Friday, 26 December 2008

Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse…just my rumble-pack controller!

The earliest memory I have of a games console is the Sega Mega drive (which I still use to this day). I would spend many a days of my childhood sitting on my Dad’s lap playing Desert Strike (he would let me fire the missiles) but I also used to play with him on Golden Axe II. Bearing in mind I was about 5 years old at the time, it answers the question of how easy it was to use. A simple 4 way D-pad allowed me to manoeuvre my warrior along a 2D scrolling environment. It was a simple yet effective set-up that provided hours of fun.

However the Sega Megadrive isn’t the oldest console in my household. We still have a working ZX spectrum Sinclair. It’s great to have such a range of working consoles but my word, the Sinclair is fussy. It reads games off of tapes and the slightest nudge would obliterate hours of loading time. We mostly use a keyboard for the spectrum games but with no games manuals it soon became frustrating to use as I would continuously forget the controls. My parents tell me that they did use a joystick for the arcade-style games but that broke a while ago now.

Because my parents chose the path of Sega and Sonic the Hedgehog, I never got to play on any old Nintendo systems until quite recently. The N64 has some amazing games that I have enjoyed playing but I absolutely loath the controllers. The awkward 3 handle design made it impossible for me to know which way I was holding it and, in my mind, ruined the whole experience for me.
To me, the Playstation 2 Dual Shock controllers are the best game pads. The analog (analogue?…Americans tsk) sticks are excellent to use for most genres of games. The increased number of buttons meant games could include more controllable actions, which increased the overall game-play experience.

I was therefore pleased to know that the PS3 had kept much of the original design and thank the lord for the new wireless feature, no longer do I have to sit 2 metres from the console, I can now lounge to my heart’s content on the couch at a more reasonable distance. However, I’m not keen on how controllers are trying to incorporate trigger buttons. It may fell more realistic but those horrid marshmallow triggers on the PS3 controllers are just awful to use.

The future of game controllers is uncertain. Games and consoles are heading in the direction of including the user more. Interaction is now an important feature and the Wii remote is a good example of that. The Wii-mote allows the user to play with more precision and to get more involved (though at times the sensitivity really infuriates me). But what about futuristic capabilities such as virtual helmets, would we really need controllers as well?

Personally I feel that the Playstation 2 controllers, as well as the console, are quite a successful design. There is enough buttons for the user to feel in control and the design is quite comfortable to hold for hours on end.

But for efficient game-play give me a keyboard and mouse any day.

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