To most people their games controller is simply a collection of wires encased in plastic, and they would probably be right, but not me. I don’t really care what the graphics are like, I don’t even mind if the story is a bit weak, but If I can’t aim my weapon, we have an issue. Gaming is all about interacting with, and reacting too a virtual environment, the controller is our weapon, our compass, our lifeline through the gaming world. My controller has been with me in victory and defeat, and I have probably spent more time with her (yes, it’s a her) than I have with my parents, but what makes them so special? Microsoft and Sony have already turned there back on conventional controllers, and with the release of the Nintendo Wii U only a year away, can motion controllers, and gimmick gaming consoles, really provide the same personal gaming experience that four buttons and a D-pad can?

I don’t remember my first console, of course I remember having a games console, but I can’t recall which console I had first, the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) or the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). Of course I realise this isn’t surprising, these consoles were released twenty years ago, but I can remember how much I hated the Sega Mega Drive controller. First of all it was ugly, probably the least ergonomically pleasing piece of design since the thumbscrew, the all black design was completely joyless, and the buttons were so big you needed a Strongman hammer to press them. The SNES controller on the other hand, was incredible. It was pretty, it had curves in all the right places, and, maybe even better than that, it had six buttons! The four coloured buttons were a revelation, and the inclusion of the shoulder buttons, specifically to accommodate Street Fighter’s arcade style of game play, added a new dimension to console game play.

Just as I had recovered from the SNES blowing my tiny mind, the Playstation was released, and before anybody starts I know that the Playstation wasn’t the first fifth generation console but who actually owned a Jaguar? The PS controller was and probably still is the best looking controller ever produced, and it always looks surprised to see you. Based on the basic SNES design, mainly because it was originally going to be released as a joint Sony and Nintendo venture, the PS controller added a second set of shoulder buttons, and replaced the A,B,X,Y trigger buttons, with the triangle, circle, cross, and square. But in reality nothing had really changed, I don’t even remember using the shoulder buttons until Thrasher: Skate and Destroy. It was all style no substance, until the N64. The N64 controller looked like a spaceship, and was the first modern console controller to feature a “Control Stick”. The “M” shaped controller really was a step forward, the analog stick added another dimension to game play, allowing you to navigate games in 360 degrees.

From that day on, the analog stick was a must have on any gaming controller. Microsoft, Sony and Sega, all immediately jumped on the bandwagon, adding stick control to all of their joypads. But that wasn’t the only thing the N64 gave to gaming, maybe even more importantly Nintendo created the Rumble Pak! Released in 1997, to coincide with the release of Star Fox 64, the Rumble Pak was an N64 peripheral that provided “force feedback” during gameplay. I remember playing ECW: Hardcore Evolution for the first time with a Rumble Pak, being able to feel the impact of every slam, every chair shot, every table, added so much depth to the game. Sure it wasn’t subtle, but it was leap forward in gaming, and once again Microsoft and Sony decided to get in on the action, with Sony releasing the “DualShock” controller months later. You can pay Microsoft to send someone round and shake you during gameplay, but like most XBox peripherals, its probably not worth it.

You’re probably thinking that this would be the perfect place to talk about the XBox/Xbox 360 and Playstation 2/3, but you would be wrong. Most of you reading this currently own one of these controllers, you don’t need me to tell you what they’re like. No, instead we will move on to the Nintendo Wii. Released in 2006 the Nintendo Wii was the first “motion” controlled games console, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk enabled users to control game functions with specific controller movements. The first game I played on the Wii was Wii Sports, being able to bowl a bowling ball and throw a punch like you would if you were actually bowling or fighting, seemed like a lot of effort, but the Wii Remote opened up a whole new way of playing and reacting to a game, it doesn’t look bad either. I was still skeptical about the Wii Remote until I played Call of Duty 3, you can flick the remote back to reload, you can gun butt an enemy by thrusting the control forward, you can even control vehicles by making a steer wheel like motion, it made the game so intense and violent, exactly what motion control should do.

Motion control completely changed the gaming industry, and when Xbox announced the Kinect, it seemed like we had finally seen the end of the controller all together. Using a “natural user interface” and spoken commands you can now control games without ever touching a joypad, my only question would be, how do you shoot a gun? Sure I can stroke my virtual dog, or tend to my garden, but where is the god damn trigger? The Playstation Move managed to keep controllers, admittedly you have to calibrate them every time you start a new game, but you get incredible motion and analog control. The only game I have really enjoyed playing on the Kinect was Kung Fu Panda 2, it is extremely responsive and the fighting is incredible, but it is still a game for the casual gamer. If they can take the controls from Kung Fu panda and use them in a serious fighting game, maybe Fight Night Champion or the next UFC title, the Kinect could, at least in my mind, blow everything else away. The Move on the other hand has Killzone 3, and the Sharp Shooter. The Sharp Shooter is Sony’s reinvention of the Lightgun, and it is the perfect peripheral for motion gaming. The controls are are really intuitive and the firing accuracy is brilliant, you can customize all of the motion controls to suit your style of play, I think the Move is definitely the headed in the right direction and a few more “serious” titles with Move technology would be fantastic.

So, what’s next? The Wii U is set for release next April, and from what I have seen so far, they have managed to create a controller, while being the perfect mix of motion and analog control, that will take the console gaming experience to a new level. 3D gaming looked like it was about to become the next big thing, Killzone 3 looked pretty spectacular, but right now it’s far too expensive. I have also heard that Sony are developing a brand new gaming visor, remember when Virtual Reality was a thing?. The visor is intended to provide a fully immersive experience, but at the moment it is just a head mounted display.

A controller is our life line, it is a direct link to another world. Sure, they may not look like any of the controllers I grew up with, but they are an essential part of gaming. Motion control is all about reality, and there is nothing real about about driving a car with no steering wheel. How are you meant to explore an environment if you can’t walk forward? I can hardly sit in my living room, let alone quest to far away lands. The joypad allows you to go anywhere, do anything, be anyone, and as far as I can they are the most important part of gaming development.