‘Wait wait, my controls aren’t inverted, where’s the options’, a refrain commonly heard amongst gamers. The invert check box has become pretty much statutory for any first person shooter of the last five years. This little incongruous setting enables you to press down to look up or vi ca versa.
We can imagine the day that the feature was first discovered by users, possibly in SNES Starfox, and a whole section of the gaming public suddenly raised their game. Once discovered there was no going back for these gamers, it became so engrained in their playing psyche that any game without it became almost unplayable.
Now the debate rages as to which makes more sense “up is down, down is up” or “up is up, down is down”. While much of the rhetoric of these discussions is based on which makes more sense instinctively, we suggest that this is more a question of consciousness and interaction.
The question is where does the player put their consciousness in relation to the controller. What part of their body is the joypad controlling, their arm, their head; and how is this control translated to that body part.
Behind: If the player feels they are controlling movement from behind their head with joypad , they are likely to find an inverted control scheme works best for them. Pulling back on their stick therefore tilts their head up and should move the play field up.
In front: If the player feels they are controlling movement in front of their head, they are likely to find a non-inverted control scheme works best for them. Pulling back on their stick therefore pulls their head down from the front and should move the play field down.
There are many things that can affect where the player subconsciously locates themselves. It could be that an extroverted player is used to interacting in an open and forthright manner may feel they were controlling the game world from in front of themselves. Similarly an introverted player who is more reserved and withdrawn may feel they were controlling the game from a safe distance behind themselves. It could also be that those used to scientific work were used to manipulating theories in their heads and therefore controlling environments from behind themselves. Similarly, those used to artistic work may be more used to working with material in front of themselves.
These hypotheses are now becoming muddied, or maybe just more complex, by the introduction of different control schemes. Interactions now involve more than a simple thumb movement. Touch and gesture are being introduced to provide players with more imersive experiences. This inevitably affects where the player positions themselves in relation to the action on screen.
Although these control schemes are still in their youthful exuberant stage and will take some time to mature, they seem to have the general affect of pulling the players consciousness forward, into the game. If this is true, we would expect to see a trend away from inverted control schemes as the player increasingly considers themselves as part of what is going on in the game environment.