Grumpy Gurevitz: Accessible my arse

They call this accessible

Accessible, casual, open to both males and females and affordable. These are the words the gaming industry has been throwing around ever since the launch of the original ‘chunky DS’.

The argument is that more people than ever are involved in gaming and that videogames have ceased to be the ‘plaything” for nerdy boys and have not only become ‘adult’ (as those boys have grown up), but have also become sources of fun for girls, women and pensioners.

New hardware has been designed to support these potential gamers. Everything from the Wii, Kinect and the huge expansion of the smart phone market which can offer more processing bang than the current DS, has resulted in a wider range of gaming experiences than existed five years ago.

How accessible has gaming really become though? I’m in my early thirties and if I think of most of my friends, very few game. Some bought a Wii and play it occasionally, others bought one but never touch it (and it’s not because they are holding out for an HD version) and others, like my wife, are not attracted at all to my favourite past time.

Hence I have decided to conduct a qualitative scientific experiment. I will be taking my (pregnant) wife to the Eurogamer expo, a London showcase event with many of the years up and coming games, to see if we as ‘gamers’ can get her enthusiastic for the experience we know as ‘gaming’. I’ll also be exposing her to some new ‘casual’ games, or perhaps that should be exposing the games to her and measuring her excitement level!

This will be a tough test as technology and my wife are not best of friends. Mention the word tablet to my wife and she won’t think iPad, but slate and chalk. Suggest Bluetooth and she will think something is wrong with your fillings.

My wife (bless her) represents that final outpost, that final bastion against the gadget and nerd culture which has taken our world by storm! At today’s expo we shall see if this fort, this refuge from progress can be overcome and be made to enthusiastically embrace technology, or whether the industry will have to accept that they have a long way to go to inspire the imaginations of a large part of the potential consumer base.

I can see Michael Pachter and other important analysts using this research to add insight into their pipeline predictions!

Kinect in all its glory. By the way, it aint small.

Our Microsoft Kinect experience:

We did not get a chance to play all of the Kinect games. The two we had an opportunity to try out were the Kinect’s ‘dance’ game titled, Dance Central and its table tennis mini game.

Dance central encourages you to wiggle and dance your time away. Is it fun? Well if you like dancing, then it is fun and certainly doesn’t require you to just do ‘steps’ like traditional dance games. However, I’m not too sure if there is much of a game here. My ‘on site Guinea pig casual gamer wife’ couldn’t really tell how we were being scored. We might as well have just had a dance video to watch, and a camera on us so we could see us doing the moves back. My wife felt that would have been fine. One wondered if a DVD might have been better value!

We then progressed to table tennis on Kinect. We tried table tennis on both Kinect and Sony Move (see below) as we regularly play that with our Wii MotionPlus controllers, so it seems a fair comparison. The Kinect version works pretty well, but there is a clear amount of lag and unlike the Wii, there is no speaker in your hand (well not in ours anyway) so it was hard to know when you had actually made contract with the ball. This might have mad the lag seem more real than it really was, but there are two forms of lag. That which is technically real and that which is perceived by the player. Both are important.

Our overall experience of Kinect was that it was fun and cool, but not revolutionary. Certainly not yet.

Sony Move:

As with Microsoft Kinect, our trial was not exhaustive. We tried table tennis and a ratchet and clank game. The table tennis game started badly. When Move was previewed earlier in the year, we were told that calibration (required with the Wii MotionPlus) would be streamlined or just not required. However, for those of you who have seen the film ‘The Three Amigos’, I can only describe the calibration required for table tennis similar to the ‘salute’ featured in that film.

The Sony Move Calibration Process in all its Glory. Click to watch...

We had to hold the controller to our heads, then down our leg and then across our torso. We had to stand in exactly the right position for the camera to recognise us. You may have noticed that I said stand. I couldn’t see the software allowing me to sit for this one (which is how we play table tennis on the Wii). Once we were ready to go, how did it play? Ok. It seemed either too precise or at times not precise at all. Perhaps my wife just can’t coordinate, but heck on Kinect we had some long points, and on the Wii she can hit it back and angle it. The Sony Move version just seemed fidgety. Perhaps this was our position, or there were lighting factors affecting the performance of the technology? Either way it was not impressive.

The Character Models were, er, superb....

The second game we played on Sony Move was a short demo of a Ratchet and Clank mini game collection. I was given control of Ratchet who has a ‘laser whip’ with the idea being that we go through a linear level and whip/bash the enemies that pop up. This was pretty poor and involved lots of waggle. Whether Move is better than the Wii MotionPlus or not was kind of irrelevant here. It was waggle time! Not only that, but inconsistent waggle time!  The wife sat down for this one as it just didn’t interest her.

Did my wife enjoy the day? Yes. Mainly because she enjoyed seeing me enjoy the day and enjoyed getting in as an accompaniment to someone entering as press. I think she really enjoyed her Jacket Potato consumed at lunch time too. “What about her experience of the games and gaming culture” I hear you, and Michael Pachter cry out? She says the shooting games ‘do nothing’ for her and, (take a deep breath in here guys) says ‘they all look the same’. She was impressed by the 3D of Killzone 3 but then followed that up with another round of ‘but why do you enjoy playing it? Isn’t it just like the others?’ She wasn’t so impressed with the glasses though, but then again neither was I. Bring on 2013 when affordable, glassless 3D TVs will be everywhere….

