Thanks, Xbox 360, For Remembering That I Invert My Thumbstick

Thanks, Xbox 360, For Remembering That I Invert My Thumbstick

It's human nature to want to break things down into easy-to-understand binaries: Introvert or extrovert. Gay or straight. Labor or Liberal. Autobot or Decepticon. And in video gaming, one of the greatest binaries of all is defined by how a player likes his or her right thumbstick: Regular or inverted?

For those of us who invert, the world can be a cruel, uncaring place. Every game assumes we don't exist, and to get comfortable, we have to pause their exciting introductory sequences and dig around in menus, desperate for the option to make the game play how we'd prefer. But! One glorious day, a hero emerged. Microsoft and the Xbox 360 decided to change everything. With a single global preference setting, they made the world a better place for thumbstick-inverters like me.

The right thumbstick is traditionally how you look around in a video game. In third-person games, it's assigned to the "camera" that invisibly follows the player-character around. In first-person games, it's assigned to your character's "head," letting you look around and aim where you're going (or shooting) next. (First-person-shooter characters don't traditionally have flexible necks — they are always pointing their entire torso wherever they're looking. We learn to go with it.)

In most games, when you press "up" on the right thumbstick, the camera looks up. But if you prefer to play with an inverted camera (or, more specifically, an inverted y-axis), you want the opposite to be true: Press up, and the camera looks down.

As a lifelong inverter, I am endlessly aware of my minority status.

As a lifelong inverter, I am endlessly aware of my minority status. With each new game I play, I get a small reminder that I'm not the "default" — I run around, head pointing straight at the ground, and beat a hasty retreat to the options menu. Such injustice!

I'm not sure why I invert. I grew up playing PC games, and I'd never invert the mouse in a first-person shooter. I think maybe it's due to all the time I spent playing TIE Fighter and X-Wing with a PC flightstick; I came to think of joysticks as things that you inverted. (That's my theory, anyway.) When Halo happened and the dual-thumbstick FPS as we know it officially arrived on consoles, I was already stuck in my inverted-Y-axis ways.

The cause of my inversion condition is less important than the small but regularly annoying effect it has on my gaming. It has a small but nonetheless annoying impact on every game's very first moments, which are usually when a game is setting the mood. It's hard to set the mood when I'm looking at the floor, pausing the game in the middle of an NPC's sentence, inverting the camera, going back, realising that I didn't hit "apply", pausing it again, inverting the camera, hitting "apply", then starting to play the game properly. Sure, some games allow me to access the options menu before starting the game. But not all of them. (And, ok, sometimes I forget.)

Thanks, Xbox 360, For Remembering That I Invert My Thumbstick

And yet my Xbox 360 always remembers that I invert my thumbstick. Microsoft made it a requirement that all games let the console go in and, based on the assigned preference of the user's Xbox Live profile, re-assign the thumbstick automatically. If you are currently saying, "Whoa, I didn't know I could do that!" well, I am so happy to have told you about this! You can find it under Settings > Profile > Game Defaults > Action.

I love the Xbox 360 for this. When I start a new game, I can simply play, without worrying about whether or not the camera will betray me. The PS3 doesn't let me do this; I have to adjust the camera with every game. It was less of an issue with the Wii, since motion-controlled games tend to feel better to me non-inverted.

A global inversion setting may seem like a small, or even inconsequential note on which to start our Last-Gen Heroes series. But really, that kind of small, smart, user-friendly idea is the sort of thing I'd love to see more of from all game hardware makers.

Believe me, if you'd had to suffer through the entire opening sequence of Resident Evil 6 before finally being able to set the camera how you'd like it, you'd feel the same way.

The current generation of console gaming is drawing to a close. Over eight years, the Xbox 360 and later the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii gave millions of people countless hours of fine video gaming, and in the process changed the world of video games forever. Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku's look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we'll be celebrating the Heroes — and the Zeroes — of the last eight years of console video gaming. Follow the entire series here.


    Inverters are the scum of the world.

      I respect that others may have opinions and preferences on how they like things but inverters, please know that you're wrong

        The single worst thing in the world is being lured towards the nice Apple monitors in JB Hifi, going on to the web and finding out that scrolling is by default inverted. I feel sick inside. Every. Single. Time.

