In September 1982, Thomas Zimmermann, a young engineer, filed for a patent for an optical flex sensor that was attached to the inside of a glove. This glove could measure forearm yaw, pitch, roll, and finger bends, making it possible to translate human movement on-screen. After seven years, a commercial version of the glove called Powerglove was launched for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The Powerglove had stripped-down technology and was styled to look like a knight’s gauntlet, making it possible for gamers to throw punches and watch them land in explosions of pixels behind their TV screens.
Although Nintendo wasn’t involved in the development of the Power Gloves, they formed the company in 1989, exactly 100 years after the development of the Power Gloves. The Powerglove was also featured in the Hollywood movie “Wizards” about children. While it was a popular accessory in the US, the $75 device sold out quickly and received poor reviews. Users complained that the gloves were hard to use and the controls were imprecise. The idea of a gauntlet that grants the wearer celestial powers was quietly shelved.
In the latest installment of the Legend of Zelda game series, called The Kingdom of Tears, the protagonist Link receives a power glove-like accessory that allows him to perform supernatural abilities. The Ultra Hand is one such ability that can make lifting boulders, fixing fallen minecarts, and lifting fortified castles an easy task.
The game also allows players to attach items to arrows, rotate props in the air, and ride shields like surfboards. This requires mastering dozens of A button combinations before the player’s will can be translated seamlessly into on-screen action.
Tears of the Kingdom represents a counterproposal to the standard video game template, where designers force different tools into the user’s hands, allowing some experimentation within the boundaries they set and adjust. However, Nintendo’s designers cede control to the player in this game, making it a daunting but thrilling experience with a flurry of possibilities and density of opportunities.