Motion Controls: Game Design Tips

Motion Controls: Game Design Tips

When Nintendo conceived the Wii, maybe it expected that fifty percent of our games or better would utilize shaking and waving within a mere couple of years. Needless to say, that hasn’t been the case. The reality has left gamers split, with casual audiences adopting motion control and traditionalists sticking to their keyboards, mice, and controllers.

Ken Levine, the creative director of Irrational Games, believes that maybe things ought to stay that way.

“Any experience that sits in the realm of motion play needs to be kept separate from the main experience,” Levine told OXM while discussing the presence of PlayStation Move support in Bioshock Infinite. “It needs to be firewalled off so that if this experiment isn’t for you, or doesn’t turn out to be all that great, you just ignore it. Any new experience we add, we need to be able to protect this experience.”

In other words, nobody should be forced into adopting a control scheme they’re not comfortable with. After all, what’s the point of playing a video game if you can’t make the little man on the screen easily move in the direction you want him to go in?

But Levine also believes it’s important that motion controls shouldn’t be dismissed altogether by developers and gamers alike. “If we don’t experiment,” he said, “we don’t progress.”

Ah, but now we have a stalemate. BioShock has already seen two installments, and a third is on the way. We’re used to the way it moves, the way it controls. Who’s going to volunteer giving up their controller for “progress” via PlayStation Move?

Not to dump on Levine, of course: He’s absolutely right. The option to experiment should be left open, but no one should have motion controls forced upon them if they’re playing a game in a genre that has typically called for traditional controls. There probably isn’t a faster way to make someone resent an anticipated game by hobbling their controller options. But is there a happy medium?

Not for this generation of consoles–not unless Sony and Microsoft manage to build up a library of motion-exclusive core games that demonstrate the benefits of motion controls. But even if that happens, we’re not likely to throw away our d-pads for our shooters, action games, and role-playing games and put our whole trust in the Move wand, or the Kinect camera.

The next generation of consoles might hold the secret formula for the perfect marriage between traditional and motion controls. The Wii U already looks like it’s off to a good start: Indecisive gamers will have their choice of motion controls, tablet controls, and traditional controls. One thing’s for sure, even if core gamers prefer to stick to tradition, the waggle that Nintendo brought to the table won’t simply melt into thin air. The “gimmick” is here to stay, and, casual or not, there will always be a willing audience behind it.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.


  1. Here’s hoping; I’ve seen plenty take issue with the controls for New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns, as the Wii Remote is less comfortable in their hands than a Classic Controller/Pro. Not to mention those who prefer less shake, rattle, and roll in their Zelda: Twilight Princess.

    Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Sonic Colors definitely got it right, though.

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