As part of a very well written article by Wired released earlier today, gamers all around the world now know a little bit more about Sony’s next generation gaming console. The machine, now officially called the PlayStation 5, will support ray tracing on a hardware level, will load all games off a built in SSD drive to drastically cut down loading times, the controller will allow for some really fancy rumble, and the machine will release by the end of 2020.
However, perhaps the most exciting sounding bit of news from today’s Wired article is the reveal of the new PS5 controllers resistive triggers. Put simply, the idea is that on a game by game basis, developers can program the triggers on the new controllers to become more difficult to press, to simulate physical sensations. Trying to open a heavy door? The trigger might be quite stiff to press. Pulling the draw string on a bow? The tension in the trigger may increase the further you draw the bow string. Perhaps a gun trigger would provide some tension half way through a press, and click as you click the trigger. The idea is to allow more immersion in your games by allowing you to feel the actions you are taking, and it sounds like a really cool idea for certain games.
The idea is really awesome in theory, and when paired with technology like VR feels like yet another step towards the eventual day when video games can truly simulate reality. However, as cool as the tech sounds, I really hope it’s an optional feature, even knowing that it being optional will ultimately limit the applications it can be used to create.
Over the past few years, accessible gaming setups have become more commonplace on consoles, in large part thanks to companies like Microsoft creating devices like their modular adaptive controller. Players who need custom hardware to play can pick it up more affordably than ever, and increasing numbers of games are implementing software solutions to reach similar aims. Many games allow controller remapping, some games allow for turning button mashing sequences into held buttons or single presses, and some games allow you to remove time limits from quick time events. Accessible gaming is the future, and a mandatory resistive trigger could potentially be a hindrance to this aim.
Speaking to gamers on Twitter after this feature was announced, I found a huge number of players for who tough to press triggers as a mandatory part of a game would make it so they couldn’t play. From players with arthritis, to those with chronic joint pain, some with wrist weakness and others with general hand weakness, a whole host of medical conditions were suggested where having to push through a trigger that’s pushing back would be painful, exhausting, or just plain impossible.
Making resistive controllers mandatory could allow for some interesting gameplay concepts, like a game where there’s a monster in the controller you have to physically fight back as it tries to stop you playing, but my suspicion is it will largely be used as an optional extra immersion feature. While additional immersion is really cool, don’t shut people out of the game if they can’t engage with it. Let people play the game, maybe missing out on a cool part you made, but still getting the vast majority of the experience. If it’s vital you put resistive triggers in your game, allow players to turn down the level of resistance, to increase people’s chances of being able to play.
As cool as this feature is, I really hope it’s not a core mandatory part of the PS5 experience, even if I plan to use it myself.