In praise of buttons
One of the main areas of conflict surrounding the games industry’s impending motion control war is the ‘buttons vs no buttons’ debate and this got me thinking. It got me thinking about how much I like buttons and, while I’m at it, switches, and about how much I prefer both to touch sensors and motion sensors of various kinds.
See, you know where you are with a good button and the bigger and chunkier the better, in my book. Modern technology allows for devices to be compact and sleek and minimal, and I’m all for simplicity but not at the expense of knowing, without any doubt, that I pressed what I meant to press.
It’s a problem I’ve had with this generation of consoles. It started with the 360. That power button looks like a good button at first glance – it’s big, it’s round, you can’t miss it. I was reminded of the classic original PlayStation power button – now that was a great power button. But when you press it, it sort of half gives – a successful press feels very similar to a failed press. I mean, what kind of button has a failed press anyway? Presumably, the minimal amount of give is the result of Microsoft’s ‘anything to make it smaller’ design policy, and not of any effort to be too fancy.
Which brings me onto the PS3. God, I hate those stupid touch pads and regard the buttons on the slim as a step forward, not back. You know exactly where a button is, exactly when you have and have not pressed it and, most importantly, it takes an instant to press it. You don’t have to hold it ‘til its warm enough to have turned into a Transformers badge then emits a seemingly random sequence of beeps and flashing lights before anything actually happens. I did like that big, chunky switch on the back, mind you, and was sorry to see that go from the Slim.
And don’t even get me started on touch screens. I truly don’t understand why someone would spend hundreds of pounds on a gadget, only to then have to cover its shiny, new screen in greasy finger-marks just to use it. I can just about tolerate the DS and its stylus – at least there’s some precision and no grease there – but the iPhone. It’s just clumsy and gross, man.
Finally then, the PlayStation Move. Admittedly I’m not really sold on motion control as a whole seeing as, even with buttons, it fundamentally goes against the principles (or maybe they’re bugbears) I’m outlining in this piece, but it seems to me that a motion controller with buttons beats the hell out of one without. Kinect might boast more sophisticated technology, but without buttons you’re surely going to end up flapping your hands at it ineffectually just to navigate menus, just like you did with the EyeToy.
This piece was written using buttons (or ‘keys’ as they’re otherwise known). I’m getting cold sweats at the very idea of typing all that with an iPad.