Why can’t I sit down to play videogames anymore?

The move towards more innovative ways of controlling videogames has left Simon concerned about the special relationship he enjoys with his sofa...

The wonders of the Wiimote

I like to think that my backside and my sofa enjoy a quite special, cherishable relationship. It’s not the world’s most expensive sofa, but the two of us have spent plenty of time together, and I’d like to think that we’re now on first name terms.

One of the special things that my sofa and I share is my love of videogames. To be fair, we both have specific roles in this adventure. The sofa kindly offers to support my clearly very svelte and manageable frame (ahem…), while I can concentrate on the game in question, occasionally throwing a curveball by reaching for a beer on the floor. The sofa, to its credit, copes with it all. It even hides the remote control from me from time to time, in a clever and always-appreciated jape.

It’s thus on behalf on my sofa that I feel I must strike a note of caution into the recently announced plans of Microsoft and Sony. With the word ‘bandwagon’ nowhere in sight, the pair of them have followed the lead of the Nintendo Wii, by adding to the fad for motion controllers. Such controllers are fascinating innovations, and have led to some intriguing and entertaining games. But they have one major factor in common. They want me to go off my backside to play with them. And I don’t want to.

Purely for work purposes (that’s my excuse), I have more than one games console under my television. Heck, include the Dreamcast, which always respected the need for a backside/cushion interface, and I’ve got more than two. And the Nintendo Wii that sits there is the least played of the lot.

Ad – content continues below

Now let me get my disclaimer in right here: I’m not averse to the idea of occasionally getting off my rear to play a game. I can do that, and I’ve proved it on several occasions. Not just at Christmas.

My problem, though, is that a good majority of Nintendo Wii releases, for me to play them properly, really require me to do so. I appreciate I’m part of the problem here, as the manoeuvring of the Wiimote and Nunchuk isn’t something I can easily do sat down. I appreciate some can. But to get necessary traction, I find I at least have to make some token nod towards exercise. And I’m not always ready to do so.

Watching the Microsoft Xbox 360 demo videos from E3, however, brought me out in something of a cold sweat. Forsaking the fact that few people have a lounge of sufficient size to do what Microsoft is suggesting, watching a woman who’s clearly far more athletic than I prancing around a stage at speed wasn’t a reflection of what I got into videogames for. In fact, you could argue that I play games precisely because I can’t do that kind of thing for real.

For instance, I’m not much use at football. I’d love to be, and I had a valiant effort to give David Beckham cause for concern, but fate conspired to give me too much of a liking of pizza, and thus my sporting ambitions were doomed. Clumsiness, lack of co-ordination and a failure in the raw talent department, in retrospect, weren’t helpful either. As such, I like playing FIFA, for instance, given that it’s about the best chance I’ve ever got of lifting the Champions League trophy.

However, I can foresee a point, ten years down the line, where I’m careering around my living room like a loon with some revolutionary controller, pretending to kick a ball that’s not there, and generally wondering what on earth I’m doing.

For me, the likes of the Wiimote, dance mats, EyeToy and the like work best as occasional treats. I like using them from time to time, but generally prefer going for a walk to using any of them for physical exertion. For me, videogames are escapism, not an excuse for my sofa to file divorce papers. And as such, I like to escape at the end of a generally long, taxing and mildly active day, by just sitting down. Surely I’m allowed to do that.

Ad – content continues below

I should also point out that I’m not pathologically opposed to the new controllers that are coming out. I think they’re a great idea (Microsoft’s implementation in particular looks fascinating), and as long as the majority of games offer me the choice as to how to play my games, then what a great thing to have. Appreciating that my Wii Fit balance board has proven particularly adept at holding a collection of books that otherwise I’d have to file on a bookshelf, though, I’d suspect, thinking about it, that I’m not the greatest ambassador for such control systems.

That said, no doubt at some point I’ll buy them all. I love gaming, and I love some of the ideas that come along with different ways of interacting with titles. Granted, the Nintendo Wii software catalogue should prove a stern warning for those who like their shovelware in vast quantities, but even then, there are some fun games in there.

My request, though, is this: in the rush to follow what’s been a fascinating trend, spare a thought for the likes of me. Make sure, Sony and Microsoft, that as you clamour to bite off some of Nintendo’s revenues, you leave some traditional gaming behind. Let me at least play FIFA without having to do three months of intensive fitness training first.

If not for me, do it for my sofa. It doesn’t half get lonely, y’know…

(And if you missed the video demo of the Xbox 360 Project Natal, here it is)