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The SNES/Super Famicom gamepad (Japanese Super Famicom version shown), which popularized the layout used by most modern gamepads Super-Famicom-Controller.jpg
The SNES/Super Famicom gamepad (Japanese Super Famicom version shown), which popularized the layout used by most modern gamepads

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

Game controller device used with games or entertainment systems

A game controller is a device used with 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one of a console's controller ports were the primary means of using a game controller, although since then they have been replaced by wireless controllers, which do not require controller ports on the console but are battery-powered.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 and joysticks. Audio input devices may be used for purposes including speech recognition. Many companies are utilizing speech recognition to help assist users to use their device(s).



Shoulder buttons ("bumpers") and triggers on an Xbox 360 controller. Xbox360 controller white back.jpg
Shoulder buttons ("bumpers") and triggers on an Xbox 360 controller.

Gamepads generally feature a set of buttons handled with the right thumb and a direction controller handled with the left. The direction controller has traditionally been a four-way digital cross (also named a joypad, or alternatively a d-pad, and never called arrow keys), but most modern controllers additionally (or as a substitute) feature one or more analog sticks.

Push-button simple switch mechanism for controlling some aspect of a machine or a process

A push-button or simply button is a simple switch mechanism for controlling some aspect of a machine or a process. Buttons are typically made out of hard material, usually plastic or metal. The surface is usually flat or shaped to accommodate the human finger or hand, so as to be easily depressed or pushed. Buttons are most often biased switches, although many un-biased buttons still require a spring to return to their un-pushed state. Terms for the "pushing" of a button include pressing, depressing, mashing, slapping, hitting, and punching.

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.

Some common additions to the standard pad include shoulder buttons (also called "bumpers") and triggers placed along the edges of the pad (shoulder buttons are usually digital, i.e. merely on/off; while triggers are usually analog); centrally placed start, select, and mode buttons, and an internal motor to provide force feedback.

NES B and A face buttons. NES face buttons.jpg
NES B and A face buttons.

There are programmable joysticks that can emulate keyboard input. Generally they have been made to circumvent the lack of joystick support in some computer games, e.g. the Belkin Nostromo SpeedPad n52. There are several programs that emulate keyboard and mouse input with a gamepad such as the free and open-source cross-platform software antimicro, [1] [2] Enjoy2, [3] or proprietary commercial solutions such as JoyToKey, Xpadder, and Pinnacle Game Profiler.[ citation needed ]

Belkin American manufacturer of consumer electronics

Belkin International, Inc., is an American manufacturer of consumer electronics that specializes in connectivity devices. Headquartered in Playa Vista, Los Angeles, California, it sells various consumer and commercial product lines, including routers, iPod and iPhone accessories, mobile computing accessories, surge protectors, network switches, hubs, cables, KVM switches, racks and enclosures, and other peripherals. Belkin International is the parent company for Belkin, Linksys and Wemo branded products and services, as well as the smart home water management company, Phyn.

The Belkin Nostromo SpeedPad n52 is a USB computer gaming peripheral designed for gamers by Belkin. Nostromo is a unique name, but was also the title of the main starship in the 1979 Alien (film) and the 1904 novel Nostromo.

Free and open-source software software that is both free and open-source

Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software that can be classified as both free software and open-source software. That is, anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software in any way, and the source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to voluntarily improve the design of the software. This is in contrast to proprietary software, where the software is under restrictive copyright licensing and the source code is usually hidden from the users.


Early designs

The 1962 video game Spacewar! initially used toggle switches built into the computer readout display to control the game. These switches were awkward and uncomfortable to use, so Alan Kotok and Bob Saunders built and wired in a detached control device for the game. This device has been called the earliest gamepad. [4]

<i>Spacewar!</i> 1962 video game

Spacewar! is a space combat video game developed in 1962 by Steve Russell, in collaboration with Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen, and programmed by Russell with assistance from others including Bob Saunders and Steve Piner. It was written for the newly installed DEC PDP-1 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After its initial creation, Spacewar was expanded further by other students and employees of universities in the area, including Dan Edwards and Peter Samson. It was also spread to many of the few dozen, primarily academic, installations of the PDP-1 computer, making Spacewar the first known video game to be played at multiple computer installations.

Alan Kotok American computer scientist

Alan Kotok was an American computer scientist known for his work at Digital Equipment Corporation and at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Steven Levy, in his book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, describes Kotok and his classmates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the first true hackers.

Entry into the mass market

The iconic NES controller. Nintendo-Entertainment-System-NES-Controller-FL.jpg
The iconic NES controller.

