Hey everyone. Thought I’d change up things for this weeks post and not talk directly about gaming, but it’s influence in my life outside of gaming. I think it’s also important to talk about because my time in University really helped me discover that I wasn’t too bad at writing. In group assignments, I was usually designated to write the final report of every ones work. I was jokingly told I was good at B.S. 😉 But I think it’s kind of a start as to how I decided to get into writing about gaming in the first place. In addition to that, this was something I always wanted to share to a larger audience, so consider yourselves lucky 🙂
Over my academic life, I had tried involving games as much as I could in my studies. I was always interested in gaming topics outside of the games themselves. Back in elementary school, grade 4 I think, we were tasked with doing speeches about a topic. I of course talked about the benefits of playing video games and how they improve your hand eye coordination. I did very well and it was about a topic I cared about, so I nailed it!
This was just the start however. My biggest and proudest academic assignment was many years later in York University. I was studying Computer Science. It had it’s ups and downs, but overall was an interesting program that today has helped me grow in my career. But there was one particular 4th year class that even though I flunked the final exam, I did a research paper and did it very well.
This class was Human-Computer Interactions. This was a course all about how we as humans interacted with technology. This was at the time when the iphone just came out. So there was a lot of talk on how things like typing was approached on small devices like regular cell phones and smart phones.
It was a great course. Tough at times since the material was so abstract. However once we reached our assignment, I got excited as I naturally excel on the more hands on type of things. We had to do a research paper on a topic within human computer interaction. It could be anything as long as it involved researching, collecting data, and presenting results and conclusions on an experiment related to human-computer interaction.
At the time, the legendary console known as the Nintendo Wii had recently come out. I loved the console, bought it on day 1, and despite it’s lack of games, I had a great time with it. I was very active on a forum of a popular web show back then called Pure Pwnage (for those who haven’t heard of it, check it out, it’s genious!). I was heavily involved in the forum community of the console section, and even became a moderator at a point. Unfortunately, the internet being the internet, there was always lots of talk about how consoles were inferior, and keyboard/mouse was god send, and PC players would own consoles players etc. etc. I never partook in these talks, because I’m all about that ba… I mean fun.
But I felt I had enough of this smack talk between the two side. We needed to settle this once and for all! So I decided, my research paper was going to be on, and was actually titled, ‘Comparing Accuracy and Speed of The Nintendo Wiimote and a Mouse’. Yep, I know, it never was called the Wiimote, and was actually a Wii Remote. But man, Wiimote just stuck to me since it was revealed, and I didn’t realize until a few days ago when googling Wiimote, that I never hit many results. Either way, Nintendo should have called it a Wiimote, it sounds so cute and sounds like the work remote! Anyways I’m getting off topic here!
Why I chose to do this? Other than the competitive nature of gamers and trying to determine what was the ultimate way of playing games. When the Wiimote was unveiled, it’s motion controls brought possibilities of being able to play certain genres differently. One genre that came to mind for me and many others was First Person Shooters. It was usually agreed upon that analog stick controls never let players turn to fast or precisely. However the Wiimote could potentially close that gap. We now know that it didn’t quite achieve this, but it nobly tried in a few hit titles like Metroid Prime 3 and arguably Red Steel 2. Regardless of how it panned out, it still brought that potential to the table.
How did I go about comparing these? Simple! At a high level, I needed a program that would let me shoot targets, and needed it to interface with a mouse, and a Wiimote. Of course the program would need to be able to measure things like time and accuracy and record these results to compare later.
So I started to work away. First I created a very simple Java program that would display a target randomly on the screen. Once you hit the target, it would disappear and a new one would appear. You would go through this cycle until all the targets were hit. Think of it like those shooting range in the Zelda games, except without all the fun music and cool card board cut outs of monsters. Other than being a ground breaking game with cutting edge graphics, in the background, it was recording all the important data I would need. The target was composed of 3 rings, the bulls eye, the inner and out rings. The program would log which ring was hit, and also measure how far from the center of the target it was. It also logged when the hit was made to help keep track of overall time taken. Lastly, it would also track when a target was missed. This was all key information for me to determine how accurate someones play through of the game was.
Once this was complete, I was able to use this program to record results of using a mouse as an input device. Next, I needed to have the Wiimote interface with my laptop, in a way where when I moved the Wiimote, it would register the movement as if it was a mouse. So I devised an interesting and cumbersome setup. I got a bluetooth dongle to connect the Wiimote to my laptop. Through some free software, I was able to setup drivers and configure my Wiimote to work with my laptop as a mouse. I did need the infrared bar so the Wiimote would know where it was actually pointing and tell this to the laptop. Well, because I was on a poor student budget, I wasn’t able to get one of those wireless infrared bars. I heard about using candles as a sensor because they emit infrared light, but I don’t think my lab would be cool with my bringing in fire. So what did I do? The only thing any man would do. Bring the entire Wii console to the lab, power it through it’s big ass power brick, just so I could power it’s infrared sensor. Yes, such an elegant solution, but I couldn’t argue with the results. It gave me a “portable” solution to be able to bring to the computer labs so I could have people participate and gather all the data I needed. I wish I had a picture of it, but sadly, it was so long ago. But I did draw up a super detailed sketch for you all, no detail was spared.
Now that everything was in working order, I next needed my participants. So I picked a busy time for our labs and setup up my work station, and patiently waited for students to trickle in. I approached 16 random people asking them to run the experiment. Luckily enough, I think only 1 or 2 people said no because naturally I wasn’t the only one there doing work. It was key I used people who were visitors to the lab, because I needed an audience that was familiar with using pointing devices and would not only be proficient at using a mouse, but also be able to learn new devices like the Wiimote quickly.
The way the experiment worked was, the player would first play two rounds of my game using a mouse. After that, they would then play another two rounds of the same game using the Wiimote. Running two rounds was key to give people a chance to become accustomed to the game, and the Wiimote.
During the experiment, I had also asked participants if they had prior experience with a Wiimote. Reason for this is to see if any difference could be found between people who had used the device before versus those who had not. I also asked if they were someone who specifically plays first person shooters, to see if them being experienced with such a genre of gaming would show any meaningful results.
Once all was done, to no ones surprise, the mouse was far more accurate and quicker to use than a Wiimote, even for experienced players. Who would have thought? The results showed to run through 30 targets, the Wiimote users took nearly double the time to complete the trial. Wiimote users also were 3 pixel further away from the center of the target when using a Wiimote. The number of bulls eye hits also heavily favoured the mouse, along with the number of misses. It was a one sided battle.
What did stand out, based on the two questions, FPS players didn’t show any patterns, but those who has prior experience using a Wiimote overall performed better for their overall completion time. Through this I was able to conclude, although the Mouse is far more faster and accurate than a Wiimote, it could be argued that Wiimote users can come closer through practice. But of course the mouse would ultimately still win.
Well there you have it. I had tons of fun doing this as it was about a topic I truly loved and am passionate about. Seeing the results unfold before my eyes was quite fascinating, even though going into this I knew it was a one sided battle. Either way, I was proud of how I conducted the experiment and how I designed the controls to what I felt, fairly captured the performance of each participant. In the end, this helped nail me an A+ in a program that was very hard to achieve such grades.
For those interested, below is the actual paper I had submitted for the project. There’s quite a bit of references to other research papers doing similar results, as part of this required us to find similar research. Hope you had fun reading this, and of course, let me know what you thought in the comments below!