Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Week 9 - Ergonomics

As we can tell just by looking at the world around us, technology has been going down the route of ‘smaller and sleeker’ for a while now. Game consoles of today seem to be experiencing some regression in this aspect, but companies like Nintendo are still conforming to the trend. Consoles do seem to be an exception to this rule, as the thicker they are, the more powerful they seem to be.

I do like my PS3, but if the PS2 is a brick, this thing is a cement block. It looks good, until you see it IRL. I know that for a home console, they should be a relevant size for their environment, and since we have the PSP transport isn’t as necessary, but I just find it too heavy. I am not looking forward to carrying it home tomorrow for Christmas [even though the thing is out of commission right now due to Assassin’s Creed error]. This seems really trivial, but the fact that people, especially University students, part of its target audience travel far more frequently than they used to and want to bring their beloved beast of a console with them is something that should be more doable. Maybe I’m being picky since the PS3 is a MAN’S console and I lack the required manly strength to carry it without living in constant fear of dropping and breaking its precious inside-bits. Perhaps the pure manliness of the PS3 is what attracted me to it. Aside from this, I do think the PS3 looks the best out of the next-gen consoles. I think the X360 looks a bit like a toy. The Wii looks pretty cool but I don’t like white so much. What I did like about the PS3 controller was the similarity to the PS2, and the wireless feature is really nice. Also, I do like the consistency which Sony is giving us, as the user interface of the PS3 is based off the PSP which came before it. The PSP works just like holding a PS controller in your hands with a screen in the middle, and I really love it! I find it much more appealing than the dual-screens or interactive screen and so on. It reminds me of the original design of the GBA, which I also really liked for the symmetry of it.

Menu interfaces on the other hand; I was disappointed at first to find my PS3 rather confusing to use. Small examples such as the fact that when you insert a flash drive, you have to select the ‘see all’ option after the interface tells you there are no files on the drive. And that option is not visually obvious, it took me way too long to figure it out even after going through the menu several times and considering trading in my console with the complaint that it couldn’t read USB flash memory. I am not a natural with computers, at all, but I’m learning to understand these things after many years of persistence. Should I really have to do that? I also find the online network capability ridiculously over-complicated to set up. Again, after reading the manuals, and considering myself a person of average intelligence, I am non the wiser about how to do this. It’s gotten to the point where I’m asking the person who built my computer to come and do it for me, and he doesn’t know anything about consoles. So, why so complicated? How can manuals say so little? Somehow I doubt I would have any less trouble with xbox live. I’m putting it down to my own lack of computer-related intuition/common sense unless anyone agrees with me. I’d estimate that I use around 10% of what my PS3 boasts it can do, and that's not that good, is it?

When will ergonomics go too far? When functionality and accessibility is compromised. My complaints above are more related to basic graphic design than ergonomics, aside from the size/weight issue. But I don’t have that much of a problem with it, if I could use all the features with no trouble then I wouldn’t mind at all.

The joystick is only really useful in things like flight simulators, or the sort of thing used in military training. It lacks the physically interactive features to match the needs of next-gen games, or even games that were made years ago. The ergonomics of the joystick is already incorporated into the analogue sticks present on most other controllers, so it has become quite redundant a while ago. After removing the nostalgia goggles I can remember the joystick being quite awkward and frustrating to use with PC games, but perhaps I was using it for the wrong kind of games? I don’t remember that clearly. Although I don’t think peripherals aside from the standard controller are really necessary, they do look kind of cool, and using a light gun, even if it didn’t work at all, made you feel pretty awesome. Nintendo has always made some weird peripherals such as the Powerglove and the Virtualboy, and its interesting to still see strange unnecessary things like fishing rods come out for the Wii, which they will most likely continue to make for sheer novelty value. Which isn't entirely a bad thing.

[pst, why are these 'thumbnails' blogger gives you always so massive?]


Del "D-Y-D" said...

they're big because pictures are a nice way to break up blocks of text, and make people less intimated to read it all

Blair said...

True, I always click on the entries with pictures too.