Physical gaming

In 2006 the Nintendo Wii was available to all customers, the same year as the Playstation 3 was released but only a year after the release of the Xbox 360. Even though the Wii did not have the best performance or even the most realistic graphics, it did became the best selling console on the market thanks to a revolutionary controller.

In 2010 both Microsoft and Sony realised that they were doing it all wrong: both of them released their own interpretation of physical gaming interfaces. The Playstation Move is a hybrid between the WiiMote and a lightsaber that does not bring that much novelty. The Xbox Kinect gets rid of all extra gear needed to play games and uses the entire body to interact with the system.

But the questions is: is this just a hype or is physical gaming really the future?

Research shows that we should make a distinction between play and game: the former is a form of relaxation or entertainment while the latter is about competing and improving. One of the test subjects reported that

“When I am playing to relax and I play baseball, I swing like I would with a real baseball bat. But if I am playing to beat somebody else then I do what I need to do the movements.”

which shows that because of technical limitations nowadays, the difference between them cannot be made. But wasn’t that the case with an ordinary game controller too? Because we interact with the system in a more natural way, we also expect the system to understand what we take for granted. Non verbal communication is mostly visible in the details and those are not detectable yet, preventing the user from being fully immersed into the game.

From our own experience we see the same happening with the Kinect camera: only strong and clear moves are detected by the camera which does not give the feeling of full immersion (a feeling that you are actually there). Microsoft claims that their next camera will be greatly improved and will be capable of detecting even your fingers. An increase in resolution is not the only aspect that should be fixed! To prevent noise – picked up by all sensors – from interfering with the game, values are filtered and averaged resulting in a more artificial experience. Very often, the ways of interaction are predetermined and mapped to what the user does (I never managed to throw the bowling ball in Wii Sports away from the lane).

To summarize this post, we found that there are two major aspects in physical gaming nowadays: technical limitations and limited interpretations. The latter we illustrate once more by this quote

“As in strategy games where the artificial intelligence is adapting to the gamer’s mental and strategic skills, a movement-based game should adapt to the physical skills and mood of the gamer.”

Physical gaming has the full potential of becoming a more immersive way to interact with computer systems, but it will take some time until we are there.



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