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Alexandre Guimond

The controller has become the ronin of gaming.

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

This is the story of a lone wanderer, who once had a master; he knew glory and honor like many of his kind. In a time where, his fellow man-at-arms, were revered as the thriving force of a now ever-changing empire. He was considered by many to be the best there ever was, the perfect tool for the job. His analog precision was deadly, his D-pad accurate and his buttons sharp as razor blades. But like many things in this world, his kind is facing extinction. He’s unable to find his place in the events at hand. He now roams the land looking for business, trying to survive.

He was the backbone of an empire, gaming nobility, he now wanders our living rooms, useless. Much like the samurai of 19th Century Japan, the controller is competing against a revolution beyond his control. An important part of gaming culture is now being labeled as obsolete by the heads of power. He has suddenly lost his meaning and his purpose.

Whether or not we try to question the relevance of controllers in gaming, there is a consensus that we should all agree on; the controller is not ready to die, yet. It represents in all his fashion, the icon of what playing video games is all about. Holding a controller in our hands is to a lot of us, the most natural and genuine way to play games. Whether it was the Dualshock or the Atari Joystiq you grew up with, playing video games; it still is the best way to utilize interactivity. In North America, 97% of children play video games. With current gaming being paired with controllers, it’s a fair assessment to think that kids know how controllers and consoles work. In this era of information, there is less and less divides between humans and technology, especially in the electronic world.

The motion-control craze hitting the industry gets praised by its creators, for its simplicity and innovation, while classic controllers are demeaned by the great three for being revolute and convoluted. Yet, the concept behind a controller is so simple. Why would you drive a car without a steering wheel? Why would you have an Empire without soldiers? These are the questions I have for any video game developers or executives who think gaming should be led, into a controller-free era.

If we put both situations in parallel, samurais were considered as a menace to Japan’s industrialization, while controllers are to the general public in gaming. “Casual gamers” feel threaten by the stereotypical complexity of controllers. However, they are actually made to be simple, if you push a button, things will happen, simple right? The commercialization of controller-less hardware will only accentuate this fear, for new gamers.

The motto of this new wave of technology is showing how family-friendly, peaceful, fun and easy to use gaming should be. While beneath all, is a display of mediocre motion-capture combined with imprecise movements. All of a sudden, you can’t play Kinect games wearing black, you have to stand up while playing, and need a quiet room. There’s also Sony, making you buy another 40$ peripheral to compliment its glowing lollipop. It would be a whole lot simpler, if you could put colored buttons on a circuit board, encase it in a plastic shell and add one or two analog sticks.

The industry doesn’t need an omnipotent presence of controller-less hardware when the vast majority of what is being offered, is gimmicky and aimed at consumer minority. There is nothing wrong in showcasing new ideas as alternatives ways to play video games. However, the industry is pushing hard on this new technology; hoping that it can revolutionize gaming.

Pulling a tangent between our beloved controller and samurais may be poking fun at the state of the industry. However it’s important to remember the iconic value he has, so that many years from now, we can still enjoy the comfort and precision he gives us. Gaming is a hobby that you have to touch and feel. Virtual reality is not axed on "pretending" you are in control of the experience but rather; is to make you believe you are actually enwrapped in the story or the gameplay. So far, controllers have been able to make me experience that, motion-controls haven’t.

What does Sanjuro do when he’s not fighting hordes of henchmen or tricking rival factions against each other? He drinks sake and sleeps in a local tavern. It’s called chilling the fuck back for a reason. We play video games because we are lazy. Why would I dance like a monkey to play my games, after a hard day’s work? I prefer sitting down, drinking a nice cold beer, and playing video games with the perfect tool for the job; a controller. It's simple and lazy, just like the way it should be. Playing video games with controllers might not be the way we experience our hobby in the upcoming decades, but as Japan remembered the Bushido wisdom, we shall do the same when it comes to our circuital ronins.

Alexandre Guimond
Assistant Editor

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Updated 06-09-10 at 07:42 by SteveSawyer

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  1. GameGavel's Avatar
    Great piece. I am with you all the way. Hopefully there will always be controllers of some sort, but with this big push to controllerless gaming you never know. I still believe that some games have to have controllers as some player moves are just to crazy to pull off without one. But either way, with game developers spending so much time and resources on these new control styles, less and less time is being spent on controller gaming . . . and I think that is a bad thing.

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