Editorial: The Perfect Gaming Controller

-Noel Villa

Gaming, as a medium, over the past few decades, has grown into such a large industry; and the games, as objects of study, carry on evolving with no end in sight. Yet insofar as the games themselves draw all the attention of study, it is the hardware that we use to play these games that is, suffice it to say, left in the dust.

I’ll get right down to it and say that our controllers suck. The beef I have with the way controllers are designed is how the thumbs do nearly all the work. What’s bad about it?

Let’s take a trip back in time:

Back when controllers were simpler, there really wasn’t much demanded in terms of complex button combinations. Mostly, all you had to do was move right, and jump, and shoot. Nowadays, you get button mashers like MVC3, and there’s just so much your single thumb can do without taking your right hand off the comfortable grip position, assuming a typing position, and losing anyway because of Wolverine’s dumb Swiss cheese attack. (in before butthurt MVC3 fans explaining how the game isn’t a button-masher)

Now let’s take a look at some of today’s controllers:

First on the list comes the controller I am most familiar with: the PlayStation SIXAXIS wireless controller. Inspired by the SNES controller’s design, the traditional PS controller shape has been around since the original analog-less PlayStation Controller, and Sony has kept that basic shape ever since, which is a decision that continues to baffle me. Sure, people are comfortable with the way it’s designed. But distance yourself from it for a while to see how absurd having two directional functions on the left side is. Let’s say you’re a person who doesn’t like wasting time, and you want to do all of these at the same time: 1 – move around with the left analog stick; 2 – change weapons with the D-pad; 3 – sprint using the O button; 4 – constantly move the camera with the right analog stick to scout for enemies; 5 – defend with L1; and 6 – attack with R1. Control scheme look familiar? Yes, that is from Demon’s Souls. Now, how will you be able to execute all of that on a PS controller or an Xbox controller, moreover? People will readily admit that console games have their own limits, but do these limits have to exist simply because of the way the controllers are designed?

Now let’s go over to the Wiimote. Hahaha, ridiculous! Okay, next.

Let’s take a look at the 360’s controller. I’ve only touched a 360 once in my life, and I remember that it works similar to the Sixaxis, perhaps the only difference being that the D-pad and left analog stick have been switched. But out of all the controllers, I can say that this design is the most ergonomic, having the two sides easily fit in your palms. At least Microsoft saw fit to revamp the controller’s image, the original Xbox controller having the maneuverability of a dinner plate.

Going back to the Wiimote, since I don’t entirely want to dismiss it, I have never before seen a more impractical controller design, with the most number of needless attachments. Perhaps, I can only praise the Nunchuck for its simplicity of design and function. But the Wiimote? The design is so awkward that when used as a regular controller, it slips off easily when it’s not being held onto right, and digs into your palms whenever you try to strengthen your grip. The remote/motion-sensing function isn’t very good either, being so imprecise and shaky. I have waggled weirder things in front of the TV, trust me, but none more impractical than the Wiimote. 

But the main problem with the Wiimote is that it isn’t very ergonomic. The problem with both the Xbox and Sixaxis controllers is that functions for the thumb are overloaded, and the other fingers aren’t fully optimized at all. So now, I’ve come up with an alternative solution for the perfect controller:

I hereby christen it … The Respiratroller. Designed in the shape of lungs, it easily fits into your hand like the Wii’s Nunchuck or the 360 controller’s grips. The two lungs are joined by a strong yet elastic, rubbery center that bounces back into position after being bent. This controller-bending feature could be used for vehicle-simulation games.

Analog sticks will be replaced by heat-sensing touchpads. Terrible, you say? Then you have no idea how much more precise a trackpad is compared to a joystick. Plus, thumbs slip from the analog sticks a lot, especially when performing those rotational quick-time events. Analog sticks in the style of the PSP’s may be a better choice for the Sixaxis, but I believe that touch pads will turn out to be more efficient because of the precision involved in manually tracking a course with your thumb. It may take a bit of getting used to but I believe it’ll turn out well, significantly more for FPS games.

There will be no buttons on the front. I may possibly add a Start, Select or System button on either shoulder, but the eight main buttons will be located on the back of each lung. So as you grip each lung, both your thumbs will be concentrated on the front touch pads, while your fingers, wrapped around the lungs, will support the controller while positioned over each button. This way, NONE of your fingers will be left without purpose, and you won’t have to scramble to change the orientation of your hand to reach multiple buttons at once (like pressing triangle and square at the same time; you just can’t do it with your thumb), since the fingers will be positioned over the things they’re meant to press anyway.

Now don’t tell me this will be difficult because it obviously is. Think of it as learning to use a guitar. Sure, beginners will fumble at it. But there is no greater satisfaction than having to master something that can and will improve the experience over time.

It’s simple, it’s sleek, and I want this patented under my name.

PLEASE GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS: Has Noel truly made the perfect controller?