Game controller

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A Nintendo Switch Pro Controller Nintendo-Switch-Pro-Controller-FL.jpg
A Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

A game controller, or simply controller, is an input device used with video games or entertainment systems to provide input to a video game, typically to control an object or character in the game. Before the seventh generation of video game consoles, plugging in a controller into one of a console's controller ports were the primary means of using a game controller, although since then they have been replaced by wireless controllers, which do not require controller ports on the console but are battery-powered. USB game controllers could also be connected to a computer with a USB port. Input devices that have been classified as game controllers include keyboards, mouses, gamepads, joysticks, etc. Special purpose devices, such as steering wheels for driving games and light guns for shooting games, are also game controllers.

Input device peripheral to provide data and signals to an information processing system

In computing, an input device is a piece of computer hardware equipment used to provide data and control signals to an information processing system such as a computer or information appliance. Examples of input devices include keyboards, mouse, scanners, digital cameras, joysticks, and microphones.

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.

In the history of video games, the seventh generation of home consoles began in late 2005 with the release of Microsoft's Xbox 360, and continued with the release of Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation 3 (PS3) and Nintendo's Wii the following year. Each new console introduced a new type of breakthrough in technology: the Xbox 360 could play games rendered natively at high-definition video (HD) resolutions; the PlayStation 3 offered HD movie playback via a built-in 3D Blu-ray Disc player; while the Wii focused on integrating controllers with movement sensors as well as joysticks. Some Wii controllers could be moved about to control in-game actions, which enabled players to simulate real-world actions through movement during gameplay. By this generation, video game consoles had become an important part of the global IT infrastructure; it is estimated that video game consoles represented 25% of the world's general-purpose computational power in 2007.


Game controllers have been designed and improved over the years to be as user friendly as possible. The Microsoft Xbox controller, with its shoulder triggers that mimic actual triggers such as those found on guns, has become popular for shooting games. [1] Some controllers are designed to be best for one type of game, such as steering wheels for driving games, or dance pads for dancing games.

Xbox (console) 2000 video game console by Microsoft

The Xbox is a home video game console and the first installment in the Xbox series of consoles manufactured by Microsoft. It was released as Microsoft's first foray into the gaming console market on November 15, 2001, in North America, followed by Australia, Europe and Japan in 2002. It is classified as a sixth generation console, competing with Sony's PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's GameCube. It was also the first console produced by an American company since the Atari Jaguar ceased production in 1996.

Shooter games are a subgenre of action video game, which often test the player's spatial awareness, reflexes, and speed in both isolated single player or networked multiplayer environments. Shooter games encompass many subgenres that have the commonality of focusing on the actions of the avatar engaging in combat with a weapon against both code-driven NPC enemies or other avatars controlled by other players.

Racing video game video game genre

The racing video game genre is the genre of video games, either in the first-person or third-person perspective, in which the player partakes in a racing competition with any type of land, water, air or space vehicles. They may be based on anything from real-world racing leagues to entirely fantastical settings. In general, they can be distributed along a spectrum anywhere between hardcore simulations, and simpler arcade racing games. Racing games may also fall under the category of sports games.

One of the first video game controllers was a simple dial and single button, used to control the game Tennis for Two . Controllers have since evolved to include directional pads, multiple buttons, analog sticks, joysticks, motion detection, touch screens and a plethora of other features.

<i>Tennis for Two</i> 1958 sports video game

Tennis for Two is a sports video game, which simulates a game of tennis, and was one of the first games developed in the early history of video games. American physicist William Higinbotham designed the game in 1958 for display at the Brookhaven National Laboratory's annual public exhibition after learning that the government research institution's Donner Model 30 analog computer could simulate trajectories with wind resistance. He designed the game, displayed on an oscilloscope and played with two custom aluminum controllers, in a few hours, after which he and technician Robert V. Dvorak built it over three weeks. The game's visuals show a representation of a tennis court viewed from the side, and players adjust the angle of their shots with a knob on their controller and try to hit the ball over the net by pressing a button.

