Spacing Out: For the Love of a Gamepad
I know I know, I keep harping on this gamepad stuff, but seriously, hear me out. For years, I didn’t think I needed a gamepad on the PC. I mean, I had a full HOTAS setup, and for games that didn’t use that, a mouse and keyboard were far, FAR more accurate than a gamepad, right? I mean c’mon, any game that had gamepad support had it there to be secondary to those other, apparently superior forms of PC gaming control, right?
Boy, am I being proven wrong, and it’s amazing.
It wasn’t a space game that finally convinced me to get an Xbox 360 wired gamepad for my PC, it was a truck sim. Euro Truck Simulator 2 (which is seriously that good people, get it if you can) has got me by the short and curlies, and like most PC driving games I had, I thought the keyboard would be fine. However, after playing for several hours, I found the keyboard to be too finicky and the joystick to be way too sensitive (hurr hurr, I know). Therefore, I decided to bite the bullet and budget myself out 360 gamepad. People kept telling me that it was far superior in feel to the PS3 gamepad I’ve been using for several years now, but I didn’t believe ’em, thinking, “How different can they be, really?”
Again, I’m glad to be proven oh so, so wrong.
After the gamepad arrived, I began to play ETS2 with it quite a bit, and had a great old time. I was initially quite surprised how both comfortable and responsive the pad was. It just felt amazingly right, you know? ETS2 wasn’t enough though. I began to re-install games I’d tried to play previously but never clicked with while using the keyboard, like Renegade Ops and Batman: Arkham City. While I never got far in those games using the keyboard, I found I was not only having more fun with the gamepad, but I was doing much better as well.
So then I began to experiment with some space games:
- Strike Suit Infinity – Not bad with a gamepad, but not awesome either.
- Wing Commander: Privateer – Not too bad, but doesn’t feel quite right.
- Star Wars: TIE Fighter – Wow, this feels good, how do I change these buttons…
- Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages – Wow, this is freaking perfect, and I’m doing better too! Pew pew!
This started me thinking…is the gamepad the future of game control? Hear me out! The mouse and keyboard is great, but it feels mechanical and doesn’t work for every game. The joystick is fantastic for some games, but for many it doesn’t make much sense. This leaves the gamepad, a catch-all device that can be used in a huge variety of games, from 2D platformers to 3D space sims and beyond (is there a beyond?). The gamepad has enough buttons to simulate the most important commands in a space sim while the rest could be abstracted.
For example, I can now TOTALLY see a reimagined version of TIE Fighter using a gamepad as the primary control while abstracting such things as wingmen and power control as necessary to use the right buttons. I mean, before I got one of these little things, I totally scoffed at the idea. Now I am alllll for it.
This might not seem revelatory to y’all who already have one of these things, but to me, it’s a serious shift in how I think about playing and controlling games. It’s revolutionizing how I interact with the games I play, and I don’t even remember the last time that happened (maybe the CH Flightstick Pro back in the day, since it had a throttle slider which was the bees knees at the time). I mean think of it, games like Star Citizen will have to support a gamepad because hell, so many people have one it’d be stupid not to. Slowly and surely, I think the gamepad will eventually become the primary method of gaming control for a majority of PC gamers, if it isn’t already (I have no numbers to back that up). ;)
So what do y’all think? Are gamepads the shiznit, or is the mouse and keyboard still king of the PC gaming hill? I look forward to our thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading my ramblings, and have a great day!