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11/09/2007 Family Family Gamer Article
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'Hey honey, fancy playing some games tonight? I have this great first-person shooter that you'll love, just let me drag the desk in here and set you up with the mouse and keyboard and you're gonna love it'. Maybe not the best way to transition your nearest and dearest from Wii-Sports to some proper games. Mouse and keyboard may well be a flexible and accurate control scheme, but not the most lounge friendly of set-ups.

Okay, let's rewind and try that again.

'Hey honey, fancy playing some games tonight? I have this great first-person shooter that you'll love, grab this controller. That's it, just use that stick to move left and the other one to turn right. Want to shoot? Oh, just reach round to the back and tap the right bumper. Bit further, bit further, there you go! Then use that blue button to reload and that yellow one to crouch, simple!' While this is more convenient for lounge play as you can see it is pretty daunting for new (or small handed) players.

Right, bear with us here, one more time!

'Hey honey, fancy playing some games tonight? I have this great first-person shooter that you'll just love, grab Wii-mote and Nun-chuck, and have a go.' And away she goes running, looking, jumping and shooting. Did you spot it? There in that moment - that's the pay-off right there. No need to justify the controller any more than this, it lets anyone play first-person shooters in their lounge with no desk and without multiple button presses and inverted control sticks. It works and that's before MotionPlus.

Now the Wii provides a workable lounge play option, games can become more of a family experience.

This may all seem a little forced, but I am making an important point here and one I really believe in. For me the best aspect of the Wii's controllers is that they provide a new alternative to the either-or of Game-pad or Mouse/Keyboard. Hardened supporters of these different control schemes will argue infinitum about the chosen scheme's relative benefits and pitfalls. The genius of the Wii's controls is that they take the middle ground between these dichotomies.

They are not as intimidating as the plethora of buttons and oppressive dark hues of the various game-pads (let's not even mention the Duke) we have littering our homes. Its buttons have been designed to meld into the overall aesthetic, only the transparent A button and trigger B buttons stand out. It is no accident that gamers of any age have been happy to pick them up since the system launched. And the reference familiarity of the universal TV remote completes the unobtrusive feel down to a tee.

Add to this the simplified control implementations that are enabled by pointing and gesture combinations and there is little reason to cling to the now fiddly gamepad and desk-tethered mouse/keyboard. Mouse/keyboard proponents have always highlighted the awkwardness of analogue stick aiming and use this to justify their loyalty to the more complex PC control setup. The Wii answers this point confidently through an aiming scheme that has the analogue feel of a mouse, without the need to sit at a desk.

We're not kidding ourselves (and presumably neither are Nintendo) this article is unlikely to convince hardened gamers to switch from their control of choice. But put this in a family setting and it instantly makes sense. If you are a parent who wants to keep games as a shared experience the Wii controls are a real boon. They take away a whole raft of reasons for consoles or PCs to gravitate upstairs and for the games to become a solitary pursuit.

Now the Wii provides a workable lounge-play option games can become more of a family experience. This not only means that parents gain a better understanding of the games their children play, but also that the hardcore gamer can get genuine appreciation of their skill and achievement at their hobby of choice. And with the upcoming MotionPlus add on for Wii-Sports 2 (Resort) this looks like a controller that is here to stay.

What has previously been seen as something of a gimmick to grab the casual gaming market turns out to have more applications and wider benefits. Not that Nintendo really planned it all for this purpose, but the result of their approach actually enables many of us parents to re-engage with a games industry that of late we had found either threatening or unhealthy.

Written by Andy Robertson

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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