies that make unconventional consoles or games, is that it gave birth to the term ‘casual gamers’. Some hardcore gamers feel insulted or betrayed because other people who never played games are now playing them and having fun. Either that or the sight of supposed ‘casual-looking-games’ like animal crossing, brain training or Viva Piñata makes them cringe no matter how good they are. The sole purpose of companies that develop consoles or games or both are to entertain people. There’s nothing horrendous about them trying to reach to as many audiences as possible because ultimately they want everyone to know why games are a special medium.
Is understandable that many grew up with buttons and can’t get used to playing any other way, my cousin being a prime example. Plus, button are just so reliable and important- trust me I don’t want them to go away. Yet that’s no reason to think any other methods of play isn’t remotely fun and that only those who suck at games would enjoy them. Let’s just say my cousin beats me in practically every aspect when it comes to playing games: finishing games in two weeks that take me about 2 years, getting past the first stage on an extremely difficult side-scrolling shooter in seconds after I’ve failed about gazillions times, beating me at a game that his never played. On the contrary he can’t best me at Wii boxing or swordplay- even though he tried about 60 times whilst I was coaching him at the same time how to beat me. I could play The World Ends With You (a superb JRPG that requires a lot of mad stylus-skills) on the highest difficulty whereas he can barely survive on easy. I still remember smiling gleefully when he praised my Wii boxing skills to my other cousin (female cousin this time). I enjoy playing Monster Hunter with my cousin as much as I enjoy Wii boxing the hell out of him and I’m certain he found both just as much of a challenge.
There is nothing despicable about the likes of DS, Wii, Kinect, Ipad, Wii U etc. Every company that creates these products are only demonstrating their own desires to expand how we interact with games/media and the fact that they don’t fall apart or implode the moment you lay fingers on them means they’re definitely not all shovelware. Is good to be open minded about controls and gimmicks because without them gaming wouldn’t be as varied, exciting and open. New ways of interactivity brought by hardware is just as much part of the ever growing creativity in the gaming industry as new software.
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