Five game-changing console controllers
Ever since games consoles came into our front rooms, both the hardware and software developers have looked for new ways to make their titles stand out from the crowd. One sure fire method is to reinvent the interface or design one with just your game in mind. With game controllers getting wackier by the minute (there is everything from skateboards, baby dolls, to exercise bikes, to yourself and even replica guns), do the latest plethora of gaming controllers have what it takes to make it to the ranks of these five great game-changers below?
1) Atari 2600 Joystick (1977)
Boil all joysticks down to their most basic and this is what you get. The Atari 2600 broke a hell of a lot of ground, in fact, by the time it was through, it was pretty much surrounded by dust. One hugely important area was the game controllers. The paddles used in Pong and such are obviously legendary in their own right but it was the classic, stubby, heavy rubber knob and single red fire button that was the face that launched a thousand sticks. It wasn't the first such device. They'd existed for many years in more complex forms in aircraft and other serious applications, but it was Atari that came up with the electrical standard for gaming that took the design on through 16-bit computing and as far as the Atari ST and Amiga.
2) Nintendo Famicom Gamepad (1983)
The seeds of downfall had long been sowed before the decline of the joystick in the mid 90s. The gamepads, joypads, thumbpads or however you wish to refer them were all inspired by the controllers of Nintendo's first gaming console, and original take on the NES, the Famicom. The classic d-pad and fire buttons combo was brought from the hugely popular Game & Watch series and ported onto separate paddles, the like of which we still use today.
3) Shooting Gallery (1968/1973)
Invented as a prototype in 1968 by Ralph Baer, Shooting Gallery was the first laser gun controller for, in fact, the first ever home video games console - the Magnavox Odyssey. Somewhat less friendly looking than later incarnations, like Nintendo's orange NES Zapper, the Shooting Gallery was a scarily real, sober styled rifle that you had to cock between shots. The gun worked only by detecting light from the TV screen, rather than specific targets, which meant you could cheat by pointing the thing at a light bulb to register a hit. But, seeing as the Odyssey didn't show an on-screen score anyway, cheating was a little irrelevant.
4) Guitar Hero Gibson SG (2005)
Harmonix was by no means the first to come up with the idea of a guitar controller, but it was the company that brought it to the games console when Guitar Hero was released on the PS2 in 2005. Games like Konami's Dance Dance Revolution and, more specifically, GuitarFreaks had paved the way at the arcade in Japan and it was Red Octane - who developed the controllers for the latter of the two - that approached Guitar Hero's creators with the idea of a console game that used a completely different type of device. The original game went on to sell 1.5 million copies and the rest, as they say, is history - well, until Harmonix went off and started Rock Band, but that's another story.
5) Nintendo Wiimote (2006)
Whether or not you like the console, you have to admit that the latest game-changer is probably the biggest in video gaming history. Yes, there was a lot of work done by the likes of the Eye Toy but it was Nintendo who got it right. On the one hand, it's still very much based on the original Famicon gamepads, but it's taken the scope of what you can do to a whole different level and has been the first to help capture the minds of an entirely new section of the public. It works via Bluetooth connection with the console itself, rather than on light gun principles, meaning that it works equally well regardless of what kind of TV you have. It has a trigger, it rumbles, but what gives it its essence is that it has an accelerometer that can accurately sense movement on three different axes. It has since spawned tens of gun, racing wheel and music instrument controllers in its own right and has become the new standard by which the opposition are attempting to measure.