Complicated Controls for Simple Games

Imagine this scenario. You are playing your favourite multiplayer first person shooter war killing game. It doesn’t matter what the game is as long as it has guns and shooting and explosions and scoring based on these things. You’re in a team deathmatch and time is running out. Your team, the red team, is down by a single kill and there’s only a few seconds left. You are entrenched behind a barrier, short on ammo. That’s when you notice three members from the blue team coming your way. They don’t know you’re hiding there; you are in a perfect ambush situation. Unfortunately, you don’t have enough ammo to take them all out and you know that if you were to jump up and start shooting you’d be shot down in an instant. If you get lucky you might get one of them, but the net result — one kill and one death — won’t help your team’s score much. You’d still lose.

You do, however, have a grenade. Better still, the blue team members walking towards your position are nearing an explosive barrel. Games such as these tend to feature such contrivances. You know that if you cook the grenade nicely and get a quick, accurate throw the explosion that you can create will take out two — if not all three — of the blue soldiers and/or aliens. That will be enough for a victory. Time is running out. It’s now or never.

You prepare for your moment of triumph, tightening your grip on your controller, and throw. Or, more literally, you press the input command that lets your on-screen character throw a grenade. However, unlike most games of the genre where it’s as simple as hitting a trigger button, this game requires a complex scheme of inputs. To throw a grenade, you need to press down, down-forward, forward, down, down-forward, forward, then X and Y and RB at the same time. You input the command, your heart starts beating, adrenaline starts pumping, you are ready and primed to jump out of your seat in victorious celebration!

But instead of throwing the grenade, your avatar jumps up, revealing his position, and starts screaming obscenities at the blue team, flailing his arms profusely. In an instant all three of the enemy players open fire filling your with more lead than a Chinese made toy. You die. You watch as the camera rotates around your corpse giving you a prime view of one of the blue team survivors crouching over your face, as players of such games tend to do. The time runs out. Your team loses by two kills. The switch on your microphone is set to mute as you loudly question the actions of the game to yourself with the always apt “WHAT THE FUCK?”

This first person shooter doesn’t exist. Can you imagine the backlash if it did? Controls like this in such a competitive and highly reactive genre would be dismissed in an instant. No one wants such a vast roadblock between intent and action in a game. It adds nothing but an added level of obfuscation, complicating what is, already, a tactical and twitchy genre.

So if this would be so unacceptable in a shooter, why is this tolerated — and accepted — in Street Fighter IV?

If you answer: “because it’s part of the skill of the game” or “it’s always been this way and it doesn’t make sense to change it”, you are wrong. There has to be a better a way.

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