Over the years I’ve play many different consoles and computers and used many different methods to control the games I’ve played. I think back to the ZX Spectrum I used to play as a child and having to learn keyboard controls for the first time, an experience that put me off pc gaming until just a few years ago. Also with that was a joystick I think was actually meant for an Atari 2600 and a light gun that was identical to the one that came out for the Master-System and Mega-Drive a few years later, the games I played with them were pretty basic as you could imagine but they were cool none the less, but I really remember the first time I used the light gun for the SNES and not playing anything else for a few months, mainly because I was young and shooting stiff on the screen still seemed cool and the other reason was the gun it’s self, whoever decided to design the gun as a shoulder mounted bazooka was a genius.
Other things like the unofficial turbo pad for the Mega-Drive made the games a bit more fun after I’d played them all to death and an official resident evil pad I had for the PSone made the game much more controllable and fun with one half of the pad shaped like a gun handle with trigger making zombie fights a bit faster to react to and the other grip shaped like a door handle… it was an odd thing. Zip forward the Xbox and a game I bought called Steel Battalion which came with the largest game controller ever released for a console, with two giant joysticks, over 40 buttons and switches and a 3 pedalled unit for your feet, it truly was an epic piece of kit and although it wasn’t the easiest thing to set up, it really helped make the playable experience more entertaining as you were literally in control of every aspect of the giant robot/mech you were controlling.
But the best pad I’ve ever used is by far the Xbox360 pad, it feels so nice to hold, like it was molded to fir your hand perfectly. All the buttons are in easy reach and don’t get in the way during game-play, and even attachments like the MSN keyboard fit perfectly to the pad without hindering its use and still be easy to use during game-play. I remember seeing a video before the console came out about how they designed the pad to make it as comfortable as possible and put so much effort into making it the best for the player and now I look at pad’s for the ps3 that is essentially that same design they’ve had for 15 years and I just think to myself they really must not car about how people play as long as they are buying there game. I think anyone who has tried to use the trigger buttons on the ps3 pad knows exactly how poorly designed and rushed it seems.
Consoles themselves have changed greatly just like controllers over the years. The ZX Spectrum was nothing but a keyboard and a tape deck and the only the original NES was… well a box. I remember seeing the Mega-Drive 2 for the first time and thinking how different and cool it looked with its curved shaped and curved control pads that seemed to be the first attempt to make a controller more comfortable to hold as I suppose people were in general playing games for longer amounts of time as they become more mainstream and more a part of everyday life. Then the PSone hits the shelves and it looks like we’ve taken a step back to the box look and then fast forward to the ps2 and it’s even more of a box than the first one. We look at the consoles today and it’s a much different story (except for the Wii), It’s back to the curves and Xbox360 and PS3 are the key examples of this. I like the overall design of the 360, it’s pleasing to the eye and looks nice next to anything on your shelves, the PS3 is good but it does have its drawback, like it being the size of a small house and the fact you will be lucky to fit it on any shelve you may have at home already, and if you do fit it on it will suck every ounce of dust your house has as cover it’s nice shiny surface, mean you have to polish it about one every 20 minutes. I think when they come to design their next console, Sony may take a little more care, but given their track record of doing what they think is right and not listening to the fans about what they think is better I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.