Let’s face it, typical video game controllers are not an RSI sufferer’s best friend. The button-mashing and thumbstick-twirling that are typical of many video games can bring on Repetitive Strain Injury all by themselves.
Personally, I’ve largely had to give up on video game consoles. I can only play for a short period of time before I feel the RSI symptoms begin. And that’s just not enough time to become proficient with many games, or to make much progress in games you already know how to play.
Take the Tony Hawk skateboarding games. I played early editions in the series, but I’ve had to give up on the later versions. I just can’t play long enough to get good at the new moves, many of which require extreme finger and thumb dexterity for several very-intense minutes at a time. I just can’t do that any more. Or at least I’ve learned that if I try, or if I let myself be sucked into a game, I’ll be paying the price for days or weeks to come.
But perhaps there’s still hope. Nintendo’s next-generation Wii console uses a new controller featuring motion-sensing technology. The controller is shaped somewhat like a television remote control, but is able to sense motion in all dimensions. You basically use it as you would its real-world analog. For example, if you’re carrying a sword in the game, you can slash and hack with the controller. If you’re playing a golf game, hold the controller like a golf club handle, and take a normal swing.
I don’t know that this concept would translate particularly well to a skateboarding game, but it seems like a natural for many types of games, such as first-person shooters and platformers, two of my favorite genres.
From the point of view of RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers, I like this concept for several reasons:
- Using the natural motion of your hands and body to control the video game should help to minimize the amount of button-mashing required.
- If you’re using your entire arm, or even your entire body, to control the video game, that uses your larger muscle groups, rather than the smaller, more fragile muscles in your hands. That should translate to less strain on hands already weakened by RSI.
- The controller is symmetrical, so that it may be used by either hand.
I haven’t actually seen this system yet, but I’m excited by the possibilities, and looking forward to getting my hands on one (pun intended).
The Nintendo Wii is slated for a North American release by Christmas 2006.