A Controller Before Its Time?


Earlier today, I asked you via our Facebook page what your favorite controller was. We've seen many controllers over the years and at one point early in this page's history, I even pondered over how much or how little these controllers have changed. Yes, I do spend a lot of time thinking not just about how we play video games, but the medium we use to play them with. This then got me thinking about the Dreamcast: a true system before its time. (Photo: couresty Flickr user Assaf Shtilman)

The story of Dreamcast isn't terribly unknown. It was SEGA's final attempt at a winning system. Its hardware was impressive and the graphics for the games available were astounding. It was some strange combination of marketing flaws among other issues that unfortunately led to its demise as well as SEGA pulling out of the console market.

We can spend forever discussing the merits of the console itself, but I think the controller is worth close consideration as well. In many ways its form is tremendously similar to the X-Box design. Dreamcast and the Xbox both had controllers that were tremendously large, had similar button (and color) layouts, and both took advantage of full triggers for the L and R buttons. Of course, in many ways Dreamcast's controller was a little bit more primitive with a lack of LB and RB, a cord that sat uncomfortably at the bottom of the controller facing the player. That was more or less rectified when third party wireless controllers became available.

Perhaps one of the most interesting design characteristics of the Dreamcast controller was its memory card. This memory card, known as the VMU, had a screen which could be read in the controller while playing the game and provided a few interesting features depending on the game you were playing. When you weren't in front of your TV you could take the memory card with you and play some mini games while its battery life lasted.

We've seen similar attempts at this when Nintendo tried to allow users to hook up their GameBoy Advanced systems to the Gamecube, or some of the features allowed between the PSP and the PlayStation3, but it wasn't quite the portable analog the Dreamcast had. The Dreamcast's memory card provided a fun, innovative way to affect certain mini games inside a game, but could have had the potential to allow you to effect larger outcomes of a game if it had been used better or if the system had lasted longer.

Building up to E3 this year, we are seeing rumors of Nintendo's latest console and how this is going to chance controllers as we know it. The most substantiated rumors we can find point towards a touch-screen wireless controller similar to a smartphone in capabilities. If used properly, it is possible we may be seeing a similar example of what we haven't seen since the send of the Dreamcast's production in 2001. When considering the advancements of video games and hardware these changes should be of note and quite frankly I welcome the possibility of bringing home console games at least in part on the road with me. I'm not talking about portable systems like the PSP or the 3DS, but instead using what I have accomplished directly in the home console game to affect what I can do on the road and vice versa.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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