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​According to the rumor mill Nintendo is reportedly considering local multiplayer scenarios that support 2 touch screen controllers (simultaneously). This feature was not supported when Nintendo unveiled the next generation console at this past E3 (June 2011), an omission some thought was quite disappointing, but I foresee some potential complications.
This might fall under the same category of unforeseen mishaps that some users of the Wii experienced. It is a testament to good gaming that users become so engrossed they fail to comprehend the potential consequences of their actions – e.g. playing virtual baseball or tennis with a stick like controller. In fact some early issues with the strap (or no strap at all) caused some users to make the throwing action a bit too real as they hurled the controller – in some cases, quite tragically, into their new flat screen television. While consumers have gotten the hang of motion based controls, pointing to the Sony Move and Microsoft Kinect as well, the Wii U controller adds a new wrinkle to the equation.
Let’s imagine for the moment two people playing the same game in relatively close proximity of each other, using motion controls. This isn’t new and thus far there doesn’t seem to be any issues with users playing interactive games mere feet from each other. One could parallel this to an exercise or martial arts class where people follow an instructor – we don’t expect or anticipate classmates will inadvertently strike their neighbors (although I’m sure this has happened). But take that image and give each of them a separate screen to view and encourage them to move around independently – this would be the equivalent of tasking each martial arts student to try and kick a randomly floating orb (yes like Star Wars). With most of their attention on the orb and their task of kicking it, hilarity (and some bruises) are a very likely outcome. But in Nintendo’s case this might result in consumers dropping the tablet-like controllers…and if I had to bet on which would fare better, the hard floor or the controller, I would lean towards the former.
Psychology has shown that people, when given a focusing task, can often lose track of the surrounding environment (selective attention test – Daniel Simmons and Christopher Chabris). There are countless examples, but a popular one has subjects counting how many times certain basketball players dribble or pass a ball – during this task a man in a gorilla suit walks around the players. In this test quite a few of the participants never noticed or report seeing anything out of the ordinary and are shocked to see replay footage. This is the same reason why cell phones or texting can be troublesome while driving – we can only absorb so much of our environment and focusing on a small screen might invite potential problems. But time will tell, maybe Nintendo will introduce a collision warning system akin to the automobile industry’s blind spot warning systems.