Gaming Questionnaire

Once upon a time, way back in 2009, I started this blog. The thing that pushed me into creating a WoW blog and became my second post ever was Miss Medicina’s Healer Questionnaire.

Since I’m done with WoW, and trying to reinvent Cannot be Tamed as a source for information and entertainment about all video games, I thought I’d start my own questionnaire about gaming. Hopefully you’ll be interested in filling out the questionnaire as well, and we’ll all get to discover new bloggers, gamers, and learn more about our current gaming friends.

Post this questionnaire with your answers on your blog or in the comments if you don’t have one. Be sure to let me know when you’ve answered, I’ll be posting links to responses below.


  1. When did you start playing video games?
  2. What is the first game you remember playing?
  3. PC or Console? 
  4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 
  5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played? 
  6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played? 
  7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
  8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
  9. What are your favourite game genres?
  10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
  11. Describe your perfect video game.
  12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
  13. What game has the best music? 
  14. Most memorable moment in a game:
  15. Scariest moment in a game:
  16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
  17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
  18. What’s the last game you finished? 
  19. What future releases are you most excited about? 
  20. Do you identify as a gamer?
  21. Why do you play video games? 

Also, if you wouldn’t mind answering these polls – I like to know who’s reading!

 

 

Here are the links to the responses (more found in the comments)

The Last of Us Remastered (Review)

When The Last of Us came out on PS3 in 2013, it was met with much fanfare and critical acclaim. A ridiculous number of publications gave it a perfect score. I never played it then, because I was usually playing something on the 360. However, when it was announced that it would be remastered and re-released for the PS4, I was really excited to finally play the game of the generation.

Of course, given how well reviewed the game was, it would be difficult to live up to the hype.

The opening of The Last of Us was absolutely wonderful. It was cinematic, everything looked great. You’re introduced to Joel and his daughter and their relationship is established quickly and easily. The problem (infection) is introduced in a way that is both mysterious and frightening, and the fact that the game puts you in the shoes of a young girl at the start makes things even more bewildering and intense. The opening has drama, emotion, it sets the world up brilliantly.

Then we skip forward 20 years. We’re reintroduced to Joel and his companion Tess and then… not much happens for a while. We walk around – for a few minutes this is interesting because we’re learning what the world has become. But then we continue walking, through basements and abandoned buildings. A few lines of dialogue are exchanged between Joel and Tess, but it’s pretty quiet. Joel is very stoic and doesn’t give us much to relate to. We come across our first infected enemies, but the fight is a tutorial and they are very quickly and easily dispatched. After an amazing opening, we’ve now spent about 30 minutes doing nothing but walking along a set path without much action or story progression and it’s really jarring. At this point, my interest was really waning.

Things happen slowly. The first big fights are slow – you have so little ammo that you pretty much have to resort to stealth kills which require patience that I don’t possess. We finally meet Ellie and discover the point of the game but relationship between her and Joel also builds slowly. It wasn’t until Bill’s Town that things started to pick up, and it wasn’t until the journey to Pittsburgh that the game really got its hooks in me and I became totally invested. That was almost halfway through the game. There were major pacing problems.

I feel like I’m reviewing two different games here. The first half looked really pretty and had some good writing, but from a gameplay standpoint, it just wasn’t that fun. The last half, on the other hand, was brilliant. In the first half of the game I didn’t enjoy the combat at all. It was too slow, ammo was so scarce. Dying was frustrating because all I had to look forward to was another abandoned building to walk through. In the second half of the game, I enjoyed combat so much more. I had a wide variety of weapons to choose from and if I wanted to fight rather than sneak around all the time, I could. Plus, the action scenes were usually followed up by some really great character development and storytelling. The pacing was 100x better in the 2nd half of the game. So let’s focus on that now.

The storytelling in The Last of Us was so, so good. Once I got far enough into the game I loved Ellie and Joel and totally believed their relationship. The dialogue was great, and the wonderful animation of the characters made things seem even more real. It was the little moments that made this game special. The first part that really got me was Joel and Ellie in the truck, heading to Pittsburgh. They had this dialogue that was so natural, and filled with humour and pain. The music helped cap it off and it was really beautiful. The stories told in the collectible documents you find around the game were also really compelling. Getting a glimpse into the lives of other people in the game world who you would never met was intriguing, and usually sad.

