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Pressure-Sensitive Interface

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Whenever someone in fiction presses a button, how hard they press always determines the effect. For some reason, you can make something work better just by pressing the appropriate button harder, or by pressing it multiple times, even though there's absolutely no reason this would work in Real Life.

This uses similar logic to Tim Taylor Technology, when giving more power to a broken device makes it start functioning again, and is the buttony version of Percussive Maintenance, when an unresponsive device is fixed by hitting it. Compare and contrast Button Mashing, frantically hammering the buttons of a console/controller out of some strong emotion, usually desperation.

Video gaming consoles adding this as a feature of their controllers might lead to Some Dexterity Required —if it ends up being too Cool, but Inefficient, then it becomes Waggle (gameplay elements shoehorned in to exploit a console's capacity). Oftentimes, Jump Physics depends on such a mechanic.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Battle of the Planets: In one episode, the guy pounds the firing button with his fist, full strength. The missile practically explodes its way out of the launcher.
  • Bleach: Subverted in the filler Bount arc. During a fight in a hospital, one of the characters does the elevator button variation. The mod souls point out that that's not going to make it go any faster, but Kurodo cheerfully tells him to keep pressing if it makes him happy.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: The kind of psycho Gonk called Attenborough who appears to be in charge of using the giant mechs' cannons. He never does any aiming or anything, mind you. And he often acts so rashly that he puts the whole team in danger. Presumably, he's only in this position because he pushes those buttons very enthusiastically, and really damn hard.

    Comic Books 
  • Gold Digger: The defunct 1970s superhero team the Wonder Friends has a base full of hi-tech vehicles based on the Thunderbirds. The old members, now part of Agency Zero, still have access to them, and they still work... but the onboard A.I.s will only oblige to work if they are approached dramatically. Just pushing the launch button won't do. You have to SLAM it down while saying a battle cry!

    Films — Animation 
  • WALL•E:
    • Subverted. WALL•E, trapped in an escape pod about to blow up, presses the button for self-destruct to try and turn it off, then repeatedly presses it.
    • The Big Bad pushes a button to turn off the Holo-Detector and lower it back into the floor, but WALL•E holds it up. So, the Big Bad takes out an electric prod and pushes the button with that, and the Holo-Detector lowers faster and overpowers WALL•E.

  • Risk: Subverted. An experimental hyperdrive fails to work because the robot at the controls, having been ordered to pull the activation lever "firmly", pulls it so hard that it bends out of shape.
  • Sentou Yousei Yukikaze: After Rei detonates a missile at close range to destroy an unidentified aircraft, the canopy is shredded, the Guy in Back bails out, and Yukikaze goes into an out-of-control spiral that he cannot recover from. It takes several harrowing seconds before Rei realizes the cause of the spiral is that he has lost all feeling in his right arm due to shrapnel from the explosion, and he was unconsciously pressing down way too hard on the pressure-sensitive touchpad flight controls.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Hancock's Half Hour: In "The Lift" TV episode, nine passengers of a lift get stuck in between floors due to the machine's maximum capacity having been surpassed —it supports up to eight people. When they realize this, one of them scrambles to hammer the lift's buttons frantically in the hopes of restarting it.
  • Not Necessarily the News: Conversed. The "Sniglets" section defines the term elecceleration as thinking that jabbing an elevator's buttons will cause it to accelerate. Years later, it would get further busted by the Mythbusters.
    Elecceleration: The mistaken belief that repeatedly pressing the elevator button will make it go faster.
  • Stargate Atlantis: In "The Daedalus Variations", the crew boards an abandoned ship identified as the Daedalus. It autonomously travels through parallel universes and eventually meets one full of hostile aliens, facing them to attack. Needless to say, Ronan is jamming on the rail gun button, then Sheppard says, "Take it easy, Chewy."

