The righteous suffering of the enlightened few

1024px-PSX-DualShock-Controller

DOOM is near.

And some people get so riled up about it, you could think the world was at stake.

id Software’s new shooter title is getting slammed by PC gamers for not delivering whatever it was they wanted. It’s dumb and sluggish because it was made for consoles! For casual gamers! The developer is ignoring the splendid marketing opportunity that is PC gaming! They’re practically throwing away money! You can only carry two guns at a time and it’s all geared towards newbies! All that massive skill PC gamers built up since the 90s goes to waste because any gamepad wielding console kiddie can just pick up the demon spawn and blow everyone away! Imagine that, it’s practically socialism! Real players use a mouse and keyboard and have a gaming rig instead of some shitty console! In my day, we didn’t have everything handed to us! Everything has gone to hell.

At the same time, Playstation and xbox gamers seem to like it well enough. How come?

Gamepad vs mouse

I’m of the opinion that, for gaming, a gamepad is generally the most comfortable controller. I don’t like it if both my hands have to be glued to stationary input devices (keyboard and mouse) for an extended amount of time. That feels like work. I like sitting back and having some freedom to physically move around and change position. A gamepad allows me to do that. I’ve always loved gamepads since I first used one for this reason alone. Ergonomics. I’m not chained to a certain position and my fingers can easily reach all controls. It’s successful for a reason.

Good games are good games by design, not by virtue of the input device they are made for. There are tons of great console games to prove it. Heck, great mobile games too.

Keyboard-and-mouse does allow for more precision when it comes to quick turns and aiming, but it is hopelessly outdated as a default input method for games because it’s uncomfortable and most games don’t require the extra precision. 90s games used it because that was what people had. Twenty years later, people have USB gamepads and Xboxes / Playstations so that’s what games get made for.  The gamepad won because it’s the better, more ergonomic, more comfortable option in 99% of all cases. The other 1% (twitchy shooters, esports) are a niche market.

Consoles vs PCs

It’s not that “consoles are bad”. Consoles are great at delivering affordable, easy to control gaming systems to millions of households. Gamepads are great for the aforementioned reasons.  It’s just that the people complaining about the lack of PC-exclusive mouse-driven twitch shooters are finding themselves a minority and not liking it. To a degree, I can understand that. I grew up with keyboard and mouse driven games, too. But very soon, I was spending the majority of my gaming time on my Playstation with such classics as Final Fantasy, Vagrant Story, Metal Gear Solid, and Tomb Raider. And I loved it. Doom and Quake were cool, but where I’m concerned, the original Playstation’s roster of famous games was as cool. And the gamepad seemed so much more stress free.

It’s not that “console ports suck.” Console ports are an attempt to bring the most popular games to a platform that’s typically not geared towards gaming. Yes, some people have “gaming rigs”. But the majority of PC users don’t, the majority of PCs are home office systems and laptops, and that makes the majority of PCs less suited to play games on than game consoles. Incidentally, that’s why consoles sell like hotcakes. Consoles won because they’re easy-to-use dedicated gaming systems for the people.

Masochistic 90s trip

All the major games are coming to consoles first and foremost these days. We remaining dinosaurs of the keyboard-and-mouse age, those of us that don’t participate in esports anyway, should probably buy consoles and just enjoy the ride. We need to come down from our masochistic 90s trip. And our equally masochistic internet hissy fit whenever another game is released only to disappoint us. Ah, it feels so good to endure the righteous suffering of the enlightened few! Or does it? Is self-inflicted ordeal your thing? Maybe not. Maybe it’s just that we have become snarky, entitled assholes without noticing. “Everything has gone to shit” is our war cry. I fall for it myself sometimes. But it’s really not healthy.

Maybe it’s us who need porting, not the games.

Now get off my lawn.

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One response to “The righteous suffering of the enlightened few

  • thatguy

    I don’t really agree.

    For the longest time gamepads were really awkward with shooters until people invented mechanics to compensate for their overall design. A good example is how ironsights in first person shooters are developed to intentionally overcome the limited accuracy of analog sticks. Two weapon limits are also done to overcome the limited amounts of buttons. The controversy DOOM received had much more to do with the perceived genericness of the multiplayer. Which, you can notice generally died off when it was revealed the singleplayer was much more faithful to Doom’s core design.

    The main reason games come to consoles and are designed for them isn’t due to the control method. Rather it’s because consoles have a larger installed userbase and to maximize profits. It’s far easier to develop a console game that’s designed for one console and then port it to PC than the reverse.

    Gamepads also have more subtle effects on game design, not just with aiming. A really good example is how when you reduce the amount of buttons you use, you start mapping different controls to a single button. I remember Mass Effect 2 had 4 or 5 functions assigned to a single button for it’s PC release. And how the PC release of Fable Anniversary let you rebind less controls than the original game’s PC release.

    It also has effects on UI. I’m reminded of how Morrowind’s user interface was resizeable with the mouse, and was very mouse driven with drag and drop functions. With Skyrim this wasn’t the case and it was very menu driven like a Final Fantasy game. It required a mod for the PC version called SkyUI that restored dragging and dropping.

    Regardless PC gaming is always going to be a thing, it’s a universal constant with video games. If anything it has been predicted video game consoles will die off due to the general rise of mobile gaming. It’s been predicted that in 10-15 years video game consoles will be replaced with inserting your cell phone into your television and playing a game off that with a controller.

    I don’t see much of an argument to be had that “consoles sell better and gamepads allow you to recline in a chair, therefore you must now adapt and buy a console. You are just punishing yourself” when it’s largely subjective and not particularly nuanced. Like plenty of people play PC games on a couch with a tray. Others play with a gamepad at their desk, I’ve done this many times. A laptop is also portable and much easier to take somewhere and play compared to a full console, television and controller.

    To make a more nuanced argument, there are games I enjoy more with a gamepad and there are games I can’t play with a gamepad. It depends more heavily on how the game is designed and there’s plenty of room for both approaches. And given how popular mouse and keyboard is, and has been for close to three decades now I don’t see it going the way of the dinosaur like you’ve claimed it should. Especially given it is so central to personal computers that it’s impossible to do away with.

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