Strictly for the Tardcore: Why I prefer controllers

Writing a defence for the controller feels a little like standing up for a schoolyard bully or telling everyone to leave the Justin Bieber bashing out because, you know, he is just like all the rest of us.

The controller and its console progenitor really don’t need me to lash out at those nasty PC people who keep sneering at them. No more than I imagine that the cast of Jersey Shore or the bankers on Wall Street give two shits about the criticism levelled at them.

Any jibes and digs are simply going to bounce right off of the controller quite simply because it is winning.

Despite this I feel the need, for myself not the object, to explain why the controller will almost always be my first choice  over a mouse and keyboard.

Let’s get a few things straight. If I was the competitive type and prone to eSports madness then there is no way that I would pick a controller for an FPS like Counter Strike or an RTS like Starcraft 2. Those games cannot be played effectively with a controller and I am adept enough with a mouse and keyboard to understand that. It strikes me that, given the rabid focus on these games as tournament material, the dexterity and knowledge required for those games is what has placed them there. You aren’t going to see Wii Sports world tournaments because the controls are just far too accessible to players of all ages and persuasions. The twitch demands of CS and the hotkey memorisation of SC immediately alienates all but the most dedicated and only the best can participate.

Fortunately, I have no ambitions of travelling to Korea to be the best. I don’t even want to play RTS games for most of the time (that said, release a sequel to Z and I would change my mind in a heartbeat).

No, the reason I choose a controller over the M+K is for myriad reasons but predominantly comfort.

Before my current job most of the employment I engaged in involved standing up for large portions of time. When I got home the last thing I wanted to do was to perch upright and stare at a screen inches from my face with my hands at an uncomfortable angle, clicking and tapping myself ever closer towards carpal tunnel syndrome.

Gaming for me is all about slouching on a couch or beanbag in the most relaxed manner possible, to the point that sometimes I am not even sitting but instead lying on my back or stomach. Occasionally during more intense moments I will shift, place both feet on the ground with my elbows on my knees and my head craned forward. Even like this, the stance leaves my hands relaxed, moreso than any seating arrangement that I have ever dealt with when PC gaming.

My paint skills are the best.

Now that my job consists of nothing but staring at a monitor the last thing I want to do is recreate this when I am on downtime.

It isn’t just comfort that draws me to the controller; it is also the social element that a PC can never adequately emulate – same room gaming.

Most people that know me might be surprised that I get a lot of enjoyment out of the company of others in close proximity to myself, but it is true: I am a sucker for couch co-op. Any opportunity to sit down and share an experience is certainly something I treasure, be it blitzing through a splitscreen campaign or hotseating a single player game. A highly-treasured memory was sitting through Sword of the Berserk: Gut’s Rage on the Dreamcast with a friend of mine; we went through the whole game in one night while another acquaintance of ours was trying to sleep on a sofa behind us.

Competitive play is also great when the smack talk is going on right next to you. Taking turns on Greed Corp or mucking about in Smash Brothers would simply not be the same via a text parser or voice chat.

Another thing that I like about the controller is that it is the great leveller of the playing field. In some cases this can be to its detriment; the limited amount of button layout customisation can mean that it will feel awkward for some players; at the same time it means that everyone is playing with the same layout and the same peripheral. There is no reconfiguring and tweaking – barring Street Fighter players but that is an entirely different article – only input.

The current almost constant vocal lashing out of the PC community with regards to the consoletoy and its idiot extension rings of a certain amount of insecurity.

We controller users are not above that same kind of panicked, close-minded blathering. The same kind of knee-jerk reaction that I have seen time and time again from PC users was in full force amongst the console owners when the Wii Remote and the Kinect took centre stage. Comments fearfully half whispered were stewing:

Was this new thing going to replace my thing? Was I going to have to relearn everything, for fear that I wouldn’t be as good with this new thing?

The answer has been a resounding ‘No’.

I think that reaction has done us a great disservice. Like the controller before it I think that there are experiences that can only be had using the Waggle and that there are games yet to be discovered that could only really be enjoyed with the Kinect. That is if we would only let it breathe and develop rather than simply stifle it for fear that what was precious to us will cease to exist.

No, seriously, it might be the future

PC elitism is disconcerting. There is a certain attitude of “you’ll take my mouse and keyboard… from my cold, dead hands”, or worse the macho crap I have to put up with every time I explain to an over-enthusiastic omnivore that I prefer being a vegetarian. By telling me that I shouldn’t be using anything other than a mouse and keyboard they are giving PC players a bad name.

So I ask that next time you, the people who sit bent over a desk furiously exploring build orders,  see someone holding a controller, don’t assume it is because they know no better, have been led astray or whatever. It is not your job to save them and put them back on the path of the righteous.

Hard as it might be to believe, they may have already made their choice.

[AJThe featured image and header was compiled by the very talented Naomi Cohen, and you can find more of her stuff here. Be warned though, probably not a good idea to browse too much while at work…]