  • Notes played on the piano are louder when the keys are pressed hard, and quieter when they are pressed more lightly. This is a great improvement over earlier instruments such as the harpsichord. This sensitivity is also built into modern electric keyboards.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: Discussed in "Transport". Duck Guy thinks this principle applies to the touchscreen of Mr. Transport's WatchBox, and protests when Red Guy asks him to ease up. His answer —"You have to jab it hard, or it won't respect your choices!"— is not as absurd as it seems due to Red's earlier argument with Mr. Transport's navigation aid (a talking touchscreen).

    Web Animation 
  • The Gmod Idiot Box: To make the elevator come down faster, not only does #1 press the button by launching at it with his head, he then wails on it with his crowbar.

    Web Comics 
  • Bob and George:
    • The time travel suit is controlled by one button on the belt buckle. You have to practically type out a command in Morse Code with it to actually do anything. The duration and pressure of the press are important.
    • Exaggerated in the "The Simple Instructions" strip. A holographic Dr. Light explains to George how to access the main menu. It requires tapping the button lightly twice, then slowly three times, and so on and so forth til, twenty minutes later, George notes that he should be writing the instructions down. To nail the coffin, the guide exasperatedly tells him, "Jesus, George, it's only one button!"
    • Parodied in "One Big Button" by way of a character's prank. Probably in retribution of the events in "The Simple Instructions", George starts manipulating in excrutiatingly complex ways the big button that controls the capsule's movements. When he manages to produce a MegaMan in the capsule, he answers to the doctor's confused half sentences with a condescending, "Jesus, Dr. Light, It's only one button!"
      George: Then maybe if I turn the button another 47.5 degrees, caress the button, and tell it what a good little button I think it is... Then I'll turn the button 63.2 degrees with my left hand, sneeze on it lightly, and push it all the way down again."

