Qwerty futures.

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I've always played videogames using the qwerty keyboard. Well, almost always because when I was around six, someone took me to a videogame arcade and put me on a racing game machine that had a steering wheel. I've won many races since but it was always with frantic taps on the arrow keys of my pc. Yes, the consoles have never appealed to me and I will only use the joystick for the occasional flight sim. To make matters worse, I'm pathetic at the Wii because, somehow I don't like the games in there (maybe Wii Cricket would make me happier). Come December, we'll have Project Natal and will be playing games with gestures in air. I'm not sure how I'll be able to adapt to this entirely new way of playing. I'm also thinking if I'll need to. The reason for this is a conversation I had yesterday evening about how we communicate online and in general through computers Jim Morrow from Theory, Culture & Society was discussing whether it is at all possible to displace the qwerty keyboard with some other medium such as touch, thought etc to communicate between ourselves. Obviously, videogames are seeing many changes and will see more. However, the games that I like (strategy games for example) still don't play very well in consoles (Empire: Total War doesn't have a console version) and almost all console games can be played equally well in the pc. I know there are many who will disagree and they have a right to since I am a console newbie comparatively. Anyway, that's my perception. I like games that tell stories and while the days of adventure games and text-based games are history now, the keyboard is still holds sway in in-game multiplayer speak and is a pretty versatile delivery device for communication with the pc. Of course, there is always the voice and now, the gesture and together they will prove a powerful combination that can revolutionise how people play videogames. The keyboard, however, is hardly on its way out. In online MMOs and systems like Second Life , the mode of communication is generally the keyboard and SL even has the typing animation as representative of communication. The other thing I was thinking of was the way the freelook functionality (with the mouse) has revolutionised possibilities in gaming - how will it translate into the Natal screen? What will it do to the sense of involvement to feel the illusion of reality snap with the realisation that on turning your face sideways the game world disappears (in the free-look mechanism, the eyes are supposedly within the screen but from the videos I've seen, the Natal experience seems to have the eye outside - but I may be wrong).

No, the keyboard isn't going - not even if we replace the clicks by hand gestures. Unless we devise a way off talking to others through the computer and of talking to computers by some other means ... maybe thought. Anyway, I'd better get ready for work --- mind-controlled devices are too blue skies for a Friday morning. I've got the weekend for the daydreams. I'll plug myself into a game (Existenz-style) and enjoy thought-control.

1 comment :

  1. It is a problem with any control interface, the granularity, the fact you're working on a 2d plane.

    Precision is a major thing to have fun. Or rather, it prevents frustration. No one likes bad control schemes (or poor controllers) - they mean whatever the player does, they fail, lose, or simply take more time the necessary to do things!

    Just see the reason why there are no real precise things with the Wii, and you'll see why certain things are pretty impossible with gestures. Even humans are terrible at guessing without stringently precise gestures (Signal flags, deaf sign language, drivers hand signals...) what someone is indicating. It's kind of going backwards using gestures of any kind!