The Study

The Playstation 3 and Xbox 360: Who Needs Body Movement?

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Video game blog Kotaku reported Wednesday that neither the next Microsoft Xbox nor the next Sony Playstation will be released until 2014 at the earliest, almost a decade after the current generation of video game consoles were introduced. A source told Kotaku, "Both MS and Sony are telegraphing to each other that they're delaying, to milk the current [generation] and fill in previous craters better." One of the biggest "craters" both companies have had to fill is motion-sensing controllers, which allow the player to interact with the game via natural movements, rather than simply pressing buttons. Rival video game company Nintendo based its Wii console around motion-sensing controllers, and even though the Wii has less impressive graphics than its rivals, it has still outsold both by more than 50%, with most crediting the motion-sensing capabilities for Nintendo's success. Microsoft and Sony both finally introduced their own motion-sensing hardware last fall, several years after Nintendo, but such was the demand for motion-sensing for those two consoles that Microsoft's Kinect broke the Guinness World Record for fastest-selling consumer electronics device. Are motion-sensing controllers just a fad, or do they actually bring something more to video games?

In 2007, three students at University College London's UCL Interactive Centre took up this daunting question. The authors had volunteers play "Guitar Hero," a game where players use a guitar-shaped controller to simulate playing guitar in a band. The game, and the controller, mimic many features from real guitars, such as moving the controller's "guitar neck" up and down, to win points from the virtual crowd. One group used the guitar-shaped controller, while the other group played by pressing buttons on a standard controller. The authors found that not only did players using the guitar-shaped controller become more engaged in the game, they also developed more of a "a feeling of presence in the digital world." In other words, the players with the guitar-shaped controller started acting like actual musicians, including performing actions that the game did not actually require. In short, if you see a friend or family member playing an interactive sword-fighting game, stay back.

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