Body Schema and Controller interface in Video Games

Article Type:
Research/Original Article (دارای رتبه معتبر)

Video games are an essential phenomenon within new media art, utilizing game controllers that enable players to provide commands and receive corresponding output to interact with the system. In recent years, various controllers for video games have been introduced, some of which enable players to provide physical inputs using their entire body. Yet, it is inherent in human nature to interact with the world directly without intermediaries. In essence, the process of interacting with technology via intermediaries, such as video game controllers, introduces a new mechanism for human users. The primary aim of this research is to analyze the ways in which various controller generations in video games map the player's body schema within the game world. Moreover, the article delves into how symbiotic controllers can enhance the video game playing experience by accurately mapping a player's entire physical body in virtual space.

Materials and Methods

This study has been conducted using qualitative research methods, specifically a case study approach. Documentary data, including online video documents, and observational data obtained from watching players during gameplay, have been used to answer the research questions. The video data was obtained from players interacting with three distinct controllers - the Wii remote of the Nintendo system in Wii-Sports, the Dual Shock controller of Sony's system, and Microsoft's Kinect technology - in a selected set of games, from a total of over 20 videos available online. The video selection included prominent instances of player interaction with the game using the three different controller types. In alignment with Calleja's theory, video game controllers can be classified into three types: symbolic, imitative, and symbiotic. These controller types will be discussed further in the analysis section of this research.

Discussion and Results

The body schema is an unconscious sensorimotor system that allows humans to perform activities efficiently without the need for conscious awareness or control. The important aspect to note about the body schema is its inherent flexibility and capacity for expansion during the embodied experience of users interacting with digital media. Video game controllers differentiate this medium from other visual media, like cinema and television, by acting as a link between the virtual and physical worlds. As such, controllers are responsible for accurately mapping a player's actions within the game. In fact, controllers serve as an automatic extension of the player's body and a means of translating the player's agency into digital signals that can be interpreted by hardware and software. We observed two types of actions performed using the controller: primary actions, such as moving the joystick or pressing a button, and more complex, context-specific actions, like aiming a gun or driving a car. Primarily, controllers enable players to physically move their bodies to perform specific actions. In contrast, the main action refers to what is done in the game and can be composed of various elementary actions that may or may not relate to the physical movements performed by the player. This discrepancy highlights an issue that affects the accuracy of mapping a player's body scheme, as their bodies may be performing different actions than those displayed on the game screen.


Learning how to use a controller to navigate and explore the game is a crucial aspect of the player's experience. Controllers should be internalized and used intuitively to provide an enjoyable experience. Moreover, altering the controller input and changing the controller schema can drastically affect the player's experience, comparable to the learning curve of acquiring a new language to communicate with technology. While symbolic controllers map minimal real-world actions to maximal game-world actions, resulting in inconsistent body schema mapping, imitative and symbiotic controllers exhibit a congruent mapping between what the player does and the corresponding game-world action. However, other issues can arise, including a gap between the player's body scheme and natural experience. The use of symbiotic controllers, while allowing for natural actions, is limited in its ability to provide meaningful feedback to the player. This is because the game system and mediator do not provide the necessary bi-directional, natural feedback to accurately map the player's body schema and natural experience.

Journal of New Media Studies, Volume:9 Issue: 34, 2023
129 to 157  
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