Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rumble: Why, when, where?

at 5:11 PM
Look, can people stop FUCKING telling me about how Link Wray's 1958 "Rumble" is the original heavy metal song, or inspired all of punk rock, or that it turned Bob Dylan into a frog? I mean, when I say "can people stop [FUCKING] telling me", I mean "can I stop reading people's websites of my own volition and happening across their claims about Shrink Wray and his 1958 tuneski "Rumble"?". Even still: SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY. Unless Link (way 2 be cr3ative d00d, you used the default name) recorded this song onto a vinyl, then threw that vinyl so fast that it traveled forward in time and into the hands of AC/DC, who then re-recorded it as "T.N.T", using completely different notes and rhythms, then I do not give a fucking fuck about it's posthumously claimed position in music history. 
Oddly enough, that was going to be today's opening paragraph even if this post wasn't about controller rumble. You know what Torah says: if you have lemons, make lemonade. The problem is that you need sugar and water for lemonade, and having sugar and water seems to circumcise the pretense of the adage, which is that you're stuck with a bunch of shit no one wants. Sorry, my mom asked me not to curse so much on the blog. I meant to say: "a bunch of *diaper biscuits* no one wants".

Opening paragraph #3. Sometimes I casually refer to a blog post as a "meditation", "discussion", "contemplation", or "thinkery-do". My primary objective in doing so is to play down any aspiration towards formality or finishedness-of-thoughts. I've written many essays in my storied academic career; every last one was done in one shot off the top of my head, with neither planning nor revision. The difference was, with those I was pretending that I had put in a concerted effort and given my work extensive examination and research. That was a lie, but it was a good lie. A healthy lie. An American lie. What... was I............ talking.... about? Oh, meditation. Or rumble. Well clearly I'm in the right spaced out mindset for that sort of thing.

God someone remind me to delete all the fucking concert poetry readings from my Hawkwind albums. 

Then in this paragraph there was going to be like a 'parody' guided meditation where instead of going to some kind of "peaceful, clamming place", I was going to take you through the history of controller vibration. It wouldn't have been fun, funny, or functional, but the only reason I didn't go through with it is that I feel uncomfortable with delivering a computer-centric experience without force feedback. Without your keyboard and mouse tap-dancing up a storm (frightfully, Blogger lacks a means to accomplish this), how would you be drawn into such disparate experiences as: wandering past a gentle brook filled to the brim with gently chirping birds; a helicopter gently exploding in the distance like Zeus gently sneezing; or the gentle embrace of gently electrified barbed wire? Thanks to my incomparable adjective capabilities, you'd probably be caught up in a sensual hurricane regardless, but weaker writers like Martin Scorsese and the people who made Shank need a crutch like shaky hands to pull you in. Yes, what better way to connect the player to the fictional narrative than by making him feel like Michael J. Fox wielding a leaf-blower.

I'm going to stick with "rumble" for the generic term, since I have no idea when "force feedback" became the industry standard, presumably due to some copyright debacle. Force feedback just makes me think of... well basically the wacky electronic dickery I'm listening to right now on Space Ritual. That or, you know, the evaluation form Luke had to fill out about Obi-Wan at the end of New Hope. Puns: nature's candy. The fancyman's buzzword is "haptics", though that should probably be saved for more sophisticated research than a little magnetically charged box that has performance modes limited to "shake" and "don't shake". The general aspiration of haptic technology is to create a means by which to virtually replicate for the sense of touch what a monitor does for visuals and a speaker for auditory experience. This notion arrived in the world of video games by way of experimental arcade cabinets, like Sega's 1976 Fonz. Yes, rumble technology as we know it exists because of a bio-game about Henry Winkler. If only he knew that one day his work would all be worth it. As time went on, arcades introduced more and more intense and "realistic" haptic feedback - if you were ever in an arcade in the early nineties, you probably were too embarrassed to try that one game (e.g. After Burner) where the whole seat/capsule would tilt during gameplay - plus it always cost like two bucks to play. I realize as an adult that's because the cabinet probably cost ten times as much as the stationary ones around it. 
Controller rumble is the lazyman's solution to the haptic dilemma - one I'd scorn much less had it been a passing experiment or evolved at all since its popular introduction in 1997 with the N64's Rumble Pak. The controller may shake when just about fucking ANYTHING happens - frequently it's hard to figure out why it's vibrating at all. Using rumble during gameplay tends toward the distracting, and using it during cutscenes is laughable - even if you haven't set down the controller as so often happens, do you really think watching a movie could benefit from a whirring stick in hand? What it comes down to is that haptic feedback (or any feedback, really) is supposed to draw me deeper into the game world, to make me forget I'm playing a game at all. Rumble reminds me that I'm holding a stupid controller, and that I need to go into the options to turn it off. That is the exact opposite of its objective. If the default settings had controller vibration turned off, how many players do you think would actually seek out the option to turn it back on (or even notice its absence)?

As long as that option remains, I don't have much room to complain, but I wonder who exactly are the proponents of the mechanic. After Sony got into hot water for removing it from the Sixaxis, it became taboo to suggest that video games ever even existed without rumble. Was there really such a uproar demanding vibrating controllers? PS3 sales were hurting at the time, but it's maybe a minor stretch to suggest that the reintroduction of the DualShock drove their recovery. I simply don't get the significance of rumble. You'd think console manufacturers would want to kill it off, if only to reduce the cost of fabricating controllers. Do consumers refuse to buy games that won't shake their hands? Are developers demanding vibration availability to express their artistic vision? Publishers forcing it down their throat for a marketing bullet? Maybe the actual rumble units are manufactured by a third party with its hands in Sony/MS/Nintendo's pockets? What market force is demanding the continued existence of this comically obsolete feature?

Wait wait wait, I just figured it out. It's a conspiracy led by the AA battery industry! Remember how it's unnecessarily hard/expensive to find rechargeable batteries, even though obviously they should be the only batteries that even exist anymore? Well, what is the fastest way to waste controller batteries? Rumble! So, fill in joke about Energizer rabbit

No comments:

Post a Comment