    Real Life — Gaming Consoles 
  • Namco: Their NeGcon controller features pressure-sensitive "I" and "II" buttons where the Square and X buttons would be on a conventional PS1 controllernote , as well as a pressure-sensitive L button.
  • Nintendo:
    • Nintendo GameCube: Its joystick has touch-sensitive shoulder buttons, with another button at the very bottom of each of the buttons. Interestingly, this was the only Nintendo controller to date to use pressure-sensitive shoulder buttons while Sony and Microsoft would go onto adopt this feature on their controllers for their trigger buttons as an industry standard.
      • Luigi's Mansion: The function is used to control the Poltergust, pressing the button hard increases suction power, and pressing it all the way down makes Luigi stationary.
      • Rogue Squadron: The GameCube installments of the series map the accelerator to the right trigger. Clicking the button underneath (depending on your craft) either triggers a rechargeable booster or closes your S-foils (giving you increased speed but disabling your weapons). To accelerate to max speed normally, you need to hold down the trigger without pressing the button underneath.
      • Super Mario Sunshine: It has a special mechanic for the water pack F.L.U.D.D. in which a light press makes the nozzle spray directly in front of Mario and he can move around, and a hard press makes him stationary but allows him to maneuver the nozzle freely.
      • Super Smash Bros. Melee: The shoulder buttons are used for shielding. Lightly pushing the button made a larger but more translucent, and likely weaker, shield; pushing the button harder made the shield more compact as well as more durable and opaque.
    • Nintendo DS: The touchscreen can tell between a light and a hard press.note 
      • Metroid Prime: Hunters: In the demo, "First Hunt", light presses on the menu screen options give tooltips, while harder presses actually select things.
      • Rhythm Heaven: It's programmed in a way that you can hold the stylus on the screen and flick. It also tells the difference between light and hard taps. Moai Doo Wop, in particular, requires the player to use both light and hard taps within the same game.
  • Nostalgia (BEMANI): The Recital mode features sections that mandate that you hit the keys lighter or harder than usual.
  • PlayStation 2:
    • The controller features pressure-sensitive buttons for its DualShock 2 controllers. In theory, this allowed a single button press to be either light or heavy, and for games to react accordingly. All in all, the idea is Awesome, but Impractical due to being so difficult to get the hang of, so the feature gets dropped for the PS4.
    • It's also something of an Underused Game Mechanic as, most of the time, only one or two of the buttons (out of eight) will have this functionality tapped into, and many players considered it a Scrappy Mechanic due to inconsistent differences in how much pressure is required between different functions of one button.
    • Racing and driving games —e.g., Gran Turismo IV and Grand Theft Auto— allow you to go faster and modulate the throttle by modifying your pushing of the X button. The square, meanwhile, handles the intensity of the main brakes. The handbrake and reverse (circle and triangle, respectively) are not pressure-sensitive. Same story for all shoulder buttons. The take-up of this feature can be credited to the first installment of Gran Turismo.
    • The Bouncer: Want to talk tricky? This Squaresoft 3D beat-em-up differentiates between light and heavy presses of the four attack buttons, and this is a critical part of the fighting system. Good luck to you if you're the kind of player who mashes buttons—or even just presses down hard— when things get intense.
    • Capcom:
      • Street Fighter: The earliest incarnation of the arcade cabinets use giant pressure-sensitive buttons for Punch and Kick rather than the traditional six-button setup used today. Only after kids and angry/enthusiastic patrons destroyed the hydraulic pumps that operated the buttons via furious mashing did Capcom realize this setup was not a very good idea. Ryu would get this pressure-dependant light/heavy attack mechanic as his gimmick in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U as a Shout-Out to this feature.
      • Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium: Interestingly enough, the idea is reused for the EO versions. The strengths of punches and kicks are determined by the pressure exerted on the L and R buttons in an attempt to simplify the controls for the GameCube and the XBox.
    • Evergrace: If the pressure sensitivity feature is enabled, one can fine-tune how much of the Power Meter will get depleted with each attack. If it's disabled, then the whole bar is used at once.
    • Kojima Productions: Games from this developer tend to make use of the pressure sensitivity of the joysticks in various mechanics.
      • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: If you push the fire button and let go, you shoot. But, if you push the button and lightly let go, you'll holster your gun without firing a shot. It is tricky as hell.note 
      • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: As a demonstration of the Button Mashing problem, the game uses the pressure-sensitive button for only one function —the threatening command on captured enemies, which has Snake put a knife to their neck. A light button press would interrogate the captive. A full button press slits their throat. This resulted in a lot of dead guards and scientists and complaints about the interrogate command not working.
      • Zone of the Enders: There's a weapon for which a light push results in a wide-angle, point-blank spray, while a hard one increases the range from "melee" to merely "short" with a narrower spread. This gets expanded in the Surprisingly Improved Sequel, Zone of the Enders 2: The Second Runner.
    • Mad Maestro: As a rhythm game, it relies on this. Notes are color-coded based on how lightly or hardly you have to jam on the button, which also affects the volume of the music. The original Japanese version, Bravo Music, has a special baton peripheral that makes this much easier.
  • Playstation 3:
    • Its controller is similar to the DualShock 2 save for the L2 and R2 buttons being pressure-sensitive triggers. This has caused porting issues with the gameplay of DC Universe Online.
    • Armored Core 4: The difficult-but-rewarding "Second-Stage Quickboost" tactic relies on the 360/PS3's pressure-sensitive buttons. Specifically, pressing the quickboost button ordinarily will unleash the ordinary burst. However, pressing the button to the point such that it almost activates, and then activating it with a light pressure will trigger this. Quick Boost is intended to be an emergency get-out-of-the-way burst of speed; properly applied, Second Stage boosting can and will outrun enemies using their supposedly faster Overed Boost.
  • Tribal Hunter: One of the paths in an underground cave is blocked by a pressure plate that can only be pressed down if Munch is heavy enough —i.e., at 450.
  • Xbox: The controllers, both original and 360, are loaded with pressure-sensitive buttons. Not many games use them though, as the large shoulder triggers are more intuitive for that sort of thing.
    • Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball: The harder you press, the stronger the girls spiked/served the ball. (If the feature was disabled, the A and B buttons were the "strong" buttons while the X and Y buttons were the "weak" buttons, similar to a fighting game's button layout).
    • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: When using the white/black buttons to raise/lower price offers with vendors, how hard you push them determines how fast the figure changes.

