Science is finally studying the beautiful minds of upside-down players. Dr Jennifer Corbett is the co-chair of the Visual Perception and Attention Lab at Brunel University in London, and she plans to study people who flip the Y or X axis when controlling a camera in a video game, according to a report from The Guardian. Her team wants to understand why some people want the camera to look up when they tap the joystick.
But I already know why I’m doing this – it’s about how I empathize with the characters and the world in the game.
Well – it’s not entirely correct to say that Corbett and her researchers want to understand “why people turn around their controls”. Instead, the study is about determining how different people process visual information. Learning more about this topic can have far-reaching consequences.
“ Understanding these types of individual differences can help us better predict where important information is placed and where to double-check for easily lost information in everything from virtual reality games to safety-critical tasks such as weapon spotting in baggage scans or tumors in x-rays. Ray, Corbett told the Guardian.
But I want to go into the reason because I think it’s something we give up when we argue about inverted controls. People often explain why it makes sense to them, but we don’t get into the basic philosophy that makes us choose an inverse in the first place.
And for me, it comes down to the idea of understanding the relationship between me and the on-screen action.
When you play Super Mario 64, you are actually in control of two characters
When I launched Nintendo Super Mario 64 in 1996, the game flipped the camera controls for both the Y axis and the X axis. That may sound wild now, but Nintendo’s logic made sense to me at the time – the biggest reason I’m still mirrored today. The truth of a third-person 3D game is that you control two different characters simultaneously. And Super Mario 64 imagines this with Mario, the main character, and Lakitu, the floating cloud creature who acts as Mario’s photographer.
If you thought the camera was controlling a separate photographer, the inverted controls made more sense. You press up to raise the camera up, which will direct the perspective down by keeping the subject in the center of the frame. To look left, you need to attack Lakito around Mario to the right.
Invert X has faded over the years, but that’s because most games don’t use Mario 64’s free camera. A game like 2018 God of War attaches a viewfinder to Kratos’ back. You really don’t have to think of a camera at all. Instead, when you want to look left or right, you need to physically move Kratos left or right to do so. But even in this case, the inverted Y still makes the most sense. If you want to hunt, Kratos won’t even start flying. Instead, you need to tilt the camera back (by pulling the stick down) to shift perspective toward the sky.
First-person shooters are similar. Flip Y on controller because pulling the stick down matches tilting the character’s neck back to search. But I’m not flipping X because the right swipe is about rotating the character’s entire body to the right.
Reflection is looking at our connections to games
But the above is just a quick list of explanations for why flipping the camera makes sense to me in certain circumstances. Other people will have other metaphors that suit them. But however you imagine it, the point is that the upside-down players think about the mechanisms and levers that move the character across the world. We are thinking about why some actions will affect.
For me, it comes down to empathy. I am not a person on screen or camera. But I do control them, and I want to be thoughtful about how I interact with them. This creates a more direct contact with these objects within the game. So when I control them, I don’t send commands to them. Instead, we are related to each other and act as one unit.
I suspect the folks who use the live style controls don’t give it much thought. When they want to search up, they just want to move the screen up. So they pressed the button up to tell the screen to do so.
And while I can’t play games this way, I don’t judge who does. You are actually holding a controller to interact with a video image on the screen. As a control flip player, I need to build this link with the onscreen action because the photographer, the character and I are all in this together.
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