Inverted Vs. Non-Inverted Y-Axis In Video Games

In pretty much every role-playing video game, you are given the option to invert the Y-Axis for the analogue stick on the controller. The majority of people play without inverting the Y-Axis, so this is usually the default option in games, with the option to invert the Y-Axis usually being hidden in the ‘Controller Settings’ menu.

Despite it’s presence in most games, anyone who picks up someone else’s controller in a game, only to find that they have or haven’t inverted the Y-Axis like they are used to, will no doubt feel like they are learning to play for the first time all over again! As an inverted Y-Axis player, if I play a game where the previous person has not inverted the Y-Axis, I feel like how I imagine left handed people feel in every other aspect of life – trying to force my hands to do something that I’m not used to them doing. It’s like those left-handed safety scissors that they used to have in primary school – just try cutting in a straight line with a pair of those if you’re right-handed!

So what’s this Y-Axis stuff all about then? Well, let me try and explain…

Figure A shows the effect of choosing a non-inverted Y-Axis. Figure B shows the effect of inverting the Y-Axis.

A non-inverted Y-Axis is effectively like positioning the joystick between the character’s eyes, inside their head. Pulling the stick down/backwards (towards the player holding the controller) tilts the character’s head down towards their chest, which focuses their vision downwards, and pushing the stick forwards (away from the player) tilts their head back and chin upwards, which focuses their vision upwards.

Conversely, an inverted Y-Axis effectively positions the joystick on top of the character’s head. Pushing the stick forwards (away from the player) tilts the character’s head down towards their chest, which focuses their vision downwards, and pulling the stick backwards (towards the player) tilts their head back, which focuses their vision upwards.

The effect of picking one of these settings over the other could be likened to the act of playing with dolls versus role playing. Those playing with an inverted Y-Axis are manipulating the head of the character on the screen as though they were holding a doll and tilting the doll’s head to allow their doll to see around a corner, for example. Those playing with a non-inverted Y-Axis are playing the game as if they themselves are the character, moving the character’s head on-screen as they would move their head if they were in that character’s position – pulling the stick down to focus their eyes/head downwards and pushing the stick up to focus upwards.

I wonder if people who don’t invert the Y-Axis in games have a more immersive playing experience playing first-person games because they are simulating actually being that character themselves, whereas those who invert the Inverted Y-Axis players are simulating controlling that character like a doll. Or perhaps the Y-Axis people have a better experience of the storytelling aspect of the game, being able to extract themselves from the main character more easily than the non-inverted Y-Axis players, for a more in-depth understanding of the wider story as a whole.

You could say that one style suits a certain type of game over another type, but in the end I think it’s down to your personal preference, and what you feel most comfortable playing with.

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8 comments

  1. I play with the Y axis inverted because that WAS the default on all the games I played as a kid. It totally confused me when they switched to non inverted as the default. I can’t even play a game that isn’t inverted…

  2. I agree with all the comments… I invert the y-axis ’cause I played flight simulation games that way on a very early age, and also because the old games were the default configuration once upon a time. So, I wonder if the choice of invert the y-axis it’s just a generational issue.

  3. Hello, in my case I play with the inverted Y axis (figure B) because I think it is more immersive and real with the movement. I explain.

    If you are looking at the screen you see what the eyes of the character see and if you want to look up in the game, in real life you throw your head back, so with the lever is to do the same movement (push back ). If you want to look look down, move your head forward, so with the lever is to make the same movement (push forward).

    When you are playing, you do not move your eyes, you move the head of the character (what would be your head) so it does not make sense (for me) figure A.

    What is more immersive, move the “eyes” of the character or move the “head” of the character?

  4. Well not so much the top of the head but the back of the head for invert. U non vert players look at it like u are the character we the invert players look at it like we r controlling a character. So this makes more sense when it comes down to the fact that u are playing a video game and not actually being that person. Non invert players r the weird ones

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