The iPad might not be a revolutionary new way to play video games, but it's definitely a new way, and that requires some adjustment. Let's take a look at various ways you can position yourself for ideal iPad gaming.
As I mentioned in my review, the iPad isn't exactly ergonomic, as far as handheld gaming systems go. While more dedicated gaming devices like the PSP and Nintendo DS are designed to provide some comfort and support with extended use, the iPad is a plank. Even better, it's a plank with a smooth back, so the brunt of the weight of it rests in the palms of your hands. Your fingers have nothing to grip in the back, and should you grip the sides, you're likely to hit either the home button or the sleep button, neither of which is fun.
Let's take a look at some different iPad gaming positions, and the games that benefit from them.
Resting on a Flat Surface
The most comfortable way to hold the iPad while gaming is not to hold it at all. Rest the device on a convenient table or desk, and poke at it with your fingers.
This works great with board games like Scrabble, card games such as Uno, and games where poking is your primary control, like Plants Vs Zombies, which gains the extra-added benefit of suddenly becoming multiplayer.
$US499 On The Floor
This is the same as resting the iPad on a table, only you get to stretch out on the floor, which confuses your cat.
Again, this position is ideal for games you can control with one hand. In this case, I'm playing the iPad version of We Rule, which is like FarmVille, only with more interaction.
Resting the iPad in your lap is another way to take advantage of one-handed games, and I'm not being dirty here. I simply mean that you're going to want one hand close to the unit to keep it stable, leaving one free to push various buttons and such.
Mirror's Edge's simple swipe controls work quite well in this position.
Sitting or Lying Back, Hands in the Air
This is probably the most comfortable way to play games with virtual joysticks and buttons on either side of the iPad. I say laying and sitting back instead of simply sitting, as your elbows should be resting against whatever you are sitting on, taking some of the strain off your arms that comes from holding the iPad in such a fashion. Again, since the iPad is a plank, it doesn't help you too much.
I played Dungeon Hunter HD for about an hour sitting like this, with minimal arm fatigue.
This is the position that is the most uncomfortable. Games that require lots of tilt, like Super Monkey Ball 2 and Real Racing HD, pretty much require that your elbows be free. Basically you're treating the iPad like a steering wheel, and eventually your arms are going to ache.
This is why I am completely unexcited about racing games on Microsoft's Project Natal that require you hold your hands around an imaginary steering wheel.
One-Handed Tablet Grip
Holding the iPad in a portrait orientation is much more comfortable than holding it landscape. So much so that one hand is all you need, and aches don't come easy.
This probably benefits book readers more than gamers, however, as there aren't too many games that go for the vertical alignment plus one handed-controls. GodFinger for iPad is one of those games, and I could play it all day like this.
As my girlfriend found out last night, lying in bed with the iPad on your chest is an extremely comfortable way to play games, read books, or annoy your significant other with your latest attempts to justify your iPad purchase.
That trick never works. Swords & Poker does, however, and brilliantly so.