D-pad Thumb-operated video game control

A D-pad is a flat, usually thumb-operated four-way directional control with one button on each point, found on nearly all modern video game console gamepads, game controllers, on the remote control units of some television and DVD players, and smart phones. Like early video game joysticks, the vast majority of D-pads are digital; in other words, only the directions provided on the D-pad buttons can be used, with no intermediate values. However, combinations of two directions do provide diagonals and many modern D-pads can be used to provide eight-directional input if appropriate.

Analog stick

An analog stick, sometimes called a control stick, joystick, or thumbstick is an input device for a controller that is used for two-dimensional input. An analog stick is a variation of a joystick, consisting of a protrusion from the controller; input is based on the position of this protrusion in relation to the default "center" position. While digital sticks rely on single electrical connections for movement, analog sticks use continuous electrical activity running through potentiometers to measure the exact position of the stick within its full range of motion. The analog stick has greatly overtaken the D-pad in both prominence and usage in console video games.



An arcade style controller for the Sega Dreamcast. Sega-Dreamcast-Arcade-Stick.jpg
An arcade style controller for the Sega Dreamcast.
A gamepad, also known as a joypad, is held in both hands with thumbs and fingers used to provide input. Gamepads can have a number of action buttons combined with one or more omnidirectional control sticks or buttons. Action buttons are generally handled with the digits on the right hand, and the directional input handled with the left. Gamepads are the primary means of input on most modern video game consoles. Due to the ease of use and user-friendly nature of gamepads, they have spread from their origin on traditional consoles to computers, where a variety of games and emulators support their input as a replacement for keyboard and mouse input. [2] Most modern game controllers are a variation of a standard gamepad. Common additions include shoulder buttons placed along the edges of the pad, centrally placed buttons labeled start, select, and mode, and an internal motor to provide haptic feedback.
As modern game controllers advance, so too do their user ability qualities. Typically, the controllers become smaller and more compact to more easily, and comfortably, fit within the user's hand. Modern examples can be drawn from systems such as Xbox, whose controller has transformed subtly, yet dramatically, from the original Xbox 360 controller to the Xbox One controller introduced in 2013.


Paddle controllers were popular early in the 2nd console generation for Pong games. Atari-2600-Paddle-Controller-FR.jpg
Paddle controllers were popular early in the 2nd console generation for Pong games.
A paddle is a controller that features a round wheel and one or more fire buttons. The wheel is typically used to control movement of the player or of an object along one axis of the video screen. Paddle controllers were the first analog controllers and they lost popularity when "paddle and ball" type games fell out of favor. A variation, the Atari driving controller, appeared on the Atari 2600. Designed specifically for the game Indy 500 , it functioned almost identically in operation and design to the regular paddle controller. The exceptions were that its wheel could be continuously rotated in either direction, and that it was missing the extra paddle included on the previous model. Unlike a spinner, friction prevented the wheel from gaining momentum.


A dual-joystick controller for the original PlayStation PlayStation-Analog-Joystick.jpg
A dual-joystick controller for the original PlayStation
A joystick is a peripheral that consists of a handheld stick that can be tilted around either of two axes and (sometimes) twisted around a third. The joystick is often used for flight simulators. HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) controllers, composed of a joystick and throttle quadrant (see below) are a popular combination for flight simulation among its most fanatic devotees. Most joysticks are designed to be operated with the user's primary hand (e.g. with the right hand of a right-handed person), with the base either held in the opposite hand or mounted on a desk. Arcade controllers are typically joysticks featuring a shaft that has a ball or drop-shaped handle, and one or more buttons for in game actions. Generally the layout has the joystick on the left, and the buttons on the right, although there are instances when this is reversed.


A trackball is basically an upside-down mouse that is manipulated with the palm of one's hand. It has the advantage of not requiring a lot of desktop space, and that it is as fast as one can roll the ball on it. This is faster than one can move a mouse due to space not being an issue. It was a precursor to the mouse. Notable uses of a Trackball as a gaming controller would be games such as Centipede , Marble Madness , Golden Tee Golf and SegaSonic the Hedgehog .