There were a lot of really exciting set pieces later in the game as well. Using the sniper rifle in the suburbs to save the rest of your group was really one of my favorite combat scenes. There were also a few parts of the Winter portion of the game that were different and got very stressful.

Speaking of Winter, getting to play as Ellie for part of the game was a welcome change, and I appreciated the opportunity to get to know her character better. Winter was one of the more intense episodes of the game and was really enjoyable to play. Unfortunately, something that happened right at the end left a bad taste in my mouth. (Minor spoiler warning) Ellie gets captured, hurt, the people she loves are in danger. She faces down enemies who are also cannibals, has to kill many of them, is under constant threat of being murdered and eaten… and then at the very end (this clearly wasn’t enough to traumatize our 14-year-old heroine) it’s implied that she’s also threatened with rape. I was really disappointed by this. It’s such a lazy, common, unnecessary way of putting female characters through the wringer. During the rest of the game, the writers were brilliant and handled character development (and my emotions) with surgical precision. Why they felt the need to start swinging a big machete at this point is beyond me.

I’m not going to give anything away about the end of the game, but I thought it was really well done. The story that had been developing and the relationship between Joel and Ellie that had been building all came to a head and there was major pay off. It was a satisfying ending, and the fact that it was put together like a great movie made it even better.

The DLC, Left Behind, was also included with the game. During this you play as Ellie, before Joel ever comes into the picture. Left Behind was a perfect 2 hour gaming experience. It has the same great writing as the main game, though the dialogue between Ellie and her friend Riley may actually be even better. The pacing is great. It’s not as action-heavy, but the game wastes no time. Every scene matters. My emotions ran the gamut while playing this, from pure joy to absolute heartache.

The Last of Us is a really difficult game to rate. It starts with a bang, but within the first couple hours of gameplay I was often tempted to just put it down because the excitement dropped off so much. If it hadn’t been so critically revered, I probably would have put it down. Ultimately I was rewarded for sticking it out because the last half of the game was amazing.

Rating: 9/10 – The Last of Us is one of the best written stories I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Though it drags at the start, in the end it was totally worth playing. It’s an emotional roller coaster that really gets you invested in what’s going to happen next and makes you care about the characters. The gameplay isn’t as good as the story, but it gets better as the game goes on and is very enjoyable by the end. The perfection that is Left Behind is what’s bumping this rating up from an 8 to a 9.

Doing it Right: Remember Me

Doing it Right is a feature that looks at games that I think are making positive strides in regard to females and representation in games. While it’s important to call out games when they are sexist and reinforcing negative stereotypes, I think it’s equally important to recognize the games that are succeeding at elevating themselves away from that. 

Remember Me was released by Dontnod Entertainment in June of 2013. It’s an action-adventure game set in future Paris, in a world where memories have become a commodity. A large corporation, Memorize, has developed technology to allow people to upload and share their memories, as well as get rid of the unpleasant ones. This gives the corporation an immense amount of information and power as they have access to everyone’s memories and the ability to erase them. The main character Nilin is a memory hunter who can steal and remix people’s memories and is intent on taking Memorize down.

Remember Me Nilin

Review

Remember Me was not very well received and the reviews were mediocre. To each their own, but I thought the game was very enjoyable. It looks great – it’s really cool to see the familiar Paris landmarks in a futuristic setting. It reminded me a little bit of how Earth is portrayed in The Fifth Element. I appreciated the story because it was something different from the norm. The specifics were kept a mystery for much of the game and you didn’t always know if you were working for the right side, so it kept me intrigued.

Remember Me - Future Paris

The combat was fun, and quite similar to the Arkham series with basic melee attacks, combos, dodging (instead of countering) and a couple ranged abilities to take advantage of. However, unlike the Arkham games, I never felt like the fights were excessively long and hand cramping. Every so often you’d get access to a new special ability which kept a sense of progression throughout the game. You could also create your own combos which gave combat a surprising amount of depth. You could add attacks that regenerated health or reduced the cooldowns on special abilities, allowing you to tailor combat to your enemies or your personal preferences.  Aside from combat there was also a lot of fun, though not particularly challenging, platforming. All of the action was very fluid and slick-looking.

