Motion control: a look back at the good and bad

The Kinect

Kinect on the XBox One is history. If anyone remembers when the XBox One was first released, it was boosted by a ton of advertising and marketing around the Kinect experience, with a focus on games that featured cute pet animals you could really cuddle and play with using motion control.

The Kinnect - Camera Motion controls

The Xbox one Kinnect

But Kinect is long gone. Essentially a failed experiment to make gaming more ‘real’, it simply became an annoyance, and a process for playing games that was just flawed. The best games were invariably sports-related, and we remember playing a game where you had to rescue a team from falling over in rapids while white water rafting.

Yes, that’s pretty much all we remember about Kinect.

The Wii

The Wii was the other system that, at one point, actually seemed to make motion sensor games that people liked to play. On top of that, even with the simple graphics on the Wii, you still had fluid play, and a motion control system that anyone could learn quickly.

The Wii is very much old news now. It’s still looked on by gamers fondly, but new technology has meant it has fallen by the wayside in gaming.

Super Nintendo Super Scope

Motion control in gaming has had some real ups and downs, come to think of it. And the Super NIntendo Super Scope may well be the biggest ‘down’ in motion play history.

It was huge for a start, so it wasn’t exactly practical to carry it to a friend’s house and use it there. On top of that it was heavy. It felt like you were carrying a Mini RPG. That weight and the size made it feel just weird when all you’re hoping to do is shoot a few bad guys on the screen.

But all that was nothing when fans found out that the games library for this motion accessory was hardly extensive. Nothing was done around the original idea of having a virtual weapon to use against enemies on screen. Sure, there were games, but shooting moles isn’t the most fun thing to do. No, gamers wanted something that felt like an authentic weapon, and delivered gaming that was a little more grown up.

The Scope, to be fair, was big and heavy enough to feel like it belonged on an FPS title. But that isn't what happened, and you ended up cursing the darn thing because you simply had no compulsion to murder a mass of moles.

Sega Activator

Then we get to a little gem called the Sega Activator. To Describe this accurately would still not do it justice. You have to use it to see how frustrating it could be.

Stand in the middle of an octagon shape (the Activator) and start to bust your moves. Moves were ‘sent’ to the sensor whenever a laser was interrupted by a body part.

We think Sega is one of the best brands in gaming, But to offer up a laser ‘blocker’ like this was not the right thing to do. And that’s because it hardly worked. It also felt incredibly uncomfortable to moving around in something that just wasn’t that big.

The Nintendo Power Pad

The Nintendo Power Pad was perhaps even more ridiculous. It was a dance mat that could be used with dancing games. Players had to simply jump on the areas of the pad that connected with the action they were trying to take on-screen.

There was only one game. World Class Track Meet was not a particularly good game either, but when it is the only one you’ve got you're going to play it. Players soon found ways to ‘game’ the system, and would, for example, pummel the pads with their hands to score.

The pressure sensors underneath the plastic layers on the mat were designed to communicate messages to the game itself. They did, but it simply became very boring very quickly. And bashing the sensors with your hands gave you a chance to beat the game.

The Sony Eyetoy

Last on our list is the Sony Eyetoy. This device was a small camera that sat on top of your TV and is in essence a webcam, microphone and motion sensor all in one. Quite a nice device, so what went wrong?

The Sony Eyetoy - Camera Motain Controls

The Sony Eyetoy

Well, for a small device, it did quite well, however, it wasn’t really considered a “gaming peripheral”, in parties it was fun to use a PS2 for dancing or laughing with friends. However, most gamers like to, after a hard day, sit down and relax.

There was no shortage of games made for the eye toy and more that were compatible. But to a good number were for online functions. Which if you had an old PS2, required the expansion network card.

So why didn’t it catch on, the answer is two fold. Firstly it was aimed at a market that wasn’t too big, at the time and while it was cheap, the hardware had issues...

To control the Eyetoy you had to be standing in a specific area, also you had to make sure no one was in front or behind you for the duration of play. If someone past behind you during play, the Eyetoy would consider there movement as yours or worse assume you left the area.

The good and the bad

Motion Control is a funny thing. But the industry is learning from the mistakes it made. There’s going to be no more mistakes this time, and companies are eating themselves up for VR. When that becomes mainstream, which may be sooner than we thought, this type of staff will be long forgotten.

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