Throttle quadrant

A throttle quadrant is a set of one or more levers that are most often used to simulate throttles or other similar controls in a real vehicle, particularly an aircraft. Throttle quadrants are most popular in conjunction with joysticks or yokes used in flight simulation.

Steering wheel

A Logitech steering wheel for the PlayStation 3 Logitech-Driving-Force-PS3.jpg
A Logitech steering wheel for the PlayStation 3
A Racing wheel, essentially a larger version of a paddle, is used in most racing arcade games as well as more recent racing simulators such as Live for Speed , Grand Prix Legends , GTR2 , and Richard Burns Rally . While most arcade racing games have been using steering wheels since Gran Trak 10 in 1974, [3] the first steering wheels for home systems appeared on fifth-generation consoles such as the PlayStation and Nintendo 64.[ citation needed ] Many are force feedback (see Force Feedback Wheel), designed to give the same feedback as would be experienced when driving a real car, but the realism of this depends on the game. They usually come with pedals to control the gas and brake. Shifting is taken care of in various ways including paddle shifting systems, simple stick shifters which are moved forward or back to change gears or more complex shifters which mimic those of real vehicles, which may also use a clutch. Most wheels turn only 200 to 270 degrees lock-to-lock but some models, such as the Logitech Driving Force Pro, Logitech G25 and Logitech G27 can turn 900 degrees, or 2.5 turns, lock-to-lock. The Namco Jogcon paddle was available for the PlayStation game R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 . Unlike "real" video game steering wheels, the Jogcon was designed to fit in the player's hand. Its much smaller wheel (diameter roughly similar to a soda can's) resembles the jog-and-shuttle control wheel used on some VCRs. The Nintendo Wii game Mario Kart Wii is bundled with the Wii Wheel: a steering wheel-shaped shell that the Wii Remote is placed inside thus using the Wii Remote's motion sensing capabilities to control the kart during the game. Hori also has a steering wheel that is made for the Nintendo 3DS game Mario Kart 7 . When the steering wheel is placed on the back of the console, then it will have the same ability as in Mario Kart Wii by using the gyroscope in first-person mode.


A yoke is very similar to a steering wheel except that it resembles the control yoke found on many aircraft and has two axes of movement: not only rotational movement about the shaft of the yoke, but also a forward-and-backward axis equivalent to that of pitch control on the yoke of an aircraft. Some yokes have additional controls attached directly to the yoke for simulation of aircraft functions such as radio push-to-talk buttons. Yokes, like throttle quadrants and pedals, are popular with serious flight-simulation enthusiasts.


Logitech Driving Force GT LDFGT.JPG
Logitech Driving Force GT
Pedals may be used for driving simulations or flight simulations and often ships with a steering-wheel-type input device. [4] In the former case, an asymmetric set of pedals can simulate accelerator, brake, and clutch pedals in a real automobile. In the latter case, a symmetric set of pedals simulates rudder controls and toe brakes in an aircraft. As mentioned, most steering wheel controllers come with a set of pedals. There are also variations of the pedal controller such as the proposed rotating pedal device for a cycling game, which relies on an ergometer to generate user inputs such as pedal rpm and pedal resistance. [5] A variation of this concept surfaced in 2016 when a startup called VirZoom debuted a set of sensors that can be installed in the pedal and handlebars, turning a physical bike into one controller for games on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) platforms. [6] The same concept is behind a product called Cyber ExerCycle, [7] which is a set of sensors attached to the pedal and connected to the PC via USB for bicycle simulation games such as NetAthlon and Fuel.
The WASD KEYBOARD setup is used widely. W-A-S-D.jpg
The WASD KEYBOARD setup is used widely.

