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Social [Guardian] 'There's a gaping hole in our knowledge': the scientists studying why gamers invert their controls

Do you invert your controls?


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Maiden Voyage

Gold™ Member
Sep 5, 2014
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"Our article asking why so many players invert their controls provoked a fierce debate that has now caught the attention of researchers into visual perception"


"It is one of the most contentious aspects of video game playing – a debate where opposing sides literally cannot see each other’s perspective. When the Guardian ran an article asking why a large minority of game players invert the Y axis on their controls – meaning that they push their joypad’s thumb stick down to move upwards on the screen – the response was huge. Hundreds of comments vociferously arguing why axis inversion was the only way to navigate a game world, and hundreds more incredulously arguing the opposite.

The purpose of the article was to discover reasons for this dichotomy in visual perception. Was axis inversion just a habit picked up from playing flight simulators or did it point to fundamental differences in how people perceive themselves in virtual worlds? There was no conclusion, but the argument raged on Twitter for days.

Now, one of the scientists interviewed for that article, Dr Jennifer Corbett, co-head of the Visual Perception and Attention Lab at Brunel University London, is taking the matter further. Inspired by the ensuing debate, she and colleague Dr Jaap Munneke have begun an exploratory study looking into the science behind controller inversion. With backgrounds in vision science and cognitive neuroscience, Corbett and Munneke have employed a variety of research methods, from neuro-imaging to computational modelling to psychophysics, in their previous work. Now, with the help of seven psychology students, they will be running remote behavioural and psychophysical experiments using volunteer gamers aged between 18 and 35.

“Although it’s not per se a topic we’d study in our lab, we’d had to pause regular EEG and eye-tracking experiments due to Covid and shift to online experiments,” explains Corbett. “This was the perfect opportunity to pursue such a question, especially given how much this has excited the hardcore gamers in our lab.”

So what will the experiments with volunteers involve? “Generally, we will be measuring how fast and accurately people are able to mentally rotate shapes and the extent to which they rely on different body and contextual cues when making spatial judgments,” says Corbett. “There are no right or wrong answers in these tasks – we’re interested in how people might perform differently. We’ll obtain one or two measures – for example, average reaction time, average accuracy – from each participant in each of four short computerised online experiments and then correlate these measures with information from a questionnaire about gaming habits that each participant will also complete.”

From this exploratory study, Corbett and her team hope to gain insight into how an individual’s visual perceptual abilities may affect how they interact with both real and virtual environments. “For example,” she says, “it may be the case that the extent to which a person relies on visual versus bodily context has a huge influence on whether or not they choose to invert the Y axis on their gaming consoles.”

The results of the study could have more important ramifications than helping inverters appreciate non-inverters and vice versa. “Understanding the factors that drive human visual perception is useful for almost all aspects of gaming and visual technologies,” says Corbett. “Most research focuses on how people pay attention to individual objects, but humans can’t really process more than a few details at once. There’s a gaping hole in our knowledge regarding how our visual perception is heavily dependent on the rest of this vast majority of sensory information. Being able to predict how a person will interact within a given environment or context can bring about monumental advancements in technology.”

Corbett argues that learning how individuals differ in terms of the interactions between visual information (what’s on the screen) and motor behaviour (how the controller is used) will have a benefit to game designers, allowing them to optimise their controls. But also, appreciating that each person may have a given pattern of performance on mental rotation and perspective-taking tasks, could have much wider applications.

“Such findings may inform us about ways to maximise performance for pilots using ‘real’ flight consoles,” says Corbett. “In a broader context, understanding these sorts of individual differences can help us better predict where to place important information and where to double-check for easily missed information in everything from VR gaming to safety-critical tasks like detecting weapons in baggage scans or tumours in X-rays.”

So, what started as an existential argument between Guardian-reading game players may well end up informing a new understanding of visual perception and sensory input. In a world where an increasing number of our interactions are happening in digital and virtual spaces, understanding why some people push down to look up has never been more vital or less nerdy.

• Jennifer Corbett is looking for gamers between the ages of 18 and 35 to take part in the study, which will involve four online computerised visual perception tasks and a questionnaire about gaming habits. Anyone interested in participating can email everyonevpal1920@gmail.com"
 
Nov 13, 2016
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I was forced to use inverted controls when I bought a second hand GameCube, and didn't know how to change the settings the previous owner had saved. It was a struggle, but I'm used to it now. I don't want to re-adjust to normal controls, so I'm always inverted now.

