Considering the popularity of the Wii, Kinect, and PlayStation Move, it would seem that handheld controllers where button mashing is the only skill involved might someday die-out completely, though don’t expect that Elijah Wood and his friend will chastise you for using your hands, even 3 years from now.
Sony’s newest contraption — biometrics in their controllers for both the PS3 and PSP — is the latest move in the motion-controlled battle between the three giant gaming corporations (see also: Nintendo’s failed Vitality Sensor).
Sony recently applied for a patent and revealed their plans. Some of the specifications below are strikingly similar to the PS Vita. There are also design schematics for a biometric DualShock3 controller and a PlayStation Move style wand.
Supposedly, Sony’s biometric controller will measure three different factors for gamers using it: galvanic skin resistance (moisture level of skin), electro-cardio data (heart rhythm), and electro-muscular data (muscle movements). All of this information will be sent to the game one is playing by simply holding the controller. Sony has listed ideas for how they anticipate this will work:
- Weapons that change in quality dependent upon the gamer’s stress level. An increase in stress level could make a weapon more accurate or less steady, which will make it difficult to target an enemy. Sony specifically mentions a sniper situation where the weapon becomes steadier if the player relaxed.
- Tensing up of muscles in order to withstand an attack or to charge up a shield.
- A video game character whose facial expressions, movements, posture, and even voice changes is dependent upon the gamer’s biometric data. For example, this character will sweat when a player is nervous.
- An adrenaline style boost which will let the player run faster, jump higher, and punch harder when stressed.
- A health bar that depletes more rapidly if the player has a high stress level.
- An attack button that changes a character’s move depending if the player is stressed or relaxed.
- Background music and scenery that changes depending on your stress level. Matching music is one example, but Sony also proposes to change music to make a player more relaxed. Brightness of objects and the zoom level, representing a higher level of focus, are two ideas for scenery.
- A game that adapts difficulty levels depending on a players stress level.
Neat idea in the conceptual design, but there are a few concerns with the implementation. First, I personally know people who are always calm but have extremely sweaty hands, regardless of the situation. Is the controller going to be able to recognize the difference between genetics and legitimate stress? Secondly, what about false-positive readings? Would the control (and thus the game) interpret the signals as player-related stress? I’m also not a big fan of a depleting health bar. I’d hate to see Ezio’s health squares deteriorate because I have to chase down and tackle an escaping thief and Ezio’s insistence on getting hung up on fences causes me to stress, which causes him to lose health. Honestly, it's hard to see a correlation between a player's level of stress and Ezio's health, especially when they are inversely proportional. I can understand why Sony thought it would be a good idea; I simply don't agree with it.
Some of these ideas are sound, and increasing technology is usually a good benefit to gamers. This gamer, though, hopes that if this becomes mainstream there will be the ability to turn it off. I may be a dinosaur, but there still is something romantic about button-mashing without having to wonder if Commander Shepard is going to miss that Geth's flashlight head because I just spilled my drink all over the sofa.
Do you like this concept?
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