          The worst part is, they label it 'Natural'

          Last edited 15/10/13 5:20 pm

            This. On phones/tablets it might feel natural but on computers, definitely not.

      I think when I first start using the Steam controllers, (I'm sure I'll give it a go at some point,) inverted might actually be more comfortable because of the concave shape of the thumbpad thing.

        I play inverted (agree that it probably comes from playing flight games) but I can tell I won't need to invert the steam controller, as trackpads feel similar to using a mouse.

      I'm not normally one to advocate eugenics, but I think we can all agree that people who invert have broken brains. Is there some sort of way we can breed it out of them?

      I'm an inverter (on console), and thusly I choose to invert your statement. It will now read as either:
      Inverters are the salt of the earth, or Non-inverters are the scum of the world.

      inverters are usually old school flight sim buffs. you pull back (down) on that joystick to go up you know :)

      edit: i'm truly amazed anyone would care whether ppl inverted the Y-axis or not. although, they do waste a lot of time on video games.....not much else happening in their life :P

      Last edited 15/10/13 2:00 pm

        My joystick is inverted. My thumbsticks are not.

        not.edit: humour.

        Last edited 16/10/13 12:00 am

        Lots of N64 and NGC games had inverted controls with no options- that's why I'm in(tro)verted.

      Why does it sound like Inverters could be comparable to left handers, What's with the backward attitude?

    PSA brought to you by Freddie Wong

      Thing about that video, Freddy pulls back on the stick (to climb) but the chopper dives. So the other pilot had it set to 'normal'.
      See? Normal is wrong!

    I didn't realise there was a chance a console wouldn't save your preferences. What a privileged life I lead.

    I'm delighted that my 360 is always set to inverted though. My ex-girlfriend was the opposite so there was plenty of rage during Halo 3 if we ended up signed into the wrong profile.

      This could be deeply brilliant if the XBone does it right. Apparently it knows who is holding which controller, so wouldn't it be wonderful if you could pass the controller to your non-mutant SO and have the stick automatically change its inversion setting?

    I prefer normal on console FPSs ... however in things involving flight I generally invert the Y axis - As a (student) pilot it feels more natural to me

    Last edited 15/10/13 1:28 pm

    I liked in Red Faction Armageddon how, in resetting your computer companion (or something) it just says 'look up', and whichever way you push the thumb stick, that's what up is. It takes the assumption away, and isn't invertist (or axisist, not sure which I like more)

      Having never played that game, I never knew that was how it handled it.

      Can you imagine an extension of that system, whereby you had no keys mapped until you used them? Some sort of "physical therapy" exercise where you were told different things to do, and the keys were mapped based on your responses. That would be pushing the frontiers.

        Every Halo game has done the same thing. As soon as you start playing the first thing they make you do is look up at something.

          Yup, haven't played them either. Sensing a trend here? :p

        Kind of like the start of Portal 2 where you're asked to press "X" to speak?

    Inverted makes no sense if flight isn't involved. You don't look down to look up in real life.

      The argument I've heard (but don't subscribe to) is that some people view the thumb stick as their character's neck and head, so if you put your thumb on someone's head and pull it back, their view will be pushed up.

        I personally imagine myself controlling the head from the front, not the back, so inverted feels weird unless I'm flying.

          Inverted also works if you control the head from on top as well, considering your thumb does face the ground generally speaking.

      It depends on how you visualise yourself in relation to the 3 dimensions around you and how you translate your body motions to the controller. You tilt your head back in order to look up, I think most inverted people (like myself) extend this motion to the right analogue stick in order to become inverted (think of the top of your analogue stick being the top of your head).

      Technically we're all inverted in real life and therefore normal :)

      OK just one question - If you imagined your head a thumbstick, how would you move that thumbstick in order to make the head look up???

      Hence it's actually quite intellectual for an inverter to feel that is the natural way, it genuinely flows with what your muscles and ligaments would be doing in order to look in that direction...

