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Immersion over Interaction: Problems and Limitations with the Wii Motion Controller

by: Dabe ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

Are both immersion and interaction interchangeable commodities in the world of video games? In this article we will look at the reasons why striving for a marriage between the two can be beneficial and concentrating on motion control or immersion can be too narrow a design choice to make.

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    The Limits of Wii Motion Control

    This is about more than the funny (but sometimes serious) Nintendo Wii controller accidents.

    Immersion is often comparatively mistaken for interaction. To find a happy balance between these often misappropriated gaming mannerisms, we have to look into topics of controller, aesthetics and in particular the new age of Wii motion control phenomena. In this article, I will look into some of the Wii motion control problems and other limitations of motion control as of now, describing why it would be personally preferable to see games that focus more on immersion than simple interactivity.

    My principal argument comes from the idea that immersion and interaction are entirely separate entities, treated with amalgam by many developers, that can both be interdependent or completely ostracised from each other. When immersion is used over interactivity the experience will often be a better one.

    As a great example, take the abandonment of motion controls that New Super Marios Bros Wii decided upon, while juxta-posing that with something like Wii Fit, Music etcetera. I’m not totally disregarding the idea that interaction can produce a good experience, look at golf or any other well made Wii Sports mini-game, but I would argue that this isn’t interchangeable with immersion as an aspect of game design.

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    Wii Motion Control Problems

    Wii MotionPlus   Walking around the world of Cyrodiil in first person during Oblivion, becoming the ultimate puppet of Fontaine in Bioshock, witnessing the awe inspiring Half Life 2 through the eyes of Gordan Freeman or crawling through vents as Naked Snake in the cold war inspired Russian jungle. Immersion offers contextual plausibility, narrative credibility and the complete negation of protracted control schemes.

    The controller is somewhat important (although that importance is questionable) as a means to direct the actions of the player and convey them to the game itself. However it is arguable to assume that we have already reached a zenith for controlling games with the current or even last generation of console controllers (including a keyboard & mouse somewhere in that milieu).

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    Wii, Xbox and Playstation Motion Controller

    Project Natal   The above experiences would be totally ransacked by the use of Wii motion controls (or Move/Natal even). Not only would the interaction be limited to either mildly accurate gestures or ingratiating pointing, but the immersion would take a hit because of the meta-game interactivity. When a control scheme has to patrol the game and spew out tutorial after tutorial to the player the intuitive design and practicality of immersion becomes fraudulent.

    I will attest to playing video games to immerse myself in the experience (a lot of people do not play games for this reason, hence opinion piece), motion controls provide a means to take myself out of the immersion or experience of the game I’m playing, making me aware of the abstraction between myself and the game.

    This layer of abstraction is solely down to the devolved control scheme of the Wii motion controls, Project Natal or the Playstation Move. If I’m aware of the controller and not focusing on being immersed in the game world then the game/console/hardware has not succeeded in it’s purpose. Unfortunately , this means the hardware and control setup is un-intuitive by definition, not allowing the player to play the game without playing the abstraction layer first.

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    Wii Motion Plus Controller Reinforcement

    The developers of any game have the distinction and onus to create something engaging enough that it doesn’t need mimicking gestures or necessarily similar movements as input from the player to create an expansive and intelligent game. Seemingly the Wii motion control problems stem from developers need to either shoehorn in pathetic asides or focus on taking the player out of the experience and enforcing the idea that interaction is superior or statuary over immersion.

    While the interaction of the Wii motion controls, in particular the motion plus addon, can be used in a positive way it most likely comes at the price of telling a great story or having a narratively driven experience. This shouldn’t be the case, as Red Steel 2 mildly proves, but developers find themselves choosing either the easy waggle avenue of Wii motion control or the polar opposite option of creating the game without thought for the Wii’s unique control system.

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    Interaction Through A Motion Controller

    Playstation Move   A control scheme shouldn’t intrude on the gaming experience, it also doesn’t need to be a novelty or sold as such, even if it makes money in the short term. The focus of companies like Sony and Microsoft on “new" ways to initiate this re-design of controllers and how the player interacts with the game is a step forward in questioning the need for the current control options. However, when you override the need for a good experience by providing a good layer of interaction and nothing more, we’re going to have a problem.

    While the use of motion control is another avenue to the same goal, at the present time, the gaming market and industry isn’t being helped by this one or the other mentality. When a developer sacrifices either immersion or interactivity, based off not only what platform they are developing for but also the aimed market for their product, we get this muddled idiom of gaming trends that the Wii and it’s apparent casual focus has been privy to over the last couple of years.

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    Marriage Between Motion Control and Immersion

    A happy medium between immersion and interaction is often the best way. However it is my personal postulation that immersion should be the primary focus when creating anything remotely involved or interesting for your audience. Some developers seem to revel in polarity as opposed to balancing the two things, which will only hurt the abilities of future games to engage anybody, whether casual or not.

    Want more supposition and postulaion on motion control topics, digest some of these articles and see where your opinion lies;

    Wii MotionPlus Details

    Top Games That Need Motion Control

    Project Natal Details

    5 Reasons Why The Wii Totally Sucks

    5 Reasons Why The Wii Is Totally Awesome

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