Increase immersion in video games by remapping your controls to include a wider range of actions!


In video games, the player generally has only a few options for interacting with the environment: often just “shoot a gun”—and maybe nothing else (Figure 1)!

In particular, most games lack a button for, say, “raise eyebrow” or “shrug noncommittally.”

Fig. 1: A traditional first-person-shooter (FPS)-style controller mapping might resemble the diagram above. Note the large number of buttons dedicated to gun-wrangling. Sometimes these shooting-centric controls can cause confusion: for example, in Red Dead Redemption 2, the same button can be both “greet a stranger” and “hip fire a six-shooter,” which can lead to awkward mishaps!


Despite the prevalence of “shoot a gun” as a video game option, this action is an uncommon feature of day-to-day life. This is artificially limiting, and it leads to the primary choice in gameplay being “shoot a guy” or “don’t shoot a guy.”

In order to promote more creative gameplay, we need to expand the button mappings to include a wider range of actions (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: Here’s how a cowboy / western game might be adjusted for this new scheme. We retain a few classic “video gamey” interactions (jump, shoot gun), but add some more intricacies that will make the world come alive.

Some possible changes:

  • Throw grenade Bribe: e.g. “How much is Mayor Hogg paying you to terrorize the farmers? I’ll double it.” (Display high-denomination bills in off-hand)
  • Melee stealth kill High five (this will persuade enemies that your character is extremely cool and should not be shot)
  • Toggle crouch / prone Breakdance (if you are able to pull off sufficiently amazing moves, your foes will undoubtedly be won over to your cause)

In our revamped controller scheme, we can see that a player might be more likely to interact with other humans in ways besides shooting them.

Prior Art:

Old-school text adventures and point-and-click adventures (e.g. Zork, Maniac Mansion) already have a wide variety of possible “verbs” (actions) for the player to perform, so we know that it’s at least possible to design a game around a wider range of player options.

PROS: Increases gameplay immersion, promotes creative solutions.

CONS: It would probably take a lot more development time to design and test a game in which you can solve a town’s bandit problem by either shooting all the bandits or by successfully converting them to a pacifistic religion.