Mouse and keyboard

A mouse and computer keyboard are typical input devices for a personal computer and are currently the main game controllers for computer games. The mouse is often used with a mousepad to achieve greater speed, comfort, accuracy and smoother movement for the gamer. Some video game consoles also have the ability to function with a keyboard and a mouse. The computer keyboard is modelled after the typewriter keyboard and was designed for the input of written text. A mouse is a handheld pointing device used in addition to the keyboard. For games, the keyboard typically controls movement of the character while the mouse is used to control the game camera or used for aiming. While originally designed for general computer input, there are several keyboard and mouse peripherals available which are designed specifically for gaming, often with gaming-specific functions built-in. Examples include peripherals by Razer, the "Zboard" range of keyboards and Logitech's 'G' series. The numeric keypad found on the keyboard is also used as a game controller and can be found on a number of separate devices, most notably early consoles, usually attached to a joystick or a paddle. The keypad is a small grid of keys with at least the digits 0-9. A Gaming keypad is a specialized controller used for FPSs, RTSs and some arcade type games. These controllers can be programmed to allow the emulation of keys, and macros in some cases. These generally resemble a small part of a keyboard but may also feature other inputs such as analog sticks. They were developed because some of these games require a keyboard to play, and some players find this to be awkward for such a task.


Nintendo DS touchscreen (bottom) with stylus. Nintendo-DS-Lite-w-stylus.png
Nintendo DS touchscreen (bottom) with stylus.
A touchscreen is an input device that allows the user to interact with the computer by touching the display screen. The first attempt at a handheld game console with touchscreen controls was Sega's intended successor to the Game Gear, though the device was ultimately shelved and never released due to the high cost of touchscreen technology in the early 1990s. [8] The first released console to use a touchscreen was the Tiger in 1997. Nintendo popularized it for use in video games with the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS; other systems including the Tapwave Zodiac as well as Smartphones and the vast majority of PDAs have also included this feature. The primary controller for Nintendo's Wii U console, the Wii U GamePad, features an embedded touchscreen. Modern touch screens use a thin, durable, transparent plastic sheet overlaid onto a glass screen. The location of a touch is calculated from the capacitance for the X and Y axes, which varies based upon where the sheet is touched. One console that is touchscreen, but is not manufactured by Nintendo is Sony's PlayStation Vita which has a 5 inch OLED touchscreen. The Nintendo Switch features a 6.2 inch touchscreen.

Breathing controllers

Breathing controllers help their users improve breathing through video games. All controllers have sensors that sense users breath, with which user controls video game on computer, tablet or on smartphone. Alvio is a breathing trainer, symptom tracker and mobile game controller. [9] Zenytime promotes deep, rhythmic breathing to trigger short-term rewards of controlled breathing (relaxation, improved oxygenation...). [10] Breathing games by Breathing Labs are based on Pursed lip breathing and are used on iPhone / iPad, Windows, macOS and Android devices. [11]

Motion sensing

Wii Remote. Wii Remote Image.jpg
Wii Remote.
Motion controllers include the Sega Activator, released in 1993 for the Mega Drive (Genesis). Based on the Light Harp invented by Assaf Gurner, [12] it could read the player's physical movements and was the first controller to allow full-body motion sensing. However, it was a commercial failure due to its "unwieldiness and inaccuracy". [13] Nintendo's Wii system released in 2006 utilizes the Wii Remote controller, which uses accelerometers to detect its approximate orientation and acceleration and an image sensor, [14] so it can be used as a pointing device. The Sixaxis, DualShock 3, and PlayStation Move controllers for Sony's PlayStation 3 system have similar motion sensing capabilities. In 2010, Microsoft released the Kinect for the Xbox 360. This motion sensing controller uses cameras to track a players movement. Microsoft released a revised version of the Kinect with the launch of the Xbox One. This controller was bundled with the console on launch, and was removed from the default bundle in June 2014. Sony's EyeToy similarly uses cameras to detect the player's motions and translate them into inputs for the game.

Light gun

The Dreamcast light gun Sega-Dreamcast-Lightgun-FL.jpg
The Dreamcast light gun
A light gun is a peripheral used to "shoot" targets on a screen. They usually roughly resemble firearms or ray guns. Their use is normally limited to rail shooters, or shooting gallery games like Duck Hunt and those which came with the Shooting Gallery light gun. A rare example of a non-rail first person shooter game is Taito's 1992 video game Gun Buster, a first-person shooter that used a joystick to move and a light gun to aim. [15] Though light guns have been used in earlier arcade games such as Sega's Periscope in 1966 [16] and Missile in 1969, [17] the first home console light gun was released for the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972; later on, Nintendo would include one standard on their Famicom and NES, called the NES Zapper. Nintendo has also released a "shell" in the style of a light gun for the more recent Wii Remote called the Wii Zapper which comes bundled with the game Link's Crossbow Training .

