Where’s the Joy in Pad Demos?

Those with a firmer, stronger grip on their joysticks might not have even noticed this development, but personally, I would rather like to know whatever happened to old-fashioned, mouse-powered gameplay demonstrations for first-person shooters? Over the past few years, I’ve found myself increasingly irritated with various PR departments’ keen intent on demonstrating their games on consoles and/or with gamepads only.

The key to successful gameplay exhibition, after all, is authentic exposition. While the generic idea of the trailer is to lure the player in, convince him or her of the game’s meritorious mechanisms, gameplay trailers are not as disconnected from actual gameplay as it would seem on the outset; Think of competitive play, for example, wherein even the most infinitesimal intricacies matter: DPI, polling rate, sensitivity, inversion, crosshairs, macros, bindings, et cetera et cetera. My primary question is, then, why are we not seeing these features in trailers?

A very recent example – one I’m sure most of you have seen by now – can be found in the form of the latest BioShock 2 multiplayer trailer, found below:

The footage above has been clearly recorded with the questionable aid of the gamepad: The first-person camera movement looks imprecise and tardy; most of the third-person action on display, then, consists of arrow-straight movement, sluggish posturing and general standing-about. Two more gameplay video analyses, of Resistance 2 and Singularity, after the jump.

Ultimately, finding issues such as the aforementioned in videos really does reflect rather poorly on my general understanding of the pacing, playability and the controls of a particular game. Should I perchance blame the video’s gameplay co-ordinator, its actors, the general unsuitability of the gamepad (blasphemous!) – or even the actual controls of the game?

An early Resistance 2 gameplay trailer, then, sought to illustrate the magnitude of the scenery and the Leviathan, but when I thought about it in context of this post, the only discernible feature of the trailer that I recalled – apart from its reliance on scripted sequences – was how more than half of the video consists of the demonstrator trying to awkwardly climb up and down several flights of stairs. See for yourself:

How is the player having a hard time with controls not adversary to both the video’s overall success and players’ overall expectations of the game? Is my bar simply set too high?

My final example is also the straw that broke the camel’s back: The latest Singularity walkthrough, which is presented in the form of the dreaded amusement park ghost train experience. Its first-person camera behaves as if scripted and running on rails, subsequently resulting in the demonstrator failing to elicit neither realistic action nor reaction such as taking cover, scanning the environment for vantage points, searching for pickups or objects, ultimately offering to us an unnaturally smooth gaming experience:

Why am I so gawrshdarnd allergic to this particular phenomenon, then? As much as I feel I’m making much ado about nothing, I really quite honestly can’t stand these pad videos. This is my attempt at explaining why: While viewing a gameplay demonstration, I would much rather be fully submerged into the environs and the gameplay, in the exact way I would were I playing the game myself. After all, as much as the gameplay demo is an advertisement, it also functions as a viable channel for us potential players to experience the act of playing a game well before its actual date of release.

Therefore, when a gameplay video fails to successfully illustrate the full range of motion normally presented to me via mouse controls, or display a certain pace or a tempo of movement I’ve long since grown used to having on the PC platform, the video becomes mechanistic and monotonous, as if the game was merely going through the motions. My suspension of disbelief – instantaneously damaged.

3 thoughts on “Where’s the Joy in Pad Demos?

  1. wow, arbitrary.  anyways, think of it this way, if game companys showed off nothing but PC footage, then everyone who bought it on consoles would be dissapointed by the downgraded graphics.  fact remains, a much larger majority of gamers use consoles then PC’s, so game companys show usually show the console version, because thats the one that matters to more people.  sorry but its the truth.  and personally, i dont even care, i play both, but i actually prefer using a gamepad, even when im playing PC games.  its just a personal preference.  its all so arbitrary.

  2. Thanks for the comment! I’m happy that you pointed out the marketplace effect, as the relationship between a specific type of demonstration and advertising and product presence in the marketplace is hardly arbitrary.

    What happened to the mouse-powered demos, obviously, is PS3 and the XBOX360! I gladly admit the profound disconnection between the write-up and the aforementioned facet of the issue, though the reason I chose to leave these factors out was to keep the focus of the text firmly on the actual effects of this phenomenon rather than be apologetic or attempt to cover my bases.

    The primary focus of the text was not on the controls themselves, but rather the aesthetic authenticity and success of the demonstrative act. Under these (admittedly arbitrary) terms, I would still personally classify all of the above demonstrations as failures.

  3. The mouse will always be better, but company nowadays don’t want to do anything more than the bare minimum, so they simply demo all the stuff on the consoles becauses its cheaper for them to setup. There is still a huge following for FPS on PC only, companies just stopped caring and simply cater to the console crowd.

    But Resistant 2 is not a great example, it is afterall only playable on a console.

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