      Dont be hating all you non inverters you will never understand how connected we feel to the gameworld we are playing in at the time :)

    To those wondering why an inverter might invert, here's my philosophy:
    The thumbstick is like an rod attached to a camera (in real life), pushing down on the rod will face the camera upwards, while raising the rod will face the camera downwards. When using a mouse, it is like having your hand inside a puppet's head. Moving you hand down makes the puppet look down, and moving your hand up makes the puppet look up. Here endeth the lesson.

      But then wouldn't pushing the stick to the left make the camera face right?

      By that logic, you would also move the rod left to look right and right to look left.

        In a third person game where the camera floats behind them, yes. In a first person game though, the X-axis either rotates the rod (rather than tilting it over like back and forward do) or just shifts the whole thing laterally with no tilt, so the same logic doesn't apply.

        Yep. This is where the "inverter" argument sort of falls apart. Not compeltely, but sort of. Do many inverted folk also invert the left/right?

        If not, then fail.

          Well yes and no, if you go a particular way then yes it falls apart.

          There are 2 ways you can think about it really, the first is the "top down" perspective (which is basically like a plane controls) in which you are controlling the top of someone's head with your hand placed ontop. In this instance pushing "up" on the head looks the head down and turning the head to the left requires your hand turning left. So in this sense the Y axis is inverted while the X is not, (like in flight).

          The 2nd way of looking at it is from the back of the head, in this scenario its all inverted. So pushing "up" on the head looks down, while pushing "left" on the head looks to the right.

          You can argue till your blue in the face but from the get go its either A the way an individual perceives these things and is innately tuned to either way or B the first games you played had it set one way or the other forever preference you to that method.

          The only benefit is that inverted peeps are immediately better at flying in the real world, though that might have limited uses :P

          I'm always an inverter and am suprised more people are not considering inverted USED to be the norm, that was every game i played's default setting and sometime this gen that seemed to change. Though I remember fighting with the very first harry potter game on the quidditch lesson, because the default setting was one particular way and i assumed it was the other which ended is misery. Though i later realised i had a definitive affinity for inverted and went from constant failing to all star quiddich champ in no time.

          But on topic MANY games have completely ignored my ALWAYS invert or die in a fire like scum command given to my xbox in the settings forcing me to manual change which is a pita, more so when your used to having your settings recognise, because previously you would ALWAYS check the settings first.

          Last edited 15/10/13 5:28 pm

    We shouldn't hate the inverted Y axis people (I am one), we should not like the invert X axis people. Games have the option out there so somebody must be using it!

    EDIT: The only thing I dislike about using invert is that every so often my brain panics and it's like I never used it. I turn it off and 20 minutes or so later it freaks out again because it realises it's off and I have to turn it back on.

    Last edited 15/10/13 1:48 pm

      I always invert but I usually mess up in those game where it tells you to 'look up' and sets your inversion setting from which way you moved the stick.

      I got screwed up by X-axis directions when playing Wet.

      Whenever I wanted to move the camera to look around, I'd be thinking about the camera's position behind her and how it rotates around her to move. So pushing right makes sense to make it rotate to the camera's right, pivoting around the character and thus looking left.

      But then whenever I wanted to aim her right hand, which meant focusing on a reticule bound to the camera but placed on the FAR side of her... well I want to push left to make the reticule move to its left, but instead that makes the camera move left, thus the reticule pivots around her and moves to the right instead.

      So of course, changing the X-axis to be inverted (or non-inverted, I don't even know which is which any more) would always mean that one case got fixed, but the other got broken. The whole game just broke my brain, trying to deal with the two opposing situations.

      FF12 had this travesty where if you wanted the Y axis to be inverted you'd have to play with the X axis also inverted. It broke my brain for the first 20 or 30 minutes and then I got used to it somehow.

      Thankfully these days I can play it on PC with an emulator and a re-mapped right analogue stick.

        This is the biggest devil in the world, NO ONE ever in my life have i seen a person invert the x axis, it defies all logic. So when a game forces me to abandon either preference for an all or nothing it get's binned immediately, it could be the 2nd coming and still get dropped.

          I think Wind Waker had a permenantly inverted X-axis. I remember every time I came back to it I'd have to adjust to the left and right looking. It was a pain.

