by Alex Lee
This is going to be one of those "old person yells at cloud" articles. You have been warned.
I want to talk about video games. I, and probably many of you, grew up during the age of Atari. I would beg my mom to buy the next game cartridge and burn through it alone or with my brother and cousins for a few weeks. I earned every one of those joystick blisters wrestling that synthetic-rubber coated controller for hours on end. One stick, one button, 8-bit graphics. Life, and control, was simple.
When my aunt drove us to the local arcade the controls there, too, were intuitive. A few buttons at first for Space Invaders, a solitary joystick for Pac-Man, maybe a Trak-Ball for Missile Command and Centipede. If you wanted to race in Pole Position you got a steering wheel and foot pedals. It was a low learning curve so kids could get their token's worth of entertainment and aunts all over the country wouldn't need to hear whining about gaming frustration.
But have you seen the controllers that they're packing today?
This dogbone-shaped monstrosity first burst onto the scene with the Sony Playstation. You have to grip this in your hands and, unlike the Atari joystick, you cannot rest it on a table top. It has triggers, dual thumbsticks, and buttons on practically every horizontal and vertical surface.
Things are not improved with the XBox One console. Handheld and complex. Those with small, Republican-candidate-sized hands should look elsewhere.
I don't care how many Emmy Awards the DualShock has won. This is not arcade gaming. This is arthritis waiting to happen.
I do not own an XBox or a Playstation primarily because of the controller. I suppose for a kid just starting out with video games, the controller is fine — there's no historical bias against it. If I wanted a joystick, I'd have to purchase one for each player from a third-party. Back in the '90s joysticks were plentiful, even for PC gaming. I suppose market opinion has migrated away from that toward a unified controller design across PC and console platforms.
Market opinion sucks.
In the very near future, Sony will release a Virtual Reality headset, and yes, you get to control it with the conventional Playstation controller. Memorize those button placements because you're not going to be able to look down at what's in your hands — or anything else for that matter since you will have a very expensive headset strapped to your cranium.
I'm on the waiting list for a Tesla Model 3. They haven't yet disclosed what the final interior will look like, but there were rumors about integrating a revolutionary steering "control." The fact that they did not call it a wheel has caught my attention. If thumbsticks are involved, I will expect the car to do all of the steering for me.
Perhaps I'm the one that needs to change? Maybe I need some sort of bionic enhancement? If Jamie Summers could be the Six-Million Dollar Woman (pay equity, amirite?), then maybe my mitts can be altered to the point where holding one of those damn devices doesn't feel like I'm wearing someone else's straightjacket.
So, what are you playing on? Have you given up on consoles? Are you concerned about the knuckles of your children or grandchildren or that neighborhood kid down the block?
Alex Lee is a 45-year-old father of two and was THIS close to becoming a doctor. He loves science, drums, making cakes of his best friend, and liberalism. He is also a full-time IT Specialist and part-time Technical Writer.