It would take many years for the gamepad to rise to prominence, as during the 1970s and the early 1980s joysticks and paddles were the dominant video game controllers, [4] though several Atari joystick port-compatible pushbutton controllers were also available. [5] The third generation of video games saw many major changes, and the eminence of gamepads in the video game market.

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.

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.

Atari joystick port

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.

Nintendo developed a gamepad device for directional inputs, a D-pad with a "cross" design for their Donkey Kong handheld game. This design would be incorporated into their "Game & Watch" series and console controllers such as the standard NES controller. Though developed because they were more compact than joysticks, and thus more appropriate for handheld games, D-pads were soon found by developers to be more comfortable to use than joysticks. [4] The D-pad soon became a ubiquitous element on console gamepads, though to avoid infringing on Nintendo's patent, most controller manufacturers use a cross in a circle shape for the D-pad instead of a simple cross. [6]

Continued refinements

Six-button Genesis controller that was released later Sega-Genesis-6But-Cont.jpg
Six-button Genesis controller that was released later

The original Sega Genesis control pad has three face buttons, but a six-button pad was later released. [7] The SNES controller also featured 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 which has been imitated by most controllers since. The inclusion of six action buttons was influenced by the popularity of the Street Fighter arcade series, which utilized six buttons. [8]

PlayStation DualShock controller. PSX-DualShock-Controller.jpg
PlayStation DualShock controller.
Nintendo 64 controller. N64-Controller-Gray.jpg
Nintendo 64 controller.

For most of the 1980s and early 1990s, analog joysticks were the predominant form of gaming controller for PCs, while console gaming controllers were mostly digital. [4] This changed in 1996, when all three major consoles introduced an optional analog control. The Sony Dual Analog Controller had twin concave analog thumbsticks, the Sega Saturn 3D Control Pad had a single analog thumbstick, and the Nintendo 64 controller combined digital and analog controllers in a single body, starting a trend to have both an analog stick and a d-pad.

Despite these changes, gamepads essentially continued to follow the template set by the NES controller (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). [4]

Gamepads failed to achieve any sort of dominance outside of the home console market, though several PC gamepads have enjoyed popularity, such as the Gravis PC GamePad. [4]

Three-dimensional control

Though three-dimensional games rose to prominence in the mid-1990s, controllers continued to mostly operate on two-dimensional principles; 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 at once. One of the first gaming consoles, the Fairchild Channel F, did have a controller which allowed six degrees of freedom, but the processing limitations of the console itself prevented there from being any software to take advantage of this ability. [4] In 1994 Logitech introduced the CyberMan, the first practical six degrees of freedom controller, but due to its high price, poor build quality, and limited software support it sold poorly. Industry insiders blame the CyberMan's high profile and costly failure for the gaming industry's lack of interest in developing 3D control over the next several years. [4]

Wii Remote can be played with two hands like a gamepad. Wii Remote Image.jpg
Wii Remote can be played with two hands like a gamepad.

The Wii Remote is shaped like a television remote control and contains tilt sensors and three-dimensional pointing which allows the system to understand all directions of movement and rotation (back and forth around the pitch, roll, and yaw axes). The controller is also multifunctional and includes an expansion bay which can be used with different types of peripherals. An analog stick peripheral called "Nunchuk" also contains an accelerometer [9] but unlike the Wii Remote, it lacks any pointer functionality.


Gamepads are also available for personal computers. Examples of PC gamepads include the Asus Eee Stick, the Gravis PC, the Microsoft SideWinder and Saitek Cyborg range, and the Steam Controller. Third-party USB adapters and software can be employed to utilize console gamepads on PCs; the DualShock 3, DualShock 4, Wii Remote and Joy-Con can be used with third-party software on systems with Bluetooth functionality, with USB additionally usable on DualShock 3 and DualShock 4. Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers are officially supported on Windows with Microsoft-supplied drivers; a dongle can be used to connect them wirelessly, or the controller can be connected directly to the computer over 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). [10] [11] [12]

See also

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  2. Ryochan7. "Graphical program used to map keyboard keys and mouse controls to a gamepad" . Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  3. Yifeng Huang (May 6, 2013), Enjoy2 v1.2 released: control games with your gamepad on OSX , retrieved May 19, 2017
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  9. Nintendo Wii ::: Advanced Media Network - Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Super Smash Bros, Wii, Revolution
  10. Jamin Brophy-Warren, Magic Wand: How Hackers Make Use Of Their Wii-motes, Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2007
  11. "How to use the PS4 DualShock 4 controller on a PC". Techradar. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  12. "How To Use A Console Controller On Your PC". Kotaku. Retrieved 4 June 2016.