Thursday, February 14, 2008

The video game controller as interface

I see a number of parallels between the interface, as Søren Pold defines it, and the video game controller.

Pold mentions that even though the interface is a creation of engineers, the engineer's dream is to eliminate the interface. Likewise, the controller gets in the way, and the ultimate goal of video game makers is to eliminate it. This is why the best games have intuitive controls and people often say they forget they're holding the controller. Virtual reality (which Pold discusses) has been tried in video games before, but very poorly, and still using the intermediary of a controller.

The controller is every bit as artificial as the interface, no matter how intuitive a particular game's control scheme may be. My roommate has a Wii, and for all the praise (rightly) heaped on it, it just isn't a very different experience. Why? Moving and pointing a controller, even if it mimics real-life actions, is still a mediated action.

There are big differences, too, though. The controller is largely an input-only device. But "rumble" controllers offer some sort of feedback. And the controller is not dynamic in the same way a GUI is.

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