Inversion Therapy – Leaving the Upside Down Behind

It might not seem like more than a curious relic to the younger crowd, but that arcane checkbox that inverted the vert used to mean something. What’s since slipped into the domain of old hands running on muscle memory used to be a point of preference only, where now it is the way few fingers move.

It was easier before 3D shooters stepped it up.

In the early days of Wolfenstein 3D and Ken’s Labyrinth, the Y-Axis didn’t matter – every enemy was on an even-playing-field – literally. When DOOM brought a shift in heights, the game sent your shrapnel wherever it needed to go. You did not need to account for the variances. So long as you were facing the right way, you could fire straight ahead.


The next stage in the evolution of first person shooters was 2.5D, referred to as such for spoofing true room-above-room 3D through the use of objects in 3D space. Games like Dark Forces and Duke Nukem 3D made your vertical aim matter. That nameless trooper on the ledge above had to be in the middle of your sights if you wanted to blast them away. In these uncharted waters, our angle of incidence was still equally controlled by keyboard as it was by mouse – bindings were there for those who wanted to look up or down.

By the time the fully three-dimensioned levels of Quake had come along, vertical aim was a lock, and it’s been with us since.

Stepping back from the now dominant genre of first person shooters, it was the flight simulators that pioneered the navigation of a truly three-dimensional space. Much like the yoke of their real world counterparts, these simulated flying machines were best handled through a joystick, and as with a plane, so began the introduction of inverted controls.

It was new to those unfamiliar with the concept, that pushing the joystick forward would send your vehicle in a dive, while pulling back would begin your ascent, but it eventually took. As the shift to mouse-controlled gaming accelerated, the notion of this type of control bled through.

I’m not alone at being at home with inverted controls. They are not likely to be gaining new devotees, yet I love it as a signpost for it being part of my gaming instincts.

It does mean that there is a brief moment of inconvenience when I get a new game, unless the game asks for my preference through play as happens with Halo, Titanfall and others.

Hey perve, her eyes are down… or up… there.

The Xbox 360 had a brilliant setting in its profile management that let players configure their ideal vertical settings across different game genres. Instead of having to adjust the settings in every new game, it was done once on your profile and went across the board. So long as you were playing on your own profile and you weren’t a weirdo who wanted to invert the X-axis, you got whatever it was you wanted.

The reality of inverted controls is that they were a product of a time, and there are constant reminders that the time has passed. Un-inverted is the default (or normal if you want to be pedantic), and the church of the inverted is not gaining new converts. I feel this most of all at conventions or preview events, where the settings are set to make it seem like I haven’t used a controller before.

The same happens if I’m alongside someone, taking turns with an exceptionally difficult level or boss – we have a moment of stopping to flip the controls back and forth but either of us can continue.

As much as I still think they are the right way to play, it is time I changed.

It will cause some short-term pain and could lead to a situation where I am stuck halfway between control schemes, but I have decided to train myself to use the so-called normal controls. There will be a period of indeterminate length where I am not able to play well, but I hope the process won’t be too lengthy.

My games of transition are going to be Minecraft, Subnautica, and Destiny. The first two are extremely chill, though the latter is there to provide a challenge. The hope is that a tougher time urges me to get better sooner, without being a complete pit of misery.

No, look at the sky. Not the ground, the sky!

I don’t know how long it will take to adjust – I’m hoping that I can retrain these fingers.

Would you consider doing the same? Thumbs up or thumbs down? And do you mean it as good or bad?

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