Digital vs. Analog controls

“Also the (non-3DS) DS has no analog stick which makes me skeptical about using it for games that require precise directional movement, like racing games.”

It’s funny because the first thing I thought after reading this was “but, any game that requires precise directional movement clearly should not be using analog controls!”

I was having this chat with Michelle a month or two ago as well–trying to explain my point of view to her in a discussion about gaming peripherals and such.  (she’s doing HCI — human-computer interaction, so this was relevant)  I explained that for people like me, one of the biggest reasons that video games are somehow more appealing than say, sports–even ones that are more technique-based like bowling or golf–is because of the digital nature of things.  When you boil it all down, the controls for a game like tetris are very simple and precise. (TGMers, pretend SRS doesn’t exist :D)  There’s button presses, and there’s no nonsense about it.  Very rarely in a game like tetris do you ever blame the input mechanism for mistakes (TGMers, pretend input lag doesn’t exist :D).

In contrast, when you’re playing something like tennis, there are countless variables–the position of your entire body, the angle of your arm, the velocity of your swing, the rotation of your hips, the tension in your wrist…it’s all a very complicated and dynamic system, and so it’s very “analog” in nature.  And then when we take something like that and convert it into mario tennis (disclaimer: I’m not pro at mario tennis so I don’t know all of its intricacies), all of a sudden it becomes more fun for people like me, because the controls and gameplay all of a sudden become very compacted.  You don’t have to worry anymore about all of these variables–instead it becomes a matter of reaction time and positioning.

And so we were talking about this in regards to motion controls and how there’s this fear that I (and probably other people like me) have had…that with the advent of everything being in 3D, and motion controls, and everything else like that, that things would take a turn back to the analog realm.  When you look at these Wii party games, you can see it happening–for some reason certain people just seem to happen to move the controllers in a way that’s more conducive to the game’s input system, and at times it seems really arbitrary.

You also have to consider one more point though, which is that even in games which are almost “purely digital” in their control schemes, the element of time is still essentially continuous (60fps can more or less be treated as such).  So that’s somewhat interesting how it’s somehow acceptable to me for time to be very continuous and analog (well, I guess sometimes it isn’t, when I’m doing frame-perfect maneuvers!), but how I don’t want anything else to be analog.

I think it has a good deal to do with perfectionism.  People like me enjoy the idea of having right and wrong be clearly defined, with no “in between” to fuzzy things up.  This is one of the appeals of pixel art as well…-and-, it’s one of the reasons I don’t mind sequencing all of my music by hand.

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