We return to the Vector Festival to interface with the machine, dodge some lasers, and transform into our Sailor selves.
Game controllers are often a player's lifeline. A player's familiarity with a control scheme or a controller can determine the difference between success and defeat. Over time we've seen controllers become more standardized, from a simple joystick and a button to the four face buttons, four triggers, and two analogue sticks. We've had good controllers (Xbox 360), bad controllers (Nintendo 64), and plain ugly ones (Atari Jaguar), but eventually they all settled on the same thing. The Wii U's gamepad has screen in the middle, but it's fundamentally the same layout as the PlayStation 2, and its simplified controller makes that clear. These controllers then form a connected language, where a player can move between all modern consoles and not dramatically change the way the games control.
Yet, once controls become standardised they start to lose their nuance. Vibration adds potential, as does the Wii U's screen (not so much the PS4's touch nub) but they're just abstractions made for a select few games, usually focused on action. How do four face buttons and four triggers help you in a game where you're exploring or trying to solve puzzles? Most likely, half the buttons will go unused. Meanwhile there's not enough buttons for a flight simulator or many strategy games.
Sometimes they also lack the precision and exact feel necessary for a game. We used to accelerate cars with the bottom most face button, but the back right trigger feels better. Players have a granularity of control available a trigger that isn't on a buttons and pushing down slowly on a trigger feels closer to pushing down the accelerator. In an arcade you'll often see games attempt to go beyond this, with controllers that include a miniature version of a race car, including a wheel, pedals and a gear stick.
All of this is learned behaviour, however. We know how these controllers work from experience. They are the current agreed upon language for video games. But as today's episode explores, every language has a learning curve and our current language is hardly the only one.
With the necessary philosophical rambling out of the way, on today's episode you'll hear the following designers:
- Kieran Nolan, a researcher from Ireland, talks about Control, a game about the way we interact with machines and the levels of abstraction it takes to play one. (0:40 - 10:30)
- In the news: Sony shrinks. Twitch gets a convention. Gamergate remains horrific. SpeedTree won an academy award. (10:30 - 34:30)
- Sagan Yee, Alicia Contestabile, and Nadine Lessio discuss magical girls, Sailor Moon, Punk Prism Power, and giant plastic controllers. (34:30 - 44:50)
- Daniele Hopkins and Kyle Duffield explain how to explain a field a lasers, why'd they make for a terrible security system, and fighting a human boss battle. (44:50 - 53:20)
We've talked to Sagan Yee and Nadine Lessio a couple times now. The first time we talked to them together was for a game where you physically threw knives at a screen to make decisions. Nadine also worked on another game available at the Vector Festival called Sext Adventure, with Kara Stone. Meanwhile, Sagan's been teaching people about game literacy at Toronto's Reference Library.
By the way, the Vector Festival's To Utility and Beyond exhibit is running at the InterAccess gallery until March 21. It's at Ossington and Queen in Toronto, so if you live in Canada, it's basically down the street.
THANKS TO THE FREE MUSIC ARCHIVE FOR "OLPC" BY Marco Raaphorst, "Algo Rhythm Natural" BY Podington Bear, "Erotic Robotics" BY The Polish Ambassador, "Photosphere" BY Charles Atlas. OUR OPENING THEME WAS "As Colorful As Ever" by Broke for Free.
THIS EPISODE USED CLIPS FROM Ocean's Twelve, Terminator 2, Videodrome, and Sailor Moon. We also used "Unanswered Questions" by Kevin MacLeod.
BUILT TO PLAY IS A PRODUCT OF THE SCOPE AT RYERSON RADIO STATION IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN TORONTO. IT WAS PRODUCED AND EDITED BY ARMAN AGHBALI AND WRITTEN BY DANIEL ROSEN.
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