O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference - March 3-6, 2006 - San Diego, CA
Conference Coverage


From Paddles to Pads: Is Controller Design Killing Creativity in Videogames?

Tom Armitage, Online Production Editor, New Statesman

Date: Thursday, March 09
Time: 1:45pm - 2:30pm
Location: Madeleine AB

The videogames market is stagnating. The primary cause is not the domination of the industry by larger companies, the rising costs of next-gen games, or even lack of imagination.

The primary cause is the interfaces we play the games with.

There is almost no emerging technology in the field of physical videogame interfaces. The field is stuck at the Dual Shock, the QWERTY keyboard of gaming, and this is a bad thing--it is an unnecessary barrier to entry. Nintendo is bucking trends left, right, and center, but they're going to have to work against public reaction and the hell that is modern cross-platform development.

The talk covers:

History How we got where we are now: a history of interfaces, from Pong paddles and trackballs through to modern joypads.

Creativity Some examples of one-off controllers and interfaces that demonstrate real ingenuity, through to controllers that are endlessly adaptable.

Assumed skills There are unwritten conventions gamers know. The difficulty in coordinating two thumbsticks, for instance. What are the skills that develop through a history of gaming? What do we need to stop assuming?

Development What's been touted for next-gen. Are we looking at a leap forward or back? Just how much control do we demand anyway? The boundary between hardware and software interfaces.

What's needed A conclusion. How the barriers to entry can be lowered--and the gaming demographic widened-- through interface design.


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