Give your PC keyboard a break with these innovative game input devices.

 

It took me three console migrations (NES, SNES, and finally PS1) to realize that Windows PC was the most efficient gaming platform. With a little research and technical know-how, I could upgrade my machine incrementally as time went by, evading the biggest issue of dedicated videogame consoles – short lifespans due to unescapable tech limitations. It’s also a purchase that’s easier to justify to the family – a PC can be used for both work and play.

 

In fact, the only thing I ever really missed about consoles was the controllers. It annoyed me that I was prematurely wearing down keyboards and mice with all the frantic key pounding and button clicking necessitated by reaction-heavy genres (e.g. action RPGs, fighting games, MOBAs, MMOs, platformers, shooters, survival horror). At the time though, there weren’t really any good alternatives to the keyboard/mouse combo – the few PC-compatible controllers available either had weak driver support, poor build quality, or worse, both.

 

Influential Console Controllers (Witty Gamer) Pic

 The Sega Genesis gamepad is the basis for present-day 6-face-button fighting game controllers. The Super Famicom gamepad led to what is arguably the most ergonomic and versatile controller form factor – the Playstation Dual Shock.

 

Games for Windows helped a lot by enforcing XBox controller compatibility across multiple games of differing genres, encouraging PC peripheral makers like Logitech and Razer to put out their own XBox-style gamepads. The success of the Steam distribution platform also convinced traditionally console-exclusive peripheral makers (e.g. MadCatz, HORI) to begin ensuring PC compatibility on their controllers and fight sticks. Nowadays, even native PS3/PS4 controllers can be used on Windows PCs (you’ll need to do a bit of tweaking though).

 

All this is well and good for people who, like me, were originally console gamers and are more comfortable with console-style gamepads or arcade-style fight sticks rather than the keyboard/mouse combo. But how about people who want a bit of both? A dedicated gaming input device that has the rugged reliability of a gamepad / fightstick and the finger layout of a keyboard?

 

Enter the HitBox.

 

HitBox Attract Image 01 (Witty Gamer) Pic

 

The HitBox Arcade does away with the joystick you’d commonly see on the left side of the unit and replaces it with buttons which roughly correspond to A, S, D, and Space Bar on the keyboard, allowing you to input directionals using ring, middle, index finger, and thumb presses instead of wrist movements. According to the manufacturers and fans of the product, this results in less input error and faster execution time.

 

Although it’s designed to appeal mainly to console and PC fighting game enthusiasts, it’s increasingly being adopted for titles with twitch-based gameplay (e.g. bullet-hell shooters, platformers, competitive Tetris, racing games, sports games) and games that don’t require a lot of buttons (3rd to 6th-generation console games emulated on the PC, indie retro games).

 

Can’t do without the pinpoint accuracy of a mouse? Then the up-and-coming Steam controller might be more to your liking.

 

Steam Controller Final Version (Witty Gamer) Pic

 Steam Controller 2015 prototype (purportedly the final version)

 

It’s a bold idea. If the HitBox could be thought of as a fight stick / keyboard splice, then the Steam Controller would be more of a mouse / touchpad fusion. All indications point toward it being an excellent all-purpose controller – Valve is going all out, having tested and gathered feedback on innumerable prototypes.

 

Steam Controller Prototype Evolution (Witty Gamer) Pic

 

 Steam Controller Prototype Evolution

 

The bottom line is – just because you’re used to doing something a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the only way it can be done. Keep an open mind for alternative solutions – who knows, maybe it’s all that’s keeping you from bringing out your hidden potential.

 


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