Rhythm game controllers

Guitar controllers. Guitar Hero series controllers.jpg
Guitar controllers.
A Rhythm game accessories used for rhythm games can resemble musical instruments, such as guitars (from 5-button guitars in Guitar Freaks , the Guitar Hero series, the Rock Band series to real guitars in Rock Band 3 and Rocksmith ), keyboards (Rock Band 3), drums ( Donkey Konga , Drum Mania , the Rock Band series and the Guitar Hero series), or maracas ( Samba de Amigo ) have also seen some success in arcades and home consoles. Other rhythm games are based around the art of Djing or turntablism ( DJ Hero ), or playing a synthesizer ( IIDX ) using a turntable shaped peripheral with buttons.


Wireless versions of many popular controller types (joypads, mice, keyboards) exist, and wireless motion controls are an emerging class for virtual reality.


Dance pad flat electronic game controller used for input in dance games

A dance pad, also known as a dance mat or dance platform, is a flat electronic game controller used for input in dance games. Most dance pads are divided into a 3×3 matrix of square panels for the player to stand on, with some or all of the panels corresponding to directions or actions within the game. Some dance pads also have extra buttons outside the main stepping area, such as "Start" and "Select". Pairs of dance pads are often joined side-by-side for certain gameplay modes.

Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), also known as Dancing Stage in earlier games in Europe, Central Asia, Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Oceania, and also some other games in Japan, is a music video game series produced by Konami. Introduced in Japan in 1998 as part of the Bemani series, and released in North America and Europe in 1999, Dance Dance Revolution is the pioneering series of the rhythm and dance genre in video games. Players stand on a "dance platform" or stage and hit colored arrows laid out in a cross with their feet to musical and visual cues. Players are judged by how well they time their dance to the patterns presented to them and are allowed to choose more music to play to if they receive a passing score.

Balance board

A balance board is a device used as a circus skill, for recreation, balance training, athletic training, brain development, therapy, musical training and other kinds of personal development.

Use on PCs

Gamepads typically require device drivers if used on contemporary personal computers. [22] The device may be treated as its own class of human interface device, or by use of a program known as a gamepad translator (or gamepad mapper) translated to key strokes or mouse actions. An example gamepad translator for Microsoft Windows is Xpadder, [23] or antimicro which is free and open-source and cross-platform. [24] [25]

In computing, a device driver is a computer program that operates or controls a particular type of device that is attached to a computer. A driver provides a software interface to hardware devices, enabling operating systems and other computer programs to access hardware functions without needing to know precise details about the hardware being used.

Personal computer Computer intended for use by an individual person

A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or technician. Unlike large costly minicomputer and mainframes, time-sharing by many people at the same time is not used with personal computers.

A human interface device or HID is a type of computer device usually used by humans that takes input from humans and gives output to humans.

Sometimes support for mapping to different devices is built into the controller itself, as with the Nostromo SpeedPad n52, which can act as either a keyboard, mouse, joystick or as a hybrid between the three.

See also

Related Research Articles

Joystick input device consisting of a stick that pivots on a base

A joystick is an input device consisting of a stick that pivots on a base and reports its angle or direction to the device it is controlling. A joystick, also known as the control column, is the principal control device in the cockpit of many civilian and military aircraft, either as a center stick or side-stick. It often has supplementary switches to control various aspects of the aircraft's flight.

Pointing device input device

A pointing device is an input interface that allows a user to input spatial data to a computer. CAD systems and graphical user interfaces (GUI) allow the user to control and provide data to the computer using physical gestures by moving a hand-held mouse or similar device across the surface of the physical desktop and activating switches on the mouse. Movements of the pointing device are echoed on the screen by movements of the pointer and other visual changes. Common gestures are point and click and drag and drop.

