Motion control works best as slapstick

When the Wii was announced there were so many rumors: “You can turn the Wiimote and nunchuku into a virtual gun!” and “In Zelda the nunchuku is the bow and the Wiimote is the drawstring!” or “The nunchuku is the shield and the Wiimote is the sword!” Needless to say, it hasn’t revolutionized gameplay like we thought it might. People were hopeful that Kinect would be the savior of motion control — that didn’t quite work either. The Kinect and Wii may have brought us closer to the promised land of virtual reality, but the games that attempt VR are not terribly fun.

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There are games like Wii Sports that use motion control to mimic reality, but then there are those that use it as an end in itself. Johann Sebastian Joust is one of the tiles that doesn’t get ambitious with motion control. Simon Carless discusses what makes this simple game so fun:

A key design principle for Joust is that people can and do look ridiculous when playing. Wilson showed a picture of PlayStation mascot Kevin Butler promoting PlayStation Move by majestically miming a crossbow, and suggested that this kind of extreme heroic fidelity isn’t really where the fun lies.

In fact, he suggests that motion control is “the slapstick comedy of games” – and posits that the point for him is not about getting the player really immersed in the virtual world, but getting them immersed in the physical world, and “having people laugh at their expense.” And it’s the fun of playing in the same room with other people that really makes things tick.

Like Joust, WarioWare: Smooth Moves is just as much about hula-hooping, flying past lightning or squatting, as it is about being absurd in a physical space. Watching people put a WiiMote on their head and bending in weird angles only to fail is at least as fun as using the WiiMote as a virtual gun. The beautiful thing about new technology is that it can be used in ways developers had never forseen. VR may be a long way off, but at least we’re laughing in the meantime.