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Gamepad Explained

Feb 12,2022 - (Free)

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Gamepad is a type of game controller that is held in two hands and uses the fingers (particularly the thumbs) to provide input. They are commonly used as the primary input device for video game consoles.

Gamepads typically have a set of buttons controlled by the right thumb and a direction controller controlled by the left. The direction controller has traditionally been a four-way digital cross (also known as a joypad, or alternatively a D-pad, and never referred to as arrow keys), but most modern controllers also (or instead) include one or more analogue sticks.

Shoulder buttons (also known as “bumpers”) and triggers placed along the edges of the pad (shoulder buttons are usually digital, i.e. merely on/off; while triggers are usually analogue); centrally located start, select, and home buttons; and an internal motor to provide force feedback are some common additions to the standard pad. Analog triggers, such as those found on the GameCube controller, are pressure-sensitive, and games can use the amount of pressure applied to one to control the intensity of a specific action, such as how forcefully water is sprayed in Super Mario Sunshine.

There are joysticks that can be programmed to simulate keyboard input. In general, they were created to compensate for the lack of joystick support in some computer games, such as the Belkin Nostromo SpeedPad n52. There are several programs that emulate keyboard and mouse input with a gamepad, including the free and open-source cross-platform software antimicro, Enjoy2, and proprietary commercial solutions like JoyToKey, Xpadder, and Pinnacle Game Profiler.

Read: The Past, Present and Future of the Video Games




Gamepad History

First Gamepad As An Analog Joysticks

To control the 1962 video game Spacewar!, toggle switches built into the computer readout display were initially used. Because these switches were awkward and uncomfortable to use, Alan Kotok and Bob Saunders designed and wired in a separate control device for the game. This device has been dubbed the “first gamepad.”

Modified Variant Introduced In The Gaming World

It would take many years for the gamepad to gain popularity, as joysticks and paddles were the dominant video game controllers in the 1970s and early 1980s, though several Atari joystick port-compatible pushbutton controllers were also available. Many major changes occurred during the third generation of video games, as well as the dominance of gamepads in the video game market.

For their Donkey Kong handheld game, Nintendo created a gamepad device for directional inputs, a D-pad with a “cross” design. This design would be used in their “Game & Watch” series as well as console controllers like the standard NES controller. D-pads were developed because they were more compact than joysticks and thus more appropriate for handheld games, but developers quickly discovered that they were more comfortable to use than joysticks. The D-pad quickly became a standard feature on console gamepads, though most controller manufacturers use a cross in a circle shape for the D-pad rather than a simple cross to avoid infringing on Nintendo’s patent.

Finally, the first gamepad was released in 1985, first by Nintendo and then by Sega for use with their video game systems. Since then, many different types of gamepads have been created and sold, but they all have the same basic design.

The first gamepad was released in 1985, first by Nintendo and then by Sega for use with their video game systems. Since then, many different types of gamepads have been created and sold, but they all have the same basic design.

nintendo gamepad

Gamepads On Rise With Continued Improvements

The Sega Genesis/Mega Drive control pad originally had three face buttons, but a six-button pad was later released. The SNES controller also had six action buttons, with four face buttons arranged in a diamond formation and two shoulder buttons positioned to be used with the index fingers, a design that most controllers have since copied. The popularity of the Street Fighter arcade series, which used six action buttons, influenced the inclusion of six action buttons.

For the majority of the 1980s and early 1990s, analogue joysticks were the most common type of PC gaming controller, while console gaming controllers were mostly digital.
This changed in 1996, when all three major console manufacturers added an analogue control as an option. The Sony Dual Analog Controller featured twin convex analogue thumbsticks, the Sega Saturn 3D Control Pad featured a single analogue thumbstick, and the Nintendo 64 controller combined digital and analogue controllers in a single body, ushering in the trend of having both an analogue stick and a d-pad.
Despite these changes, gamepads essentially continued to follow the NES controller’s template (a horizontally-oriented controller with two or more action buttons positioned for use with the right thumb, and a directional pad positioned for use with the left thumb).

Outside of the home console market, gamepads have struggled to gain traction, despite the popularity of several PC gamepads, such as the Gravis PC GamePad.

Gamepad With 3D Control

Though three-dimensional games became popular in the mid-1990s, controllers remained primarily two-dimensional; in order to move with six degrees of freedom, players would have to hold down a button to toggle the axis on which the directional pad operates, rather than being able to control movement along all three axes simultaneously. The Fairchild Channel F, one of the first gaming consoles, did have a controller with six degrees of freedom, but the console’s processing limitations prevented any software from taking advantage of this ability. Logitech introduced the CyberMan, the first practical six degrees of freedom controller, in 1994, but it sold poorly due to its high price, poor build quality, and limited software support. According to industry insiders, the CyberMan’s high-profile and costly failure is to blame for the gaming industry’s lack of interest in developing 3D control in the coming years.

The Wii Remote is shaped like a television remote control and includes tilt sensors and three-dimensional pointing, allowing the system to understand all movement and rotation directions (back and forth around the pitch, roll, and yaw axes). The controller is also multifunctional, with an expansion bay that can be used with a variety of peripherals. The “Nunchuk,” an analogue stick peripheral, also has an accelerometer, but unlike the Wii Remote, it lacks pointer functionality.

Gamepad Uses

Personal computers can also use gamepads. The Asus Eee Stick, the Gravis PC, the Microsoft SideWinder and Saitek Cyborg ranges, and the Steam Controller are all examples of PC gamepads. Third-party USB adapters and software can be used to use console gamepads on PCs; the DualShock 3, DualShock 4, DualSense, Wii Remote, and Joy-Con can be used with third-party software on systems that have Bluetooth functionality, with USB also being usable on the DualShock 3 and DualShock 4. Microsoft-supplied drivers officially support Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers on Windows; a dongle can be used to connect them wirelessly, or the controller can be connected directly to the computer via USB (wired versions of Xbox 360 controllers were marketed by Microsoft as PC gamepads, while the Xbox One controller can be connected to a PC via its Micro USB slot)



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