It’s the end of E3 week and everyone seems to have gone made with the new control schemes. You’ve got Microsoft turning your whole body into a controller, Sony giving you glowing wands to mess about with whilst Nintendo have been doing this for years.
All of which leads me to my question; what the hell happened to the joystick?
There was a time, back when arcades ruled the world, that the 8 way micro switched joystick was the peak of technological perfection. Every cabinet would have one, a perfect size for gamers to do battle with the pixellated hordes. And now?
It was, almost inevitably, Nintendo’s fault of course. Before the NES all the consoles came with joysticks. This was because the previous consoles were doing everything they could to replicate the arcade experience. Nintendo perfected the d-pad and broke away from this cycle, after that was a downhill slide to near oblivion.
Alright, they aren’t as precise as a good d-pad but I have great memories of joysticks. I was all about the keyboard back when I had my Spectrum 48K but sometimes my cousin would come round with his Kempston Joystick interface and we’d hook up one of these bad boys;
Soon the 48k was replaced by a 128K+ with actual joystick ports. Soon that was replaced by an Amiga 500 and so the joystick was upgraded to this;
The NES had a joystick, the Advantage but that wasn’t what came in the box. A control pad game in the box. So did the Master System. And the Mega Drive. The consoles began to dominate the video game industry and the arcades began to wane. Joysticks were replaced by light guns and steering wheels and dance mats.
Soon, they were a memory.
Sure they’re still around. A joystick is, arguably, the best way to play Street Fighter. They will, however, never rule the land as they once did. Let’s be honest, a joystick was never that good unless it was attached to a heavy base or an arcade cabinet.
We should never forget though that for a period of time they were one of the things that symbolized video games as whole. Joysticks, Bad Education salutes you.