Game controller

From Academic Kids

A game controller is an input device used to control a video game. A controller is typically connected to a video game console or a personal computer. A game controller can be a keyboard, mouse, gamepad, joystick, paddle, or any other device designed for gaming that can receive input. Special purpose devices, such as steering wheels for driving games and light guns for shooting games, may also exist for a platform. Some devices, such as keyboards and mice, are actually generic input devices and their use is not strictly limited to that of a game controller.

Game controllers can be used to govern the movement or actions of elements in a video or computer game. The type of element controlled depends upon the game, but a typical element controlled would be the game hero. A gamepad, the most common kind of game controller, can have anywhere from a couple of buttons to a dozen or more, combined with multiple omnidirectional control sticks. This lets it control the game elements' movement in up to three dimensions, with many buttons to perform quick actions. Due to the ease of use and precision of gamepads, they have spread from from traditional consoles where they originated to computers as a common input device.


Longevity of hardware

Given the number of mobile and soft rubber parts in controllers it can be expected that after extensive use, some of the buttons will become eventually less responsive due to the softening of the rubber parts that connect the hard exterior button to the integrated circuit. Even the plastic outer casings of joysticks and wheels might crack if used too violently. This becomes more of an issue with cheaper third-party controllers. Button mashing and joystick wobbling were responsible for countless broken controllers until the mid of the 16-bit era, when such games become progressively out of fashion.

Even better built joypads, able to endure mechanical wear for years, can be defeated by the development of games which require more buttons or functions, or changes in the interfaces used, rendering them obsolete. For example, the increasing number of axes and buttons demanded by computer flight simulator titles and the disuse of the PC gameport interface have left many a working PC controller unusable. The end of a game console generation generally brings obsolescence for both a console and its controllers.

Health concerns

Since the controller is the most common way of interacting with a game, it has to be ergonomically designed to feel confortable to the most of their potential userbase to avoid injuries such as the ones in the RSI group or CTS. Most controllers these days are designed with the relaxed position of the hands in mind, which gave origin to the "horns" design that reduced the soreness and cramping after extended use with older pads such as the NES or the Mega Drive/Genesis.

However, it's nearly impossible to find a perfect solution, since the age of the regular console player can go from the late childhood or early teens to the late thirties. The Xbox pad, for instance, was deemed too large for most players when it was released, but actually some users with longer fingers claim to feel more comfortable using it than the smaller Type-S model.

Also, Nintendo fingers was a term coined in the early 90s after video game players having their thumbs badly burnt and even developing blisters due to the hardness of the buttons.


A gamepad, also called joypad, is a type of game controller held with both hands and used to provide input for video games. Gamepads generally feature a set of action buttons handled with the right thumb and a direction controller handled with the left. The direction controller has traditionally been a four-way digital cross (D-pad), but most modern controllers additionally (or as a substitute) feature a small analog stick. The analog stick was introduced with the Emerson Arcadia controller.

Most modern game controllers are a variation of a standard gamepad. Some common additions to the standard pad include shoulder buttons placed along the edges of the pad, centrally placed start, select, and mode buttons, and an internal motor to provide force feedback. Gamepads are also available for the PC, but are far less popular than the keyboard and mouse for the system except for a small segment of games.


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1st gen Sidewinder

Sidewinder range

The Microsoft Sidewinder range was presented in 1996, and grew from a simple joystick to include all kinds of gaming devices, from gamepads to the innovative Sidewinder Strategic Commander, aimed to real-time strategy players. Until the first gamepads based on the popular Dual Shock design by Sony appeared for personal computers, the Sidewinder Gamepad, with its 10 buttons (six buttons plus two triggers, mode and start) and pass-through connection which allowed up to four controllers connected with only one game port was the premier gamepad for sports games on the platform, and most games between 1998 and 2002 were developed with the Sidewinder in mind.


Similar in design to the Dreamcast controller, the Microsoft Xbox controller includes two controller slots, six analog buttons, two analog triggers, and two analog sticks as well as built in rumble support. Differing from the Dreamcast controller, the Microsoft controller adds three buttons, the "black", "white" and "back" (select) buttons. The Xbox controller went through a revision specifically for Japanese consumers and due to complaints that the initial controller was too bulky.

The result was the Type-S controller which Microsoft adopted and has since bundled with their system in all regions. The major change for the Type-S is the repositioning of the black and white buttons so that they are more accessible.

The Xbox 360 controller will have wireless capabilities and removes the "black" and "white" buttons and their place adds two shoulder buttons.


The NES controller introduced the D-pad as a standard for home console controllers. Additionally, the NES and Famicom controller featured a brick-like design with a simple, four button layout: two red buttons labelled "A" and "B," a "start" button, and a "select" button. Near the end of the NES's lifespan, upon the release of the AV Famicom and the NES 2, the design of the game controller was modified slightly abandoning the "brick" shell in favor of a "dog bone" shape reminiscent of the controllers of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

The SNES controller had a more rounded design and added two more face buttons, "X" and "Y", arranging the four in a diamond formation. Another addition was the "L" and "R" shoulder buttons that would also become standard for most controllers.

The Nintendo 64 controller was the first controller to introduce force feedback via the Rumble Pak. It was also the first in a trend to have both an analog stick and a D-pad. It has the traditional A, B, L, and R buttons, along with a Z trigger button on its underside. Four "C" buttons are used mainly for controlling the camera in games. In addition to the Rumble Pak, the controller also can house a memory pack for saving games, and a microphone add-on.

The Nintendo GameCube controller adopted a similar style to the Playstation DualShock. It has two analog sticks, a smaller traditional D-pad, and four main face buttons. The GameCube controller also has pressure sensitive L and R buttons, a Z button located above the R button, and includes a built in rumble feature. Nintendo later introduced the Wavebird wireless controller, which overall has the same layout, but doesn't include force feedback.