Because of my experience, I don't think this research will have any meaningful results. With enough practice you can adjust to any control scheme. That's my belief anyway.
 

Tranquil

Member
Jul 5, 2019
1,127
2,117
450
Pretty sure I played inverted for a while, then switched over to regular and now that's where I stay.

There are litterally people debating over this? I've always thought it was very similar to if your left or right handed. I'm a little bit ambidextrous though.
 
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Max_Po

Member
Mar 1, 2015
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when you cut fapping you have time for other non-sense ....

Invert Y for the Win
 

Closer

Member
Nov 19, 2018
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Brazil
If I don't invert Y-axis everything is weird, so I have to invert. If I invert, everything is weird because I got used to default. I have to actually sit down and adjust my brain to function everytime I have to aim.
 

Svengoolie007

Banned
Dec 22, 2019
372
659
365
I also used to be inverted only! I remember renting a James Bond game I think on original Xbox, and it didn't have the option for inverting, and I couldn't play it. I just kept screwing myself up and I said screw it.

I was really into having my Y-axis inverted. It's like flight controls. I didn't think of the right stick necessary as forward and backward, but rather tilting up and tilting down. How do you tilt up in a plane? You pull the stick back! Push it forward to tilt down. That just made so much sense to me.

Then it was honestly one day that my mind just flipped. Suddenly default is what made sense. I have no idea what made it happen. This was like after college that I'm talking about.
 

showernota

Member
Jun 6, 2020
3,224
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There's something wrong with inverters brains, they imagine the stick is the back of the characters head, and pushing up with their thumb makes them look down.

Up is up and down is down, weirdos!
 
F

Foamy

Unconfirmed Member
The way I think of it is that if I want to look up my head goes back and to look downward it goes forward.

Edit - I see this has been covered, good to know other think the same way.
 
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Futurematic

Member
Jan 28, 2014
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Flight sims & MechWarrior 2 with a joystick plus Goldeneye being my first introduction to analog stick console FPS. I literally can’t play non-inverted Y lol
 
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Feb 23, 2018
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My theory for me is this: early FPS (Wolf, Blake Stone, Doom, etc) didn't have Y axis aiming, so there was no point of reference for how Y would be controlled. What early games DID have Y axis though were flight sims - X-Wing/TIE Fighter, Red Baron, MS Flight Sim, etc. Therefore my first exposure to Y "aiming" was in a flight sim, where inverted makes sense. That formed the basis of inverting and it stuck since.
 

onnextflix5

Member
Jun 6, 2019
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Depends, on on third person invert is ok, but in first person game it give me a headache, has to be normal. But brain can adjust to both given enough time.
 

iconmaster

Banned
Jul 18, 2013
7,466
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Look this isn't even remotely hard to understand you pull your head back when you look up you push your head forward when you look down there I explained it.
Yes, your eyes rotate back to look up.

 
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MastAndo

Member
Oct 13, 2014
2,089
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Inverting the Y-axis always felt more intuitive to me starting from my old FPS days on PC, and carried over to playing with a controller. The idea that you're controlling a handle attached to the back of the character's head just felt more natural. I can't (and won't) play if I can't invert the Y-axis, but fortunately that's very rare.
 

Husky

THE Prey 2 fanatic
Aug 13, 2017
2,549
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The Bowery, Exodus
I don't go inverted cuz I view moving the camera the same way I view moving a cursor. If there's no crosshair, then it's just an invisible cursor.
 

womp

Member
Jun 3, 2006
5,540
31
1,470
I've been used to inverted Y since I was a kid playing Gunship on my Commodore 64. I'm 47, when my brother or son play a game on my console they get super annoyed when they have to revert the controls because I'm a 'retahd'. The younger crowd don't get it. 🙂

There is a reason fighter planes flight yokes are designed how they are. It has nothing to do with 'gamers' but science....the controls are a natural extension of your 'head' in a 3D space.

When you look up, your head tips back...down...dips forward.

 
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zombrex

Member
Mar 8, 2018
363
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Alot of Japanese games used to invert the x axis.
No idea why but trying to play them was hell.
 

Warnen

Can he swing from a thread? Take a look overhead / Hey, there, there goes the Spider-Man
Sep 24, 2005
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I’m inverted and my twin brother isn’t so it’s not genetic, he is just wrong :messenger_tears_of_joy:
 
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