James Lileks on when gaming stops being fun … because of the damned controller:
My wife asked if we had an xbox 360, and I said we did. She said that someone on the neighborhood mailing list wanted one and could we sell it. I balked. I haven’t played it for some time but there were two games I wanted to get back to, some day. Why had I stopped? Because I can’t play console games. I can’t aim. I can’t figure out the buttons. Once upon a time I was an ace at Halo, but that was long ago, and now there’s just TOO MANY BUTTONS. I’m a keyboard-mouse man and so it has ever been.
I will never finish those games. The reason they were unfinished was because my characters had walked into walls and fallen off horses and the controller felt like a ceramic croissant in my hand. One of them started out interesting, but turned into a driving game as I chased a suspect. My inability to drive had no bearing on the story; even though I rammed the car into phone poles and fire hydrants and mowed down pedestrians by the dozen, all I got was a “be careful!” from my partner.
Every standard image of console gamers shows them sitting back on a sofa, right? Plinking away, trash-talking, relaxed. Every good game I’ve played on a computer has had me on the edge of my seat. Literally. Tense. It’s the difference between playing and inhabiting, between popping in a game disk like you’d put in a movie or turn on the radio, and entering a world. It’s odd, really: the computer screen feels interactive, responsive, an immediate field of action, perhaps because it’s a couple of feet from my face. When I’m sitting in front of a TV, it feels peculiar to interact with it, because it’s supposed to be doing all the work. ENTERTAIN ME! If you do nothing during a game your character stands there, and that makes the TV screen like the real world. It’s like walking away from the TV for a few hours and coming back to see the news anchor is sitting at the desk eating a sandwich.
So out it goes. It’s a relief, really. When entertainment feels like obligation it’s best to look elsewhere.
I wonder if James was playing L.A. Noire, as that was pretty much the point at which I stopped trying to play the game … and my partner said something remarkably like “Be careful!” before I put down the controller and turned off the console.