The one part of the game I had the most issues with was the memory remixes. Though this was a very innovative idea, I didn’t think they were executed all that well. It was interesting to watch them, and see how a small alteration could result in a vastly different outcome, but they weren’t that fun to play. The controls were irritating and the solutions were pretty much a guessing game. However, there were only four of these sequences in the game so they didn’t detract too much.

Overall though, I’d definitely recommend the game. Nilin is a great main character with lovely voice acting, and the story will keep you entertained. Some of the dialogue occasionally veers into melodrama, but I found those instances rather fun and campy. I played this on PC and it took about 10 hours to finish. I really recommend playing with a controller rather than mouse & keyboard if you play on PC, the controls are 100x better (if I had played through with the keyboard my rating would have been lower).

Rating: 9/10 – Smooth combat and platforming, a beautiful futuristic setting, and a novel story concept make this game well worth playing. There is the occasional sequence that is less well done, but overall the game is a lot of fun.

Nilin

Remember Me’s protagonist Nilin is one of the most powerful and well-known memory hunters. Before the game begins the authorities had arrested Nilin and attempted to wipe her memory because they feared her and what she could do.

Remember Me Nilin

Nilin is a mixed-race female who stands in stark contrast to the bevy of stoic, white males who usually lead games. While there are actually quite a lot of female protagonists, they are also generally white so it’s refreshing that Dontnod wanted to represent someone else.  The developers know that different can be scary to some consumers, but thought it was important enough to do it anyway.

“…we wanted Nilin to stand out. I think these sort of issues become self-fulfilling prophesies; people saying that only white males sell so then everyone only does white males. If you start believing these things you get your head inside this cold marketing strategy that you cannot get your head around. It becomes a pretty fucking racist and misogynistic way of thinking about lead characters.”
– Jean-Maxime Morris (source
)

Nilin is capable, sarcastic, and compelling. She’s also very human. She has to make a lot of difficult decisions throughout the game, she hurts and manipulates people to achieve her goals and we get to see that Nilin is internally conflicted about many of these actions. When it comes time to act though, she never lacks conviction.

Remember Me has a distinct lack of the male gaze when it comes to Nilin and the other female characters. Nilin is beautiful, but the camera never treats her as a sexual object – there are no gratuitous butt shots in the game.

A World of Women

Remember Me’s future Paris is filled with women characters. The game opens with an image of a woman. And not just a woman, an older woman, a demographic which gets very little representation in games. Though this character is only used to help set the stage for the game world, choosing her face as the first one we see makes me feel like the developers aren’t afraid to do something different.

Remember Me Memorize ad

Women play many of the most important roles in the game and they are all powerful, smart women with their own motivations. Women get to be both the protagonists and the antagonists.

Besides Nilin, we also get Astrid Voorhees, the power-hungry and sadistic governor of La Bastille prison, who delights in wiping the memories of her prisoners. She respects Nilin’s power, but also considers it a challenge to overcome.

Scylla Cartier-Wells is the president of Memorize and built it up to become the most powerful corporation in the world. Though brilliant, she’s also bitter due to events of the past and approaches the business of memories without thinking about who is being hurt.

Remember Me - Scylla Cartier-Wells

These are strong, independent women who are real characters. They have their own backstories and goals.

Even the characters who are more minor still get fleshed out and we learn something about them. Olga Sedova is a feared bounty hunter trying to make money to save her sick husband and one of the only opponents that manages to give Nilin a real challenge. Alexia Forlan is in the midst of leaving her husband because she doesn’t want to be his trophy wife anymore when Nilin comes into their lives. Kaori Sheridan is one of Paris’ most brilliant architects and holds the secrets to gaining entry into the most secure places.

It’s very clear that in the future world of Remember Me there are a lot of women in the most powerful and respected jobs.

Overall

In addition to being a fun game with a cool story, I found Remember Me to be a very positive experience from a feminist perspective. Nilin was presented as a strong, capable woman, but not a perfect one. I think that showing game protagonists as complex and nuanced characters is a great thing, not just from a feminist standpoint but also from a writing standpoint. Most people aren’t all good or bad, most people aren’t 100% confident they’re doing the right thing all the time. Creating more characters like these in video games will take games to a much deeper and powerful place. Aside from Nilin, Remember Me was full of female characters who had their own stories and were often leaders in their fields. It’s really nice to see a big budget game where females fill so many of the roles and none of them are being exploited.