Microsoft SideWinder

Microsoft SideWinder was the general name given to the family of digital game controllers developed by Microsoft for PCs. The line was first launched in 1995. Although intended only for use with Microsoft Windows, Microsoft SideWinder game controllers can also be used with Apple's Mac OS X, Mac OS 9 with USB OverDrive installed, and Linux.

Gamepad type of game controller held in two hands and where fingers provide input

A gamepad, joypad, or simply controller is a type of game controller held in two hands, where the fingers are used to provide input. They are typically the main input device for video game consoles.

In computing, DirectInput is a legacy Microsoft API for collecting input from a computer user, via input devices such as the mouse, keyboard, joystick or other game controllers. It also provides a system for action mapping, which allows the user to assign specific actions within a game to the buttons and axes of the input devices. Additionally it handles haptic feedback (input/output) devices. Microsoft introduced a new input library called XInput specifically for the Xbox 360 controller.

Paddle (game controller) game controller

A paddle is a game controller with a round wheel and one or more fire buttons, where the wheel is typically used to control movement of the player object along one axis of the video screen. A paddle controller rotates through a fixed arc ; it has a stop at each end.

A multitap is a video game console peripheral that increases the number of controller ports available to the player, allowing additional controllers to be used in play, similar to a USB hub or a power strip. A multitap often takes the form of a box with three or more controller ports which is then connected to a controller port on the console itself.

Nintendo 64 controller controller for the Nintendo 64

The Nintendo 64 controller is the standard game controller for the Nintendo 64 home video game console. Manufactured and released by Nintendo on June 23, 1996 in Japan, in late 1996 in North America, and 1997 in Europe, it features ten buttons, one analog "Control Stick" and a directional pad, all laid out in an "M" shape.

Classic Controller game controller for the Wii

The Classic Controller is a game controller produced by Nintendo for the Wii video game console. While it later featured some compatibility with the Wii U console, the controller was ultimately succeeded by the Wii U Pro Controller. As of April 2014, Nintendo had discontinued production of both the Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro.

Stella (emulator) emulator for the Atari 2600 game console

Stella is an emulator of the Atari 2600 game console, and takes its name from the console's codename. It is open-source, and runs on most major modern platforms including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Stella was originally written in 1996 by Bradford W. Mott, and is now maintained by Stephen Anthony.

Nintendo video game consoles Wikimedia list article

The Japanese multinational consumer electronics company Nintendo has developed seven home video game consoles and multiple portable consoles for use with external media, as well as dedicated consoles and other hardware for their consoles. As of September 30, 2015, Nintendo has sold over 722.22 million hardware units.

Since the release of Nintendo's Wii, many aesthetic, ergonomic and functional accessories have been developed for the Wii Remote by third parties.


The iControlPad is a wireless game controller compatible with a variety of smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. It is designed for use as either a standalone gamepad or attached to appropriately sized devices, such as the iPhone, using a clamp system. Due to this, the iControlPad is able to add traditional physical gaming controls to devices which otherwise rely on inputs such as touchscreens and accelerometers.

Wii U GamePad standard game controller for the Wii U home video game console

The Wii U GamePad is the standard game controller for Nintendo's Wii U home video game console. Incorporating traits from tablet computers, the GamePad has traditional input methods, touchscreen controls, and motion controls. The touchscreen can be used to supplement a game by providing alternate, second screen functionality or an asymmetric view of a scenario in a game. The screen can also be used to play a game strictly on the GamePad screen, without the use of a television display. Conversely, non-gaming functions can be assigned to it as well, such as using it as a television remote.

Atari joystick port Computer port used for gaming controllers

The Atari joystick port is a widely used computer port used to connect various gaming controllers to game console and home computer systems. It was originally introduced on the Atari 2600 in 1977 and then used on the Atari 400 and 800 in 1979. It went cross-platform with the Commodore VIC-20 of 1981, and was then used on many following machines from both companies, as well as a growing list of 3rd party machines like the MSX platform and various Sega consoles.


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