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A Touchy Subject – Where Are the Joysticks?

We are becoming a physically-deprived world. How can you say that, Damon, you might think, as we’re surrounded by touchscreens and touchpads and Wii Us and PUs? As shown at this week’s E3, we’re all a little bit obsessed with getting away from tactile sensations. Touchscreens and motion controllers are no more a universal answer to gameplay as force-feedback joysticks.

For instance, Microsoft has sold more than 10 million Kinects in the past six months – an awesome showing for the motion controller. However, things got a bit awkward at E3 when it showed the much-hyped Kinect Star Wars game. Namely, where the heck is our light saber? I didn’t catch the problem until I was talking after the show to Rob Hearn, my fellow editor at Pocket Gamer: “The whole point of having light saber battles is the friction when your saber connects with your enemies. With Kinect, there’s no friction.” Compare that to even, say, a janky force-feedback PlayStation 2 force feedback controller and your old Star Wars game will win.

Of course, the biggest hubbub was the Nintendo Wii U. As you may have read on my CBS column, I’m not exactly sure if gamers will go for anĀ 8-inch controller wider than their head. However, I’m more concerned that the company behind Mario, Zelda, and some of my absolute favorite tactile gaming experiences is going further into the virtual realm. I love touchpad gaming, but if I wanted to touchpad game, I’d go grab my iPad.

Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony (with its’ “rear touch” philosophy) are making me long for joysticks, joypads, thumbsticks, and even keyboards – something that will make me feel more connected to the game I’m playing. They haven’t chucked everything yet, but Nintendo has pushed it to the edge of the controller (literally), Sony wants us to play with Move sticks, and Microsoft is trying to eliminate the controller altogether. In this touch-and-motion crazy bubble, the game manufacturers should remember the value of actual joysticks. I know I do.

Photo courtesy of gsz // CC 2.0


Damon Brown

Damon writes CBS's Gadget Watch and is the U.S. Editor of Pocket Gamer. He also writes books about music, sex, and tech. Damon's latest is The...

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