Dontnod has just announced they are working on a new title – Life is Strange – with Square Enix. It looks like another game that will be full of interesting female characters and I’ll be following it closely.

Feelings

Video games that can make me really feel things are a rare and wonderful thing. When I play games, I’m mostly just looking to be entertained and have fun. But some games go beyond that. Here are a few of them.

I’m trying to be as unspoilery as possible here, but that’s hard in some instances – so read at your own risk.

The Dig

The Dig

Wonder.

I’ve been fascinated by space since I was a kid. The Dig came out when I was 12 and put me in the shoes of an astronaut who got to explore an entire alien world. Every step of the way was filled with wonder and curiosity as I tackled puzzles and discovered gorgeous new vistas.

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus

Awe. Sorrow.

The first time I spotted a colossus in this game, there was a sense of wonder. It was so gigantic, so impenetrable. The thought of fighting it was thrilling. Then, as the game went on, excitement started turning into sadness. These were not natural enemies – if anything, they seemed to be protecting something. I was an outsider, invading their lands and destroying them. Each kill felt more difficult and painful.

 Dragon Age Origins

Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins

Delight.

This one’s a bit embarrassing, but I found the whole courtship with Alistair completely delightful. I was like a blushing schoolgirl, endeared by his nervous stammering. That whole scene with the rose made me giddy. I may have immediately replayed it when it was over.

The Walking Dead: Season 1

Lee and Clem - The Walking Dead season 1

Grief.

Not many video games have made me cry. This one made me sob. I cried for Lee, for Clementine, for myself. I knew what was coming, but it didn’t make it any easier.

Stanley Parable

Stanley Parable corridor

Panic.

I started the game sitting in an office, at a desk, in front of a computer. I ran through the corridors, made different decisions each time. But in the end (or the beginning) I always ended up back in that same office. The first time it happened didn’t affect me too much. But the 2nd, the 5th? I began to feel trapped. Helpless. My choices were futile.

Every day I go to an office, sit in front of a computer. Is this a game, or is this my life? Panic. Let’s turn it off now.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider on the tower

Exhilaration.

The opening scenes made my heart thump in a way that doesn’t happen often. I could feel every injury with the vibration of the controller, the sounds, and the blurring and colour draining from the screen. I held my breath every time I had to push the right button or die.

I’ve spun out my car and ended up facing the wrong way on the highway and had steadier hands afterwards than I did during the first playable parts of Tomb Raider .

The Last of Us: Left Behind

Joy.

Ellie and Riley, two girls living in a world that had become violent and terrible, sneak away and just have fun.

This scene was absolutely brilliant, a reminder of the amazing powers of imagination and friendship. The game goes on to another scene which gave even more feelings of being carefree and joyous.

And then it ripped my heart out.


Feel free to share your gaming feels with me.

What I’m playing this week

With the long weekend, I’ve had a lot of time to relax and play video games this past week. Here’s what I’ve been playing:

The Last of Us

I never played The Last of Us on PS3, so I was really excited to start the remastered edition on PS4. There was so much hype around this game that would be difficult to live up to. I finished the game yesterday and I have many feelings, which will probably turn into a dedicated post. In short though, I thought the story, characters and writing were excellent. The dialogue is so natural, definitely some of the best I’ve heard in a video game. The relationships were believable and I really cared about Joel and Ellie. However, in terms of gameplay, I thought it was just okay. It’s probably my impatience talking, but I just didn’t enjoy the stealth elements very much. I’d be ducking around corners, and throwing bricks to distract clickers, then more often then not I’d decide “fuck this, I’m gonna start throwing molotovs now.”

Last of Us - Left Behind

I started the Left Behind DLC yesterday, and I’m really enjoying it so far. It has the same great writing, but so far a lot less of the less enjoyable gameplay aspects.

Resident Evil 5

My boyfriend and I are always looking for games we can play co-op, so he picked up RE5 for the 360. We played about 20 minutes before we had to stop. Resident Evil’s clunky tank controls worked okay in the first couple games. Those were horror games with fixed cameras, and having not particularly responsive controls added to the atmosphere and unease (much like they did in Silent Hill). However, now that the RE series is more about action, the controls ruin the entire experience. Want to go around a corner while running? Too bad (unless you have extra thumbs so you can use both analog sticks and hold down A).