        I rebought FFXII a short while ago after only having played the game through once and then having it freeze up at an early cutscene, scratched disc I guess. Those camera controls really affected my enjoyment of the game and I never got much further into the game again.

    I think maybe it’s due to all the time I spent playing TIE Fighter and X-Wing with a PC flightstick; I came to think of joysticks as things that you inverted.

    I'm not sure that makes sense. See, in a flight sim, pulling back on the stick causing you to pitch up is not inverted, that is how aircraft actually work.

      But if it was your only previous experience with controlling something from a first person viewpoint, it's understandable that you would be accustomed to that way of working things.

    I once was an inverter, but then thought "If I give this enough time it'll change." It did and it improved my game play tenfold. I encourage others to do the same.

    I found this setting was awesome with local co-op. one of my friedns is an inverter - if we ever play a shooter with local co-op, (GoW, Halo etc), I would have to always wait for him to pause and screw around in the menu. Now it is tied to your Live profile - not your Xbox.

      This option has been available since the 360 launched.

      Last edited 16/10/13 6:28 pm

    It's not up to look down, that makes no sense.

    It's forward to look down!

      I guess the depends if you hold the controller vert or horizontally......or somewhere inbetween

        Holding the controller upright is just weird. No two ways about it.

          I lay on a couch when i play, so my controller is upright usually

            Weirdo :P

            It would still be horizontal relative to you though, with the front of it being directed away from your body.

              Well that depends what you consider the front of the controller, when someobe tells me to push up theres confusion where the top of the controller is :D

                You push up on the underside of the controller?

                Weird! :P

                  Sorry but i think im right here and you know it :P

                This is another reason too, no matter where or how im sitting "up" is technically forward relative to my position. Which is why i hate the ps3 controller so much those short handles force me with my small hands to hold it almost upright unless i want to tweak my wrists with its dodgy ass resting position (amongst a myriad of other complaints).

    I will personally fight anyone who argues against Inverted controls in this thread.
    I'll also fight anyone who argues for Inverted controls...... I'm having a bad week.

    Either way, if you've read this text, I know where you live, and I'm coming to fight you. RIGHT NOW.

    Last edited 15/10/13 5:05 pm

    I started playing with inverted following my obsession with the ace combat series. Before that I was happily stick-up-look-up. But after playing simulators for so long, the natural way of looking up changed for me.

    If anyone who inverts has played silent hill: homecoming on xbox360, you'll understand the pain.

    i honestly had no idea this setting existed.
    i will turn it on the second i get home.

    i also have no idea when i started this, its not something i think about, it must be from flight sims as i did play a decent amount of them before the console FPS really took off.

    id be interested to go back to my orignial goldeneye cart and see what i had set for it. i know that i use to use the solitaire config, cant remember what that meant for inversion but thats absolutely the first console shooter for me.

    This should be manadated for all consoles. ive recently started playing Wind waker and the lack of true inversion makes controlling the camera a chore

      I did it when I first got my 360. But not all games use it, it's probably about 50/50.

      Pretty sure that C-up was look down and C-down was look up for me.

    Back in the day inverted was normal. And if you wanted to change to whats now called 'normal' you had to switch the settings to 'inverted'.

      Im pretty sure Goldeneye is what changed it. Up until then 'inverted' was the normal default setting.
      Even in Goldeneye inverted was the default normal setting. But enough people complained and from that point forward the industry reversed the default setting.

    Infographic. . .

    I have to say Kirk, TIE Fighter and X-Wing are why I invert to this day.

    I play inverted on controllers and I don't even play flight-sims. Just was the way it was.

    I've always used inverted controls because of the idea that the control stick is a head facing away from the gamer and the controller is the shoulders. To look down, you move the top of your head forward whilst keeping your shoulders stationary. To look up, you lean your head backwards… the same applies to the control stick.

    Late to the party again. I'm old school pc flight sim so play everything inverted on console because it feels more natural to me. Pull back to go up push forward to go down. Doesn't matter is its your arms on a flight yoke hand on a flight stick or thumb on a thumbstick. But I'm also left handed

    I notice that your screenshot at the end of your article does not display any option to invert the X Axis :/

    The lack of an X Inversion option has likely led to many games not including the option at all... and the issue spreading to PC games...

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