“Dynasty Warriors,” “The Godfather-The Game” and even the often-maligned “Grand Theft Auto” are generally played until the sun comes up. Players walk or run around a virtual world all night, punching the daylights out of foes with a thumb stick. Playing these and similar games for long hours with regular clenched fist controllers leaves players vulnerable to a condition called “gaming thumb.” The pain can take all the fun out of gaming.
Professor Alan Hedge, director of the human factors and ergonomics research group at Cornell University in New York, said in a recent BBC interview that the condition had been around since the early 1990s. “The thumb is not very flexible and repetitive use of it can lead to damage to the tendon on the outside of the thumb,” he said.
Players are likely to find other social pastimes if gaming causes them to wince, so the industry has something to gain by finding an ergonomic way to keep the fun and get rid of the pain. SplitFish GameWare, Inc. appears to be the first to head down that path.
Due for release in April, the dualFX controller for Sony Playstation 2 is a laser guidance system that comes with a pair of game grips designed to deliver a new level of precision, as well as comfort for the thumb and other digits, during games involving shooting. SplitFish’s glideFX, to be released in May, takes ergonomic design farther. It uses a trackball mechanism to manage movement normally controlled by the right stick. The level of sensitivity is adjustable for each player, and for better fit, it comes with separate controls for each hand.
The new generation of video games suck in players and don’t free them willingly. If SplitFish’s designs live up to their promise, other console makers can be expected to look for their own ergonomic solution to painful thumbs.
Sources: SplitFish; Sony; BBC