Speaking of Resident Evil, it’s being remade for the newest consoles. This quote from the announcement is relevant to my interests:

The original “tank controls” remain, however there is also a modern option where the character moves in the direction of the analog stick.

Saints Row IV

Another title to try co-op, this time on PC instead of console. We played the beginning of this on the weekend, and oh my goodness, it is so much fun. I had never played a Saint’s Row game before. The format is very similar to Grand Theft Auto, except Saints Row is just off the rails ridiculous. The first mission of the game had us overcoming a terrorist threat and becoming the President. Then we shot down some alien ships. Then we were put into a 50’s style simulation, complete with music and characters that could have come from Leave it to Beaver.

Saints Row 4

I’m going to neutralize the alien threat, and look damn good doing it.

The game is filled with costumes, weapons, crazy side quests, and awesome music. The humour is totally juvenile, but I’m having too much fun to care.

Blackwell Deception

I got games 1-4 of the Blackwell series in the Steam Summer sale, and I’ve been making my way through them. I just finished the fourth game, and I’m looking forward to playing the last game in the series soon. Blackwell Deception, like the previous games, is a good, old-school adventure game.

Remember Me

I’ve been playing Remember Me for a couple weeks and I’m getting close to the end. I’m loving it. The futuristic setting reminds me of The Fifth Element (minus the aliens), it’s got a kick ass female protagonist, combat similar to the Arkham series and fun platforming elements. I’ll probably write up a full review once I’m done.

Remember Me

What have you been playing?

Murdered: Soul Suspect (Review)

Murdered: Soul Suspect was released in June of 2014 by developer Airtight Games. The game has received mediocre to negative reviews, and I assume sales weren’t that great since Airtight closed up shop only a month after release.

Expectations really worked against the game. When I first heard about it, I was very interested. The impression I got from previews was that it was an adventure game made modern. When I saw that it was released for the new consoles, I was somewhat confused (adventure games on console?) but stoked that there was something I actually wanted to play on the XBox One. Then I saw the price. $69.99 at GameStop. This threw me for a loop. Adventure games don’t cost that much money. Even though the images from the game looked AAA quality, I never expected this to be a full price game. So, while I wanted to play it, I decided that I’d wait 6 months for it to come down in price. My boyfriend went out and got me a copy for PS4, so I obviously have played the game, but I can imagine the price driving off a number of potential buyers.

Murdered puts you in the shoes of Detective Ronan O’Connor who, at the beginning of the game, is being murdered. You become a ghost and need to wrap up unfinished business – namely tracking down the serial killer who killed you and has been killing young women in Salem – before you can move on.

The gameplay mainly focuses on solving mysteries. You investigate the scene of your own murder, and as the game progresses you investigate the scenes of other Bell Killer crimes. Here is where the game feels like an updated point-and-click adventure. You scour the area for clues, examining anything relevant, then conclude the investigation by selecting the most relevant clue. Sometimes choosing the most relevant clue was not very intuitive. Or, the answer was so simple that I completely overlooked it – I was trying to be clever and think like a detective, but the right answer wasn’t clever at all. I found this to be more of a problem at the beginning of the game though, and it got better by the end.

Murdered: Soul Suspect

Murdered involves a lot of exploration. As you travel through Salem you discover not only clues about the Bell Killer, but also information about the town’s history and Ronan’s life. Salem is dark, but also quite beautiful. There’s a kind of double environment effect, as you can see both the town as it really is, and see ghostly remnants of the past.

One thing I liked was that the world did not feel empty. There are plenty of people walking through the town. As a ghost you’re able to possess the living and read their minds, or sometimes even influence what they do. The world is also filled with other ghosts. You’re able to help some of them move on as a series of side-quests, while others aren’t quite ready yet.

Though Murdered bills itself as an action-adventure game, there really isn’t much action. The only ‘danger’ in the game comes from demons who appear in certain places that need to be taken care of. Defeating demons is mainly a matter of stealth. You hide out of sight, or within the  ghostly auras scattered around every location, then sneak up behind the demon and perform a QTE. It’s fairly simple and mostly requires patience and timing.

On an aesthetic level, I though Murdered was very good. The graphics are good, the city of Salem is interesting to explore and the ghostly apparitions which flit in and out of existence are a nice, eerie touch. I was happy with the voice acting and the writing of all the major characters.