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The Nintendo Revolution gamepad is still subject of many rumours, many of which speculate the controlling device will be the "revolution" Nintendo mentions. Some of the rumoured features are touch-screens similar to the Nintendo DS, possible gyration sensors and the possibility of it lacking the traditional A and B buttons, but none have been confirmed as of yet.


The Master System has a similar brick-shaped appearance to the NES controller, but the D-pad is square-shaped instead of cross-shaped, and there are no distinct "select" and "start" buttons. The two action buttons were labeled "1" and "2", and the "1" button doubled as a "Start" button. Master System games were pausable only by accessing a button on the console itself.

The Mega Drive\Genesis control pad has an eight-direction D-pad, a start button and three action buttons. Although the three buttons were enough for early arcade ports such as Streets of Rage or Golden Axe, as some games (mostly horizonal fighters) evolved, a six-button pad was developed. Noticeably smaller, it features 3 more buttons placed over the original three, which forced the start button to be moved into the space between the buttons and the directional pad. Since some games were not compatible with the new controller (like John Madden Football and Olympic Gold), a mode button was placed in the right shoulder. In order to work with these games, this button had to pressed during the console power-on sequence, until the SEGA logo appeared.

Sega Saturn's control pad has eight buttons, six of which are action buttons and two additional left and right buttons. NiGHTS Into Dreams was released with a larger control pad with an analogic joystick built, following the success of the Nintendo 64 gamepad. The console had three more official controllers, released with the console - a light gun (named Stunner), a steering wheel (Arcade Racer) and a arcade joystick (Virtua Stick) , to capitalize on the appeal of arcade titles such as Virtua Cop, Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter.

The Sega Dreamcast controller, was designed similarly to the Saturn NiGHTS Into Dreams controller. It featured an analog stick, a D-pad, 4 face buttons and a start button, and introduced two analog triggers on the left and right underside. The gamepad also featured two slots that could be used for a memory card, the VMU (Visual Memory Unit, which incorporated a memory card), or a vibration pack. The accessory slots, button positions, and analogue triggers would also be present in Microsoft's Xbox controller. Like the Saturn, the Dreamcast had additional controllers available at launch, including a unique fishing rod, a mouse and keyboard, and other more common controllers such as a light gun, a steering wheel and an arcade stick.

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Main article:DualShock

The original controller had a four direction d-pad, and two groups of four buttons, the action buttons (referred not by colour or letter/number like most pads until then, but by four shapes - a square, a triangle, a circle and a x), four shoulder buttons (R1, R2, L1 and L2, standing for right and left) plus a start and a select buttons. It was the default pad until Sony followed the analogue gamepads trend and released the Dual Shock (which had not only one, but two analogue sticks and force feedback, hence the name) controller as a secondary peripheral in late 1997 in Japan and in May 1998 in North America. Its popularity dictated the end of the original controller, and the Dual Shock was selected as the new standard controller during a large part of the final half of the console's life. The Dual Shock was subsequently used for the follow up system, the PlayStation 2, however, the controller was slighly altered to make the buttons pressure sensitive. The new controller was dubbed the Dual Shock 2.

Other gamepads


Main article: Paddle

A paddle is a controller that features a round wheel and one or more fire buttons. The wheel is used to typically control movement of the player or an object along one axis of the video screen. Paddle controllers were the first analog controllers; they died out when "paddle and ball" type games fell out of favor.


Main article: Joystick

A joystick is a computer peripheral that consists of a handheld stick that pivots about one end and transmits its angle in two or three dimensions to a computer. The joystick is often used for flight simulators. HOTAS controllers, which include extra hardware to simulate throttle and rudder controls are popular among fanatics of the genre

Keyboard and mouse

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The WASD keyboard setup is used widely
Main articles: Keyboard, Mouse

The keyboard and mouse are typical input devices for a personal computer and are currently the main game controllers for computer games. Some video game consoles also have the ability to function with a keyboard and a mouse. The computer keyboard is modeled after the typewriter keyboard and was designed for the input of written text. A mouse is a handheld pointing device used in addition to the keyboard. For games, the keyboard typically controls movement of the character while the mouse is used to control the game camera or used for aiming. Recently, Zboard 1 (, a keyboard with dettachable keyboard layouts that can be instantly swapped between games was made available.

Light gun

Main article: Light gun

A light gun is a peripheral used to "shoot" targets on a screen. They usually roughly resemble firearms or ray guns. Their use is limited to rail shooter or shooting gallery games.

Numeric keypad

Main article: Keypad

A numeric keypad is a small grid of keys with at least the digits 0-9. They were found on some early consoles, usually attached to a joystick or paddle.

Touch screen

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Nintendo DS Touch screen
Main article: Touch screen

A touch screen is a input device that allows the user to interact with the computer by touching the display screen. It was popularised for use in video games by the Nintendo DS.

Modern touch screens use a thin, durable, transparent plastic sheet overlayed onto the glass screen. The location of a touch is calculated from the capacitance for the X and Y axes, which varies based upon where the sheet is touched.


At a smaller scale, other hardware such as train controls (available after Microsoft Train Simulator was released), pinball controllers and multi-button consoles for strategy games were released in the past, but their popularity was reduced to hardcore fans of the genre.

Dance pads, essentially a grid of flat pressure sensitive gamepad buttons set on a mat meant to be stepped on, have seen niche success with the popularity of rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution.

Rhythm games with controllers resembling musical instruments like guitars, drums, or maracas have also seen some success in arcades and even for home ja:コントローラ


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