The “History” of Peripherals and Controllers

If you are used to playing just one type of gaming machine you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s only one way to control those wonderful characters on your screen. Seasoned vets will know there are a plethora of control options both old and new. Here are a bunch of them.

A modern control pad

Modern controllers are usually, but not always rounded and fit nicely in your hands. They all contain rumble pads which react to collisions in games adding to the immersion factor. Most modern control pads have analogue sticks and shoulder buttons. As a general rule, they are wireless. Although occasionally you can pick up cheaper wired options (they save you a fortune in batteries!

Older control pad

For some reason, pre-mega drive controllers tended to be square. Which from an ergonomic perspective was a bit bonkers. But a lot of us grew up with square NES and Master system pads and they didn’t do us any harm. These tended to have directional pads rather than analogue sticks. The 16gb consoles featured shoulder buttons but their 8gb peers did not.

Joystick

Would almost certainly win the award for the most phallic games control devices. These were big with pc gamers but were actually a bit of a pain to use. They sort of evolved from the controllers that you used to find in arcade machines. While they were naff for platformers they came into their own the minute you used one for a flight sim.

Steering wheel

These can be pretty pricey but are obviously the holy grail of controllers for fans of car racing games. The really posh one come with pedals. I believe you can even get a bucket seat to really solidify the effect. This is just about as close as you can get to an arcade machine in your house unless you have the bank balance of Bill Gates.

The trackerball

This is rarely seen, but they did exist. They were kind of like the trackpad found on most laptops. But instead of a pad, you had a giant plastic ball. Usually just a bit wider then a tennis ball they looked cool as heck but were about as useless a controller as you could hope for.

The power glove

I’ve still never been able to figure out if this was just a plot device for the film The Wizard. After a quick google it would appear it is a real thing, but given that the pad you need to control the game is attached to the back of the glove, which presumably you are supposed to wear, makes it pretty much pointless.

The Kinect

This controller was never as good as it had the potential to be. The concept was inspired. A camera that tracked your movements, effectively turning your body into the controller. On paper, it sounded amazing and the tech demos showed us something incredible. The reality was that you needed a living room as big as a football stadium to give you the required room. And unless you had a semi-pro lighting rig it often struggled to see you.

The Wii controller

These combined with the Wii fit were inspired. They gave us access to some of the best party games we had ever seen. It was near impossible to get bored with Wii bowling! Despite the fact that the Switch has similar capabilities they just haven’t seemed to be used in the same way. It was also great being able to strap cosmetic enhancements to the controller to make it feel more like a tennis racket etc.

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