Is she going to insist I get Kinect or Sony Move? Absolutely not. She made it clear to me that the Sony and Microsoft software looks the same as the Nintendo and we already have a Wii. I explained that both Kinect and Move were HD but she pointed out that all that matters is what she sees and they look the same.

Her best game of the show? Just Dance 2 for the Wii, which might not be as clever as Kinect Dance Central, but is more accessible, more obvious as to how you are scored and we could stand wherever we wanted to. Second best game of the show for her? Mario Sports; we played the basketball game (there will eventually be basketball, volley ball, ice hockey and dodge ball). She claimed it was luck but for most of the time our scores were tied and she was even winning at one point. Okay, so I did eventually win, but her leading was not because of me ‘taking it easy’.

This guy and his mates gets everyone smiling. I still can't see my wife playing it without me though. It just wouldn't cross her mind to switch it on.

Last questions for her though: did an event like this get you excited for the industry? Will you play more? Answer: ‘no’. She explains that she works, is a mother and relaxing time is in the evening. This is when she is tired and the last thing she wants to do is have to make an effort to be entertained. That rules out Move and Kinect straight away as they insist on standing or being in an exact location. It also rules out a lot of other games too, as games, by their nature require you to make an effort. Will there be  a type of interactive content which will soon be upon us which crosses that gap between TV and games? Something that allows you to ‘play along’ with the narrative that’s being carried out for you on screen?

With the launch of Google TV and similar systems promising to bring web and television footage together under one roof, perhaps there will become a time when game designers will be able to reach out to people like my wife with games that require a very low level of interaction through a device they access regularly.  Will my wife put a DS in her bag as well as a phone? Perhaps, but I doubt she would remember to charge it.

More importantly will she actually spend money on buying games for a particular system in the future? No chance. She requires content which is advertiser funded and related to a narrative experience she is already engaged with, such as X-Factor or some soap. Perhaps she would enjoy  betting against the ending, or voting to change it, or entering a 3D recreation of her favourite TV world where she can read articles, get gossip and meet other similar minded people?

Perhaps there are just some people who will never find gaming causal enough. For them it’s a chore. Or alternatively, as our daughter grows up she might be more likely to drag her mum into gaming whether she wants it or not.

Guess who is going to the Wii Party Launch at Chessignton this weekend?

'You WILL Calibrate. Resistance is Futile.'

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands.

He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person ‘free world’, narrative driven and portable gaming.
He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

6 comments

  1. Great read and a valuable lesson: it has nothing to do with the tech. Gaming will never appeal to some just because it’s too much of an effort. That is exactly why chess, as great as it might be, will never appeal to a lot of people. Same can be said about reading books (as incredible as it might seem). We can then conclude the movie industry has many great years ahead, especially if they keep churning out light comedies and brainless action movies! 😉

  2. ur lazy /

    Are you really b@tching that much about having to calibrate the move?. Its not that painful. It never takes me more then like 5 or 10 seconds at the most to calibrate a move game and i make SURE to calibrate it precisely. Stop being a little baby and start enjoying the fact that you now have a more realistic and better way to play videogames.

  3. ur lazy /

    Are you really b@tching that much about having to calibrate the move?. Its not that painful. It never takes me more then like 5 or 10 seconds at the most to calibrate a move game and i make SURE to calibrate it precisely. Stop being a little baby and start enjoying the fact that you now have a more realistic and better way to play videogames.

    gggdfhfdjgjfgj

  4. ur lazy /

    sorry about the posting twice…

  5. Smootherkuzz /

    It seems she likes Wii. All games and systems are not for everyone but the choice factor is always nice to have, thats what really make gaming so great.

  6. KrazyFace /

    I see exactly what you’re saying here Grump-o! I could probably get my partner into gaming but it’s a lot of hassle for her to try and remember button configurations, various game rules and some of the odd restrictions they put in games that we as gamers are used to, confuse the hell out of her.

    My GF Playing Red Dead: “It won’t let me go over there!?”

    Me: “That’s because the game world dosen’t go any further”

    My GF: “But I want to see that thing over there!”

    Me; “Yes but, there’s an invisible wall there, that’s where the game world ends so…”

    My GF: “But why is there a wall there if you can see past it, it LOOKS like you can go over there!”

    Me: “Just turn around, you can’t get any further”

    My GF: “But…”

    And so on. The other issue is control and while Move and Kinect SAY they’re easier to use, to a casual player configuring calibrations is just as much a needless hassle as learning buttons. I have recently been playing Fallout 3 on the PC using mouse and keyboard as control for the first time ever, and after sticking with it for the last two weeks I’ve now just stopped bothering with it until my 360 to PC pad is delivered because I just can’t funtion properly! I’m running side-ways off cliffs, banging into furniture, bringing up menu screens in the middle of fights and generally playing like a drunken hobo with only one arm. So, I now deeply undrestand why games are still hard to get into for first-timers. Great article Grump!

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