Posts Tagged ‘controllers’

Gaming the System

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

My father has a pair of Microsoft® Xbox 360™ systems. He spends a fair amount of time on one or both of them, by himself and with my brother.

(My mother reports that my father's interest in the Xbox developed after I sent to him links to the Rooster Teeth Productions Red vs. Blue machinima videos.)

I have more than once been impressed by video games as programs, and wouldn't mind doing such programming, but I've never been much for playing them, unless one counts Rogue and NetHack as such.

And I really loathe the Xbox controller. It strikes me as a product of path-dependency, rather than otherwise optimal design. The particular path was begun by a controller for the 1983 NES (an 8-bit gaming system with a clock-speed of less than 2 MHz and accordingly limited possibilities), with understandably little consideration as to the effect of the design on the future. Each subsequent controller design was affected by the desire not to impose too much change upon users, and perhaps in some cases by a need for compatibility with existing and anticipated gaming systems. Were controller designers starting with an understanding of the information that players would now want to be transmitted, but otherwise fresh, then the designs would be radically different.

But it discernibly saddens my father that I don't join him on his systems when I visit. So I have purchased an Xbox 360™ wireless controller for Windows and a copy of Halo®: Combat Evolved for Windows, so that I can practice using controllers of that d_mn'd design, with a game of the sort that my father plays. (My computer does not have enough umphf for some of the newer video games.)

I'm also then being compelled to boot-load Microsoft® Windows in order to play the game. So I'm running an operating system that I hate to play a game that doesn't appeal to me to familiarize myself with a controller that I hate. Maybe I'll stop hating the controller. (I sure won't stop hating the operating system!)

I mentioned this matter to the manager of the apartment complex in which I live. She noted that there are far worse things in this world than feeling obliged to play video games. That's certainly true.

And it's even true in the face of something that I didn't mention to her, which is that something about the game — beyond the awkwardness of the controller and the usual objectionability of Windows — adversely affects my mood. Perhaps it's that the fictitious world has been one of emptiness punctuated by violence.