Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Things gamers take for granted: Thumbs

After watching Heidi play some Yoshi's Island DS, she came to a point where you had to race against the switch block timer and sprint to the top of the cliff before time ran out and the platforms disappeared. 10 minutes of countless failed attempts go by, and then I noticed a flaw in her button control that many gamers take for granted: The thumb-and-joint technique. Y'know, the method of holding down the "run" button with the tip of your thumb, and then, while keeping the "run" button pressed, bending the thumb's first joint to hit the jump button?

I teach her this vital technique, and (after another 5 minutes of frustration and agony) she finally reached the top of the cliff, with congratulatory pats to the back and plenty of self-applause. But it got me wondering...when did people learn to use this?

The farthest I can remember using this is with Super Mario Bros. on the NES, back in the days when, near the end, that's all you can do. You can't possibly make those wide jumps without keeping the B button down while jumping with the A button. Sure, you could employ the index-and-middle-finger technique (controller flat on ground/table, with index finger on the B button, and the middle finger on the A button), but that method required a flat surface as well. And, I don't think there was anything in the manual that told gamers specifically to control two buttons with one finger. Without Shiggy's knowledge at the time, the thumb-and-joint technique became a pivotal point in platform gaming, and, in a wider sense, in gaming evolution.

Without this, many games would've been nigh impossible to complete. For me, Hudson's Adventure Island is a prime example of a game that absolutely needed constant running and perfect timing of each jump to complete the ridiculously-hard levels near the end. (Did I even finished the game? Oh well, I can always get the Virtual Console version later)

So, raise that thumb high in the air, gamer, and give it its obligatory "thumbs up." Without them, gamers would be stuck with DDR games...and we would be ruled by monkeys.
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