Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Hmm, if I push this button here... that thing there JUMPS! Ohmigosh!!

Ahh game controllers... I can remember sitting for hours getting hand cramps from my Amiga's bulky joystick, bashing my MegaDrive controller against the floor when the buttons randomly stopped working and, more recently, toying with the analogue sticks of the PS2 while waiting for my game to load.

Looking back, it is pretty obvious that consoles have evolved from their bricky, cumbersome origins. They are now sleeker, shinier and noticeably more expensive. The controller, though often overlooked, is the most important addition; for how else would you play the games? Imagine buying a brand new PS3, only to get it home and find they didn't put a controller in the box. I dare say you'd be pretty tweaked. Controllers has been rethought, revamped and shined up to match their relevant consoles. Imagine opening your shiny new PS3 to find a prehistoric brick of a joystick in there.

Moving on.
Over the years controllers have undergone many changes with each generation receiving new innovative features. The eight-directional joystick evolved into the D-Pad (four-directional buttons) which in turn evolved into the analogue stick (offering complete 3D control in any direction). The vast majority of controllers these days have a D-Pad and one (if not two) analogue sticks.

Early controllers didn't have too many buttons meaning in-game actions were limited. The A, B, Start and Select buttons of the NES and the A, B, C and Start buttons of the MegaDrive were the simplest. (Ahh, Sonic - when every button was Jump). Then games became more complex and more buttons had to be introduced. Hello A, B, X and Y of the SNES. The PlayStation thought they'd be smart and replace the lettered buttons with shapes. (To this day I still struggle T.T)
More and more buttons were added. Ls and Rs to the top, triggers underneath, and even power buttons for the console itself!

The N64 saw the first rumble pack, that made the controller vibrate when certain things happened in game (e.g. crashing in a racing game).
Then, of course, there was wireless features. Though, personally, I always loved using the wire to garrotte anyone who dared cross in front of me while I was playing. ^^;

Designers have edited the size and shape of their controllers aiming for a more ergonomic feel. i.e. controllers designed to fit the shape of the players' hands and not cause cramping, controllers that are easy to use with buttons in appropriate places, etc.

And finally, personalised controllers designed for specific games! Guitars for Guitar Hero, Dance Mats for DDR, Steering Wheels for Mario Kart - to name a few.


As mentioned above, I think the MegaDrive was the easiest to use. A - Special, B - Attack, C - Jump, Start - Pause. Simple! And then there was Sonic <3 A - Jump, B - Jump, C - Jump.

Awesome game.


I don't think I can quite decide which console looks the nicest. I really like the bright colours and blockiness of the early Nintendos. The PlayStation also looked pleasing. Personally, I don't like the look of more modern consoles, The Wii looked like an Apple Mac, the PS3 looked like it fell out of a UFO! and the Xbox 360... is most definitely a boy's-toy.


The Wii-mote is a revolution in controllers. It gives the user 100% control in a 3D space to great success! Considering that most features of controllers were first implemented by Nintendo, I think the next generation of controllers will attempt to follow their lead with the Wii-mote too.


If they were to remove the controller, it would be very hard to play the games ;3. They'd have to replace it with something else. There's been a bit of a touch screen revolution with mobile phones lately - perhaps that will continue into consoles? The DS is semi-touch screen. Touch-sensitive pads attached to your hands, legs, fingers that react to your movement and move the player on the screen... Ooooh.

If not touch.. then the only alternative would be Virtual Reality. (Yay for silly helmets.)


The joystick died out a long time ago. These days it is a relic only found in Arcades. But I think the gamepad will stick around for another decade until the hotshots at Nintendo figure out VR. :D

-The dougalBUG.

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