Peripherals – A Perspective


Random Shopper:  “Hello sir, I’d like to buy a Nintendo Wii today.”

Employee:  “Oh that’s excellent!  We have a few in stock, I’ll go ring one up for you.”

Random Shopper:  “I really can’t wait to try this out.  I’ve heard it really makes you feel a part of the game with its motion controls!”

Employee:  *whisper “Do you REALLY want to be… in the game?”

Random Shopper:  “Sure! That’s why I’m buying it.”

Employee:  “Then you’ll want some really cool peripherals to use with it!  You simply attach the controller to them!”

Random Shopper:  “Oh really?  Like what?”

Employee:  “Well, you’ll definitely want this plastic gun to get a real feeling for it.”

Random Shopper:  “Okay, sounds good!”

Employee:  “Oh, and how about this sweet Vitality Sensor?”

Random Shopper:  “Um..?”

Employee:  “Yea, it’s great!  It will let the Wii detect if you’re still alive by checking your pulse!”

Random Shopper:  “……..”

Employee:  “Oh and you’ll want this steering wheel, and this tennis racket, and the Wii Motion Plus, and the balance board, and ….”

Random Shopper:  “… Shit”

Has this happened to you?  Eh, probably not, but it could have!  With the big selection of peripherals for nearly every type of gaming system, what’s a person to do?  This isn’t anything new of course.  You could look back in the early days of gaming to see this trend.

When I think back at the early days, I think of something that is probably best forgotten – Rob the Robot.  I have never had a chance to use R.O.B but it was a peripheral for the NES which… well to be honest, I have no idea what he did.  I know that there were only two games that used it – Gyromite and Stack-Up.  It’s just the image of being a young kid and thinking “Oh, there’s a cool robot for my Nintendo!”  I’m more than sure it was for the best that I have never owned one.  However, there was an evil that I did own, an evil greater than most, this being the power glove.

(Oh R.O.B, we barely knew you)

Yeah, that thing really worked well!  I have to say that was one of the most worthless accessories I have ever used.  The damn thing didn’t even work right most of the time and it made games about impossible to play.  Sure, the commercials made it look like something to die for.  You could wear this super cool glove to control all of your games and play in style, the style of shit.  Notice how I’m using a lot of Nintendo examples here?  I don’t think that’s a coincidence, Nintendo just seems to gravitate to peripherals.  But let’s just not pick on Nintendo.  Sega surely has had some crazy ideas back in the day as well.

Sega was doing very well in the early 90’s with their Genesis console so of course they also got into the peripheral market.  Do you remember the Sega Activator?  This was probably one of the strangest peripherals ever made.  I think they tried to refer to it as a martial arts simulator device?  Anyway, you would place this ring on the floor and stand in the middle of it.  The activator used infrared beams so when you would kick and punch (literally) it would break the beam and send a signal to the Genesis as a command (just like pushing a button on the controller).  Of course it didn’t work well and ended up being garbage.

(Eh…)

Those are just some fun loveable examples of the whole peripheral craze from the past, but have things really changed much?  Well, to an extent sure.  I would like to think they have all learned some lessons from the past and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have these options, but when they get to that ridiculous unneeded stage, then it isn’t exactly helpful.  Let’s look at some recent examples.  On the Playstation 2 there was the Eyetoy which was basically a cam and a mic that connected to the Playstation 2 console.  It wasn’t long before it fell flat on its face.  Then on the Playstation 3, we get the Playstation Eye which is essentially a better version of the Eyetoy.  I would be lying if I didn’t agree that it was cool using it with ‘The Eye of Judgment’ game.  Besides that however, there hasn’t been much for it.  The 360 has a similar peripheral called the Xbox Live Vision Camera.  But what splash did it really make?  Again, not a whole lot, but they both make for excellent webcams I’m sure.  Of course there is the Wii Balance Board.  Nifty idea to get people interested in getting in shape, but in a way, it also fell flat.  The support for these ideas have been poor.

I’m not saying that these ideas are all that great to begin with (seriously, a vitality sensor?) but they could be a lot more if they would, oh I don’t know, support them?  The Eyetoy had a few things for it and then that dried up and people figured it would make better use as a webcam.  The same for the Playstation Eye so far although it is expected to be involved with the Move.  The Vision Camera didn’t get a whole lot of support as far as I know, and the Balance Board supports Wii Fit, EA Active, and a few other games.  Seriously, these ideas might not be the best, but how can you tell without supporting them and showing us what they can do?  It would be stupid to sit here and blame these companies solely on that as they do quite well with their main purpose, which is the gaming console.  However, third party manufacturers tend to come up with some ideas and some of them are pretty cool.

When Guitar Hero was released, it was created with the idea of using a plastic guitar to make their game more immersive.  You could still use a controller, but it was pretty pointless.  This was an idea of a good peripheral because it made the game better and let’s be honest, if it was just released with the intent of using a controller, it wouldn’t have became very popular at all.  Of course the music game genre progressed and we ended up with multiple guitars, drums, and microphones.  In the case of Rock Band, it gave you the feeling that all your friends were in a band.  It works, and it works well.  Dance Dance Revolution is another popular example of how to do things right.  Konami had the idea to create a rhythm based game in the form of dancing, but how interesting would it be if you just pressed buttons?  Not very.  So they created the dance pad peripheral to go with it which allowed a unique experience.  And you know else?  All these companies have supported the use of these peripherals by constantly creating newer version of their games.  There are loads of DDR games out there while Guitar Hero and Rock Band constantly release new music tracks to add to their games.  A little support goes a long way.

We have an interesting year ahead of us.  We have Sony releasing their new Playstation Move peripheral which is meant to take motion control beyond what the Wii has.  Microsoft will be launching Natal, which is another motion control peripheral that plans to change the way you play games.  And Nintendo released the Wii Motion Plus last summer but plans to have more support for it throughout this year.  These are exciting peripherals if done right, but can we expect them all to have a lot of support or will it just be another typical niche that vanishes within a year?  They all seem to at least be trying to go in the right direction by promising a lot of support from various developers.  They are all neat ideas, but I’m tired of neat, give me something that’s going to stick around.

I don’t hate the idea of peripherals at all.  I also don’t need fifty different pieces of plastic for my Wii controllers and I doubt a lot of others do as well.  Honestly, there is a lot of garbage out there that should have just never been made.  In other occasions, a peripheral is needed.  The music rhythm genre would have never gained the fame that it has without the use of proper peripherals.  As you can see, it’s okay to have some good ideas and to build upon a console or a game, but just show more support for them.

Just my perspective is all!

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