    Real Life — Others 
  • This is an extremely common way of expressing frustration. Say you're in a hurry and you're trying to cross the street, and you pushed the button to cross, but the crosswalk light isn't changing. It's not uncommon in this circumstance to futilely press the button over and over. Similarly, if you click/double-click something on a computer and nothing happens, you'll be sorely tempted to do it again, even though this may just slow the action down further. People playing fighting games start mashing the buttons harder as they get more desperate, even when it's just an ordinary digital button and they're only destroying the controller.
  • Sometimes, buttons that have become worn or dirty do need a second attempt with a bit more force in order to close the contact, which is why elevator controls and the like usually light up and/or sound a tone to signal the fact that they've been activated.
  • All British pedestrian crossings have an indicator that lights when the button is pressed (on older versions, it's an illuminated WAIT sign, and on newer versions a red light). People still press the button repeatedly.
    • Irish crossings have the light too. But sometimes no light means "no signal" and light means "signal received"; sometimes it's dim light: no signal, bright light: signal received; and sometimes it's permanently a dim light. So people press it over anyway.
  • Some crosswalks at intersections that have been converted back to pure timer operation have their buttons disconnected, and pressing does nothing. People are already used to waiting, so nobody notices any difference.
  • On at least one computer system, pressing buttons repeatedly will make it realize that you're impatient, and it will speed up. The system was designed to give programs that interacted with the user a higher priority than background processes that didn't. Pressing random keys during a long calculation would make it treat the task as interactive, so the calculation finished sooner.
    • A lot of PC GUI applications scroll this way. If you drag to select text or pixels, and your pointer leaves the scrollable part of the window, the will slowly start to scroll. Some apps scroll faster if the user moves the mouse because they scroll one unit per "event", and the mouse sends an event every time it has moved one or more pixels since the display was last updated.
    • Some poorly written applications on old cooperative multi-tasked computers would do their processing only in response to OS messages. Meaning, the processing would go faster if you wiggled the mouse, slammed on the keyboard, or otherwise did something to make the OS send more messages than usual. This could happen in Mac Classic applications and 16-bit Windows applications.
  • Some car remotes do react to multiple presses, for instance, 3 presses of "lock" will start the engine.
  • "Close door" lift buttons are a special case.
    • If the lift is not in operator mode, the button has no effect. The lift doors don't close any quicker, but you feel as if you're in control.
    • If the lift is in operator mode (which requires a key), the buttons give you total control. The doors remain open until you select a floor or close them. You can even override the doors and leave them open as you travel.
  • This is actually a function in many graphics programs (like Photoshop) when using a tablet: The stylus is pressure sensitive, and the mark you create is either bigger or more opaque —or both— depending on how hard you press down (and the "brush" you're using). You can even adjust your pressure on the fly, so you can make a thick-to-thin line or a transparent-to-opaque brush stroke.
  • Electro-Magnetic Resonance technology for touch screens:
    • An electromagnetic field is used to communicate and get positional information from a specialized pen whose nib sensor is also pressure-sensitive for controlling brush width, opacity, tilt, and rotation. This is used by all sorts of tactile devices, including gamepads like the Sega Pico.
    • The 6th through 7th generations of iPhones have 3D Touch, in which lightly holding or firmly pressing on the touchscreen can access alternate functions. Later iPhones would ditch this in favor of going back to simple binary touch.
  • The Keystone keyboard is an effort at this, featuring customizable analog keys. For example, one can configure the keyboard to send lower-case letters when tapping lightly and upper-case letters when pressing firmly.
  • In firearms, "progressive" or "staged" triggers allow different rates of fire depending on how hard the trigger is pulled. A light pull fires a single shot, while a heavier pull fires full-auto.