The Next Generation of Controllers
by ZackC on August 9, 2012 at 01:00 PM EDT

The next generation of consoles will be launching soon starting with the Wii U this fall, but we don’t know what kind of controllers the others will have. We need to look back at the type of controllers that have been used in the past, to figure out what we need for the future. Over time there have been three types of controllers that video game companies have used to control their games; the keyboard and mouse, a game pad, and now most recently the human body. These three controller types have shaped the ways we play games. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, and those pros and cons will determine how we play games in the future.

The keyboard and mouse has not really changed since their creation, whereas the game pad has seen plenty of changes. The keyboard and mouse has simply seen advances in technology. These advances show up in the number of buttons that are on the mice, as well as the mice sensitivity. The big technological advance for keyboards was the introduction of macro keys. While not strictly legitimate in real time strategy games, they are very popular while playing massive multiplayer online games.

The game pads that we have used have slowly gotten better over time. The first controller that got wide spread use was the Atari joystick; this was the first game pad. It had a single button and a mounted analog stick. The next big leap was the introduction of the directional pad (D-pad) and the addition of more buttons. More buttons and a more precise movement control allowed for games that are more complex. The next real step towards the current generation of game pads was the inclusion of triggers. The first control that looks like the one a person would use now would be the Playstation 2 controller. It was the first controller to use two sets of analog sticks, a D-pad, four buttons, two bumpers and two triggers.

The last frontier for game control is the human body itself. While not a new concept, it was only recently that motion and the human body has really been a viable means of control. The first good control mechanism was the Wii controller. The Wii, while it makes a person move their body, it simply follows the motion of the controller not the motion of the person. The Playstation Move is no better than the Wii because it tracks the controller not the person. The Kinect on the other hand follows the person’s body because of the unique device that tracks the person’s movements.

Each type of controllers has its advantages and disadvantages. With a keyboard and mouse, a player has immense control over the games that they are playing. The problem with the keyboard is that it takes a lot of skill and coordination to master the amount of control that a player is given. With a game pad, you don’t need all ten fingers to have maximum control, and it’s also more portable than a keyboard and mouse. The single downside to a game pad is that it does not give the same amount of control as a keyboard and mouse. The big advantage to motion control is that it can be very intuitive. The downside is that the technology for motion capture is not far enough along to give the precision that both the keyboard and game pad both have. 

From what has been released and leaked about the next generation of consoles, apparently there will be a mixture of motion technology and gamepad. I really think that this will be fine, as long as the technology keeps advancing to the point where hardcore games can be played with the body. Until technology is up to a certain point, the game pad and the keyboard will be the only good ways to play hardcore games; this is due to the control that they both give.

Gaming controllers have come a long way since the Atari. We have better keyboards, and mice that are more precise. The game pads that we use are compact and can’t get any better. As technological advances, motion technology is still very crude compared to the precision of mice, and game pads. I hope that until those technologies progress, that companies still use the game pad as the primary controller.

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