Role Inversion

Ok, it’s high time I published the results from the Inversion Survey. A disappointing response on this blog and on XBL I have to admit, but at least I got a good response from my facebook page 😉



Skill Level Inverted FPS Inverted 3PS Inverted 3PA
Remy77077 PAD


y y y
Remy77077 MOUSE


Navan Daughn PAD


n n n
Navan Daughn MOUSE


n n n


n n n


y y y


y n n


y y n


y y y


n n n


y y y


n n n




My hypotheses before this survey were the following:

1. What comes most ‘naturally’ to you is what you initially learnt from. Someone who played lots of flight sims, or arcade flying games would be affected by each initial learning sticking with them. Also someone who played lots of “crosshairs” games, such as Operation Wolf, before they played an FPS could be affected by learning that.

2. People who invert visualise their game differently. They visualise themselves as the character more, and changing the view is akin to moving their whole head about. It’s like moving ‘a joystick on your head’. People who don’t invert simply see themselves as the crosshair – more like they are visualising themselves as just the eyes of the character, or even the gun-sight.

3. There would be a performance related correlation that the non-inverters had a ‘faster’ kind of visualisation that would be helpful in making them better players (& more likely to become skilled and experienced at FPS type of games).

4. People would generally stick with one control method throughout all kinds of games – and if they changed it, it could well be to do with a change in how they visualised in that style of game.


Now clearly this isn’t nearly enough data, nor even enough questions, to make any kind of analysis other than anecdotal, but a few things stood out.

There wasn’t a clear correlation between highly skilled & experienced FPS players and not-inverting as myself and Navan suspected. This gives me a lot of hope that I should continue to play ‘my own style’ without feeling I am being unduely hampered by my choice of controls.

Secondly, I feel if I was to do this survey again and do it more widely, I think I certainly need to break down the difference between playing on a gamepad and playing on a mouse. When I initiated this I did so on the assumption that most people would play the same on either type of control, however I suspect the majority of answers to this were from a gamepad perspective, and also during the period between when I made this survey and this response to it, I had installed and played Half Life 1 on my PC, so was playing an FPS on a mouse for the first time in years. And bizarrely I discovered that without even realising it for many hours of play, I was playing without invert on. As yet I have no idea what has changed for me, as I am certain I used to play on invert on a mouse as well as on a pad.

Some of the most interesting responses I got were actually commentary as opposed to full survey answers, notably almost all of them correlated exactly with the hypotheses I started with –

  • “I always play stick/mouse moves the way my characters head goes ie. I push forward I look down, backwards I look up. Same goes for flight based stuff”
  • “For whatever reason, un-inverted controls make no sense to me at all. My best guess is that on some odd level I’m viewing the mouse/joystick as an analogue for my “head” in the game. Push the top of your head forward, and you look down, etc.”
  • “ might be interesting to see if there is a correlation with motion sickness for the inverters”
  • “Remy77077’s head/crosshair theory fits here. I’m basically using whatever controls I have at my disposal to move a pointer around the screen, rather than trying to push my characters head around. “
  • I have a simple explanation as to why I invert the mouse, I learned how to fly before I ever played any computer games with a mouse

Unfortunately I don’t feel I am going anywhere further with this right now. As I joked on facebook “..when I get my research budget”. This is definitely a really interesting area of games analysis for me, but I feel its a really complex area too, and there doesn’t seem to be any simple answers. A really detailed and wide-reaching survey would have to be done, that’s far beyond my scope and the scope of this little blog to entertain. If only I could quit my day-job eh?


2 thoughts on “Role Inversion

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