Wii, Guitar Hero, DDR show new gamer interaction, not new technology

Morgan Day

Guitar Hero: For those whose parents never consented to guitar lessons. The Wii: For those who cringe at wearing someone else’s bowling shoes and never had the time to try tennis. Dance Dance Revolution: For those who can’t dance without instructions.

These games are getting gamers to climb out of the recliner, give those poor thumbs a rest and let other parts of their bodies take part in the action.

Vas Patibandla, assistant professor at the Tuscarawas campus, said although the technology for these types of games is not new, the way in which players are interacting with the gaming system is.

Changing games and the image of gamers

Patibandla said video games that were introduced about 20 years ago had optional peripherals, or accessories and controllers that accompanied the games. Games and game systems, such as the Wii, Guitar Hero and DDR, now come with standard controllers and game pads because companies want their games to support some type of motion.

“It used to be gamers were just couch potatoes with carpal tunnel syndrome because they use nothing but these controller pads or joysticks, but with those rifles and the steering wheels and everything, you engage more and more,” Patibandla said.

He said some games have players almost running in place. Wii players exercise a large portion of their upper body, while DDR players are practicing a form of aerobic exercise.

“If you’re thinking of future trends, it could really change gamers themselves,” Patibandla said. “They could be amongst the more physically fit people of society — the opposite of what’s been the stereotype for the last 20 years or so.”

High schools and colleges are now beginning to house DDR cabinets because of the game’s popularity and because it helps students lose weight, said Rebekah Moss, sophomore computer design and animation engineering technology major at the Tuscarawas campus. Kent State has a DDR cabinet located in the Eastway Center.

Moss, who is also vice president of the Animation Imagineers Club, saw virtual reality kickboxing games, drum games and turntables at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3, in Los Angeles. These games, she said, might be the next big thing for consumers.

Guitar Hero: The new game to play

It wasn’t exactly the interactive aspect of Guitar Hero that drew Jesse Butler’s mom to the newest fad in physical video games. Rather, it was David Bowie.

Butler, sophomore business administration major, said he’s becoming more interested in games that involve physical activity. He, along with his parents and older sister, enjoys the variety of music he can choose from in Guitar Hero.

In the game, players competitively “shred riffs” and play along to songs on a guitar-shaped controller, gaining scores (and fans) by pressing the right keys at the right times. Players earn extra points by moving the guitar in certain positions when directed.

The popularity of these physical video games is what led Kent Interhall Council to organize a Guitar Hero tournament to be held tomorrow. Students can compete for an actual guitar and bass, among other prizes.

“I chose it because Guitar Hero is a big trend at the moment,” said Derek Lenehan, sophomore biology major and KIC programming director. “I’m a guitar player myself, and anything guitar-related catches my fancy.”

As with many of the interactive video games today, Guitar Hero is “pretty simple” and doesn’t require players to have guitar-playing experience, Lenehan said.

Popularity of other types of video games

Moss said she doesn’t think the increasing popularity of physical-style video games will have a negative effect on the less physical ones because it’s the storylines that make less physical games unique.

“It’s like reading a book,” she said about games with intricate storylines. “It’s just like putting yourself in a book, and you can see what’s going on.”

Patibandla said there will be a market for those games in the future. A lot of the handheld games will continue to not be motion-based because the display is part of the controller, and it’s difficult to watch a display that’s constantly moving, he said.

“It’s not that any of those games are going to get less popular, it’s just how we interact with our environment is how it’s going to change,” he said.

There will always be people who do not want to participate in physical games — those who are content with the less-interactive games. It’s a matter of preference, not about physical games dominating the market, Patibandla said.

“But I think everyone’s going to follow the direction of the Wii,” by incorporating motion-tracking for future gaming consoles, he said.

Downside to interactive gaming

Stephen Tornero, senior art education major and creator of the Facebook group “DDR ADD,” said he thinks some gamers substitute their experiences in video games for those in reality. For instance, playing a sport on the Wii system makes some people believe they are a real player of that game.

“I’ll ask someone, ‘Have you played tennis before?’ and they’re like ‘Yeah, Mario tennis.'” Tornero said. “The ‘reality-substitution’ thing starts to freak me out.”

He said he started playing DDR just for fun, although there are fanatics and online communities that are overly concerned with what scores they get and what moves they can do.

Related links:

1. Visit the official site of the Electronic Entertainment Expo to read blogs by gamers and gaming experts, watch new game trailers and get the latest news on video games. www.e3insider.com

2. Have a favorite song from a videogame? Check out the Video Game Music Archive just for fun. www.vgmusic.com

3. If you’re not sure you want to invest in the Wii, Guitar Hero or DDR, peruse YouTube to see other people interact with the games. Make sure to check out the 5-year-old DDR prodigy.

4. Check out the National Institute on Media and the Family’s Web site to see statistics about negative effects of video games and how to spot the signs of addiction. www.mediafamily.org

To read Morgan Day’s blog about the Wii, click here.

Contact online correspondent Morgan Day at [email protected].