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…]


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23 responses to “Strictly for the Tardcore: Why I prefer controllers”

  1. ShaunCG Avatar

    I had no idea that "consoletoy" was a word that either irritated people or that people used seriously. I thought that it was just an inversion of the idea of a PC being something used for Serious Purposes and definitely not Idle Fun. Hmm!

    Anyway, as someone who cut his teeth with PC and Nintendo, and today splits his time evenly between businessbox and consoletoy platforms, I find that all sorts of different input technologies have their place. AJ is absolutely right firstly that we shouldn't resist change, variety or progress purely out of conservatism and not wanting to learn something new, and he's also right that sometimes, it's preferable to slump into a sofa rather than cramp your hands over the old m&k.

    That said, I like craning over a good RTS. Modern RTS games require so much management of multiple simultaneous things that, well, it's almost like being a manager in an office. Constant, unrelenting demands on your time from all quarters. No wonder we use a mouse, keyboard and hardware that can also run Excel.

    EDIT: probably worth noting that a lot of PC gamers now use a controller of some kind, btw. I just spent 20 hours with Arkham Asylum and a 360 pad, for instance. I think it's widely recognised that different devices work well for different game types and that the M&K vs controller argument has pretty much died out outside of the ultra-competitive eSports sphere and people who just don't know any better.

    1. badgercommander Avatar
      badgercommander

      Yeah the tag was a bit of a joke actually, I frequently use the term consoletoy.

      As for the M+K versus controller, it is slowly dying out. Very slowly. You still have a lot of militant gamers out there.

      Anyway later in the week check out the badger commander site as it will explain the top image.

      1. ShaunCG Avatar

        I suppose I am probably comparatively isolated from the militant gamer-type, not working in the industry or chatting with randoms over Xbox Live / online PC play!

        Neat, looking forward to the follow-up. Liking the MS Paint btw, even if it does seem to be a bit of a retro badgercommander depicted… ;)

        1. badgercommander Avatar
          badgercommander

          The retro badger commander is the only one that counts. The reskinned version of badger commander is the one we ignore.

  2. @cs87 Avatar

    "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."

    This, this, a thousand times this.

    RTS/FPS? Yeah, fine, gimme a Keyboard.

    Platformer/Sports Game/Racer? Gimme that fucking pad.

    1. badgercommander Avatar
      badgercommander

      Actually, it would depend on the FPS, and what it requires of me before I would use the Mouse and Keyboard. I will admit to being 'special' like that.

  3. Edd B Avatar
    Edd B

    I personally tested Z: Steel Soldiers (the sequel to Z) in 2001. I'm sure you know this.
    Also, given the hundreds of flash and MAME games I have whittled away my hours with, I can admit that many of them would be better with a controller. I think that either I'm so used to keyboard keys that the difference it would make is not worth the effort of plugging one in and configuring it, or that the growing discomfort of sitting with my hands on a K&M is part of what reminds me to go to sleep at 2am ;-)

    1. badgercommander Avatar
      badgercommander

      Yeah, I think I knew that. I am very jealous.

      I played Chaos Engine again recently and I wouldn't want to play it with anything other than a controller.

      I like that it is pain and not tiredness that makes you go to bed

  4. Dylan Avatar
    Dylan

    I prefer consoles over the PC for a number of reasons, yet still adore PC gaming even if it is just a memory. I didn't get my first console until I was 19, before then it was only ever PC for me (unless I was round a friend's house or rocking a portable system). Yet out of all the many many reasons I would now easily choose a console over a PC, the controller isn't one of them.

    Maybe it's because I love my FPS games, maybe I just prefer the benefits but M+K beats controller for me any day.

    It's weird to me that people often lump racing games in the group of games that are better suited to controllers. Screw that, racing games are as much a keyboard-centric game as FPS or RTS.

    1. ShaunCG Avatar

      I actually have to disagree re. racing games. Controllers allow control of the degree of a turn whereas keyboards only allow on/off movement, so you tap or hold rather than push an analogue stick as far as you need to.

      Unless you steer with the mouse, I suppose. But that just seems really unnatural to me. ;)

      Of course, PCs also have a fine range of steering wheels and joysticks available. :D

      1. Dylan Avatar
        Dylan

        That's exactly why I find it much easier to steer using the keyboard. Most driving games still have handling that rewards lots and lots of smaller short movements delivered rapidly, as opposed to a single longer movement.

        Even when using an analogue stick, most tricky corners require you to hammer the stick to the required side multiple times rather than holding it to that side, and rarely does a racing game have handling that genuinely uses much of available directions beyond the four compass points that the keyboard already covers (Carmageddon not withstanding).

        Seeing as I'm hammering an input repeatedly, I'd rather it be an actual button rather than a stick, and seeing as I just want 'right' or 'left' as opposed to any nuanced other direction, I'd rather it have the pre-programmed exactness of a button over a stick.

        It's less realistic, no doubt, but makes turns a lot easier and (more importantly) makes insane flourishes or 'skillshots' considerably more possible.

  5. oddvorbis Avatar
    oddvorbis

    I miss the couch MP from my youth. I find it very difficult to manage MP gaming with work though. it always feel like a long night of gaming (or anything else for that matter) is a direct trade of a shit day at work the following day :/

    1. badgercommander Avatar
      badgercommander

      When everyone worked on the same time schedule, didn't have a life, partner, job etc. Couch Co-Op was so much more viable. Just trying to get 4 people organised, motivated and in the same room is a lot of work nowadays.

      And yes I miss getting in more couch gaming.

      1. ShaunCG Avatar

        I miss this too, and didn't even do much of it as a kid or teen (my teenaged friends were mostly PC gamers and before that I lived in the countryside)!

