Blueprint : The Ultimate Peripheral
VoxelArcade Blueprint # 003
I grew up in a world without gamepads.
Starting with an archaic Tandy TRS-80, I began playing games with the keyboard only, followed by a very basic joystick for the Commodore 64 before finally graduating to the relative precision of a mechanical mouse with the Atari 520ST, although the peripheral of choice still remained the trusty and much-loved joystick.
And buying a new joystick was an experienced to be treasured, particularly in the days when flight simulators were still a socially acceptable genre. In terms of being a major milestone, it wasn’t far off purchasing an entirely new computer as a good joystick became as much a part of you as a trusty limb.
How many buttons does it have? Has it got yaw? There’s a thrust control? And another mini-joystick on top of the main joystick?! And it all clips to the desk?!
Nothing could quite beat the feel and smell of freshly moulded rubber in the palm of your sweaty hand.
Indeed, joystick-politics were a hot topic of conversation with the agreed consensus amongst most of my friends being that Spectravideo’s QuickShot 2 Turbo was an acceptably cool and robust jack-of-all-trades. Yet nothing could beat the splendour of a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro.
Although the gamepad appeared as far back as 1985 with the NES, they had largely passed me by with my first real experience of one being the relatively crude effort that shipped with the SNES in 1992. But from humble beginnings, the gamepad has quietly taken over and, one could argue, somewhat dumbed down the video games industry.
Discounting more recent efforts to capture the casual market’s attention with cheap, plastic guitars and imprecise motion-controls; the gamepad has seen the near-complete relegation of the mouse, keyboard, wheel and joystick to the niche realm of the hardcore elite with the vast majority of us knowing little beyond the relative comfort and familiarity of thumbsticks, buttons and triggers. And whilst there’s no denying that the gamepad is the modern equivalent of the QuickShot 2 Turbo, I can’t help but feel that we could experience so much more if we were to strive harder to break free from its enduring monopoly.
And so, dear Voxelites, the Blueprint laid out in front of you here is a call to arms. A rousing battle-cry, if you will, to hardware manufacturers the world over to look beyond the commonly accepted wisdom of what a console is and how it should be interacted with and to start showing some real ingenuity, creativity and grit.
Whatever happened to virtual reality? What’s really happening in the world of thought-controlled devices? What can we learn from the arcade machines of old with their huge enclosures, fist-sized tracker balls and periscopes? When will someone man-up and make something as bold and audacious as the Steel Battalion controller? How much longer am I going to have to wait before another gaming peripheral genuinely takes my breath away?
There are many obstacles on the path to this peripheral nirvana, but every journey begins with a first step.
What is a Blueprint?
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