I can still remember my grade school self hunched low in the glow of the TV screen, muscles braced & straining, thumbs aching as I defended the world from space invaders and incoming asteroid attacks. Atari’s joystick controller was my small body’s extension into the video-game universe, while the rest of me remained slouched in the living room cushions. Although I graduated to a Sega Genesis, my brother’s first Nintendo, brief dalliances with Myst, and a few frustrating marathon sessions with Sony Playstations, I can’t say I ever did become a hardcore gamer. But I certainly knew the pain of controller induced carpal tunnel syndrome.
I took note of cool developments in gaming technology and culture as years went by. I admired the perseverance and ingenuity of both designers and players, but weren’t we all still stuck at a desk or in an easy chair, tethered to the console by a wire and a controller?
When the Wii game system with its wireless Wiimote was introduced, gamers finally got off the couch to physically interact with their favorite games. You didn’t just press a button to swing a digital golf club, you had assume the STANDING position, put the device in hand and ACTUALLY SWING YOUR ARM. The Wii remote uses an accelerometer that detects and measures speed of motion and infrared sensors to gauge the device’s position in space when you point it at the sensor bar on the console. Wii’s peripheral controllers allow players to use more than their thumbs to manipulate objects, shoot lasers, play sports, dance, do yoga or conduct an orchestra.
Although the Wii remote’s been hacked to perform non-gaming tasks, like controlling a robot lawn mower, I’ve been noticing how programmers and artists exploit the Wii’s motion control capabilities in their work. The Wii remote devices seem to be especially popular with those who use Ableton Live, Max/MSP/Jitter, Serato Live or similar programs for live audio and visual mixing.