        Some of my fondest gaming memories are actually sitting with you, Hurry, Jones and others playing EDF 2017 in my old attic room, experiencing Bishy Bashy for the first time at your old house, going through Super Mario World and Mario Kart with my sister, playing a haphazard hotseat version of the original Civilization with a friend and assigning different cities and units to each other, and playing Portal 2 with three other mates – one of whom never played games but loved Portal 2.

        I am trying to encourage Dylan into playing Saints Row 3 with me, to maximise the hilarity of the whole thing.

  6. shigzila Avatar

    I would like to start by saying that I love how you write… and your paint skills
    Now, this might seem out of place, after all, I am writing in a game blog… However, I have to say that the more time I spend working in this industry, the less that I can stand Gamers. Holy Shit they piss me off! Personally, I love playing with a mouse and a keyboard. But still, I feel no need to tell people how much better it is and how wrong they are if they like controllers.
    It’s like back when I liked PS3 better than X360 because I had always had a Playstation and the Xbox controller felt really odd. I had a friend who wouldn’t drop the damn topic. I always had to justify my preference and it got to the point where I had to pull reasons out of my ass because no reason would satisfy him [please note that after playing with the X360 for some time I got used to it and now very much enjoy it]
    Gamers are more and more sounding like Apple Fans who just won’t shut up about their damn machines and how great they are and how wrong you are, and how badly you need to upgrade in order to truly experience life and enjoy it.
    Hearing this stubborn gamers who only see gaming their way, and think that they are right and whoever doesn’t agree is a dumbass that doesn’t know shit about shit gets on my nerves. The fact that they base their “suppiriority” on their preference is flat out ridiculous.
    But then again… maybe that’s part of being a hardcore gamer? They are hardcore about their choices?
    A thing that I’ll never understand since my gaming (non-work related) consists of PC games that were made 10 or more years ago and the occasional console fighting or zombie related title…
    While I’m still here ranting, I hate playing online on PC. I don’t know how stupid people are on consoles, but holy shit are they ever immature and retarded on PC. I suppose that it’s the kind of gamers that PC attracts but I swear if I ever hear noob again, I will go on a rampage.
    So while they all fight themselves I’ll just continue playing my Duke Nukem 1 and 2 which I recently found (a game that never gets old for me and always makes me both nostalgic and happy)

    1. shigzila Avatar

      Sorry about all the anger, I'm just annoyed right now… I have to say, it feels good to let it out like this :)

      1. badgercommander Avatar
        badgercommander

        Glad you could vent!

        Methinks there is a conversation to be had about this over a pint, possibly with an apology attached to it.

        But yes, the militant gamers are annoying, I've been one of those.

        Another good article is on second person shooter:
        http://secondpersonshooter.com/2011/09/29/your-ha

        I have been some of these people mentioned in the article and I am certainly not proud of it.

        1. shigzila Avatar

          Liked the article.
          And you know I'm always down for a pint (besides, I owe you one), with or without apologies

    2. ShaunCG Avatar

      You have just reminded me of the 90s trend for Nintendo/SEGA-specific gaming magazines to run pictures drawn by readers, which usually involved Mario and Sonic killing one another in brutally bloody ways. I'm fairly sure I did one myself, of Sonic holding up Mario's head. (Despite being a Ninty kid, I always thought Sonic much cooler than Mario – probably thanks to those slick red low-tops, eh?)

      The best shorthand description I've read of this tendency is that people like to validate their choices of consumers, because no one likes to think they've made a poor choice, and so you end up with people holding up whatever they spend their money on as the very model of excellent purely because they chose to spend money on it. It also happens with PC hardware brands, televisions, newspapers, cars, etc. It's a rather tragic example of common human behaviour, I think. See also: nationalism. "My country is the best because… err… I was born here!"

  7. badgercommander Avatar
    badgercommander

    Also, just so there is some kind of Pingback. This is the companion piece on badger commander:
    http://badgercommander.net/arcadian-rhythms-compa

  8. BeamSplashX Avatar

    My preference is strangely skewed based on the action of the game. More specifically, hitting versus shooting. The act of swinging a giant sword with a simple mouse click is rather unsatisfying to me, as is using WASD in conjunction with mouselook in a melee-focused game. I also prefer direct control over click-to-move in a game like Diablo (shame the PSX port of Diablo itself is both stupidly expensive and awkward as hell to play). I only make an exception for a game I can play using just the keyboard, like the first two Gothic games.

    This leads to the odd situation where I'll put up with an inferior console version of a game just so I can not only use a gamepad, but not bother with trying to rejigger mouse and keyboard inputs to work with it.

  9. GordoP Avatar
    GordoP

    As a PC only gamer, I've adapted around the mouse and keyboard and am very comfortable with it for almost any game or genre and I totally agree with Dylan about racing games. Wheel aside, I'd much rather use a keyboard than a controller most of the time, though games like Project Gotham 2/3 made me love controller racing (also the first racing game I enjoyed racing in first person perspective!)

    Games like Just Cause 2 or Red Faction: Guerrilla play just as well on mouse and keyboard as they do on controller and so I usually stick with what I know because I'm familiar with it. I think what it comes down to for me is comfort and enjoyability. I'm very capable of playing Super Meat Boy with a keyboard and enjoy it plenty, but playing with an 360 controller is simply just much more enjoyable (and comfortable, SMB has given me some wicked wrist cramps)!

    Being so used to PC gaming I'm almost always fine with the mouse/keyboard setup but it's undeniable that a controller helps make a game experience more enjoyable from time to time!

    Thinking about it now, I bet Batman: Arkham Asylum would have been more enjoyable with a controller!

  10. […] a tie; the console prefers to hang out with you on the couch. AJ wrote about this very issue on Arcadian Rhythms a year ago: Most people that know me might be surprised that I get a lot of enjoyment out of the company of […]