Blueprint : The Happy Clapper
VoxelArcade Blueprint # 005
Perhaps one of the most significant milestones in the development of consoles (aside, of course, from the increasingly gorgeous graphics) has been the invention of wireless gamepads.
The GameCube’s 2002 WaveBird was, I believe, the first foray into anything like a reliable, official wireless controller. Previous attempts throughout the 80’s and 90’s involving infra-red technology were unreliable at best and generated perhaps more problems than they ever solved.
Employing a much more reliable, if somewhat bulky and ugly radio-frequency-receiver that bastardised the otherwise clean lines of your GameCube; the WaveBird itself felt pleasantly chunky in the palm of your hands and was a genuine pleasure to use. Indeed, the GameCube controller layout is one of the more inventive ones that I’ve ever seen with the right, yellow thumbstick affording a surprising amount of precision, should you want it, but also a quick route to set-angles with its octagon-shaped housing. The triggers and shoulder buttons were rather nice too and the layout of the front-facing buttons was a refreshing change. All in all: a very nice package indeed.
I can clearly remember the first time that I slouched back into the sofa with my WaveBird, beaming ear-to-ear at the prospect of pure comfort and relaxation. Sure, if you had your console close enough then you could already experience this with a wired-controller, to a degree, but I never did have, and the knowledge that there wasn’t even a single cable to become entangled with was a revelation.
I’m a man of rather simple pleasure, in case you hadn’t already noticed.
And whilst the WaveBird’s reliable functionality was a genuine eye-opener, it wasn’t until the Xbox 360 that we saw the more widespread use of RF wireless technology – even then it took much longer before it shipped as standard with new consoles. Today, it would seem unthinkable for a modern console to ship with anything but a wireless controller with recent developments in battery technology providing ever more hours of unchained freedom and joy.
Yet whilst wireless controllers have been a most welcome addition to the hum-drum of my daily life, there is one annoyance that has accompanied them – and no, I’m not talking about the battery running out mid-boss-battle.
The thing is, I’m forever losing the little f***ers!
As if it wasn’t bad enough conducting the ritual ‘hunt for the TV remote’ routine before a gaming session, it’s now often accompanied with the equally irksome ‘WTF is the gamepad?!’ palaver.
It is simply not what one needs ahead of an intended escape from stress!
And so Blueprint # 5, Voxelites, is an attempt to make manufacturers think long and hard about the simple problems faced by the little-man-in-the-street and to include some form of location-sensing-device in their fancy new controllers.
Perhaps something along the lines of the classic ‘clapper’ devices whereby I could walk in the room, clap my hands and pronto: the controller emits a noise to let me know where it is? Or maybe a button on the console itself that, when pressed, makes the controller sound-off? My ageing cordless phone does this so why not my modern controller? Yes, it would mean having a small speaker built-into each device but so what: have you seen how small speakers on mobile phones are and yet how much noise they make? And would customisable ringtones be too much to ask for seeing as we’re on the subject? Maybe we could even set ourselves gamepad-based alarms so that we don’t lose track of time quite so much as we seem to?
Actually no, scrub that: losing track of time is a highly underrated experience and certainly not one to be interfered with.
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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.