Again, I have to emphasize that expectations are what will make or break this game. It’s an adventure game that focuses on exploration and telling a good story. Aside from the main plot, I really enjoyed the little stories the game told. You’d come across a crying ghost on a beach and discover how she died. You’d collect a set of hidden collectibles and be treated with a well-told ghost story.  I appreciated the game for what it was, so I had a lot of fun with it. If you like exploring, uncovering clues, and good narrative, I think you’d like Murdered too.

Murdered: Soul Suspect cat possession

However, if you’re expecting an action game, that’s not what you’re going to get. But you do get to possess and play as a cat sometimes.

My playthrough of Murdered took me about 7-8 hours, and that’s with going out of my way to find all the collectibles. Though I generally don’t like to harp on games for length, I thought it was a bit short considering the price point. However, the price has already dropped a fair bit, especially if you’re willing to play it on PC.

Rating: 7/10 – What it lacks in action, it makes up for by telling a good story and giving a haunting, fully-formed world to explore. Some of the detective work isn’t very intuitive, but I still recommend the game for people who like exploration and ghost stories.

A History of Control(lers)

Video game controllers are something I have a lot of strong feelings about. When a game has a multi-console release, I don’t care too much about framerates or 720p vs. 1080p. Exclusive content usually doesn’t sell me on one or the other. But the controller – how comfortable it feels in my hands, and how intuitive playing the game will be – that’s important to me.

So today, I’d like to go through a (completely biased) history and review of all the console controllers that have been a part of my gaming life.

NES (1985)

I remember the good old days. Days when controllers were simple. When ergonomics was a term I had never heard. When I didn’t spend all day in front of a computer with my hands on a keyboard and need to worry about repetitive strain injuries. I was 7, and holding a blocky NES controller was second nature to me.

NES controller

Looking back, it’s not a pretty controller. And it’s definitely not a comfortable controller to hold. But it did its job for me at the time, and having only 2 buttons was good enough for the games of that era. Of course, I’m not 7 anymore and my hands are no longer child-sized. Games have also become much more complex. Luckily, controllers evolved.

Sega Genesis (1988)

The Sega Genesis was released in North America three years after the NES and it introduced a much nicer controller.

With the jump to a 16-bit CPU, Sega introduced a controller with a third button. Though the positioning of the buttons was a bit odd, the extra button was nice (and a few years later they introduced a 6-button version). The D-Pad allowed you to push in 8 directions. The shape of the controller was a huge improvement and much more comfortable to hold.

SNES (1991)

Nintendo entered the 16-bit era with the SNES.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System controller

The biggest improvement over the NES controller was the introduction of more buttons. X and Y were added and the diagonal placement of the buttons really worked and became a mainstay for most future controllers. Left and right shoulder buttons were also introduced, bringing the button count up to six. The D-Pad remained pretty much the same and though they added some curves, the way you held the controller didn’t change much.

Playstation (1995)

Sony entered the console wars with the 32-bit PlayStation.

Original PlayStation controller

This is console the one that spawned my love of RPGs. It’s also the one that added the phrase “No, I don’t want to come outside, I’m playing video games” to my daily vocabulary. The PS controller was an absolute joy to use after so many years of Nintendo bricks. PS added another pair of shoulder buttons (L2/R2), but other than that the button configuration was pretty much the same as the SNES. The the four face buttons were labelled with shapes/colours, likely so they weren’t directly ripping off Nintendo. The grip handles were the big selling feature for me, and (thankfully) soon every major console controller would have them.

N64 (1996)

Nintendo, not to be outdone by Sony, released the 64-bit N64 a year later. It was a more powerful machine but still relied on expensive, limited-capacity cartridges rather than moving to CD-ROMs. In terms of sales, the N64 was hugely outperformed by the PlayStation.

Nintendo 64 controller

Here is where the slow descent into madness starts. The N64 controller was odd in that there were a couple different ways you could grip it. It could be held in the traditional way, with the left and right grips – meaning you had to use the D-Pad, and would not be able to reach the analog stick or the trigger (Z-button) underneath. Well, actually you could reach those, but it wasn’t comfortable. I don’t even want to tell you how I held this controller for my first few months of playing Goldeneye. The other option was to hold the center grip and right grip – this way you could use the analog stick and trigger, but couldn’t use the D-Pad or left shoulder button. Not being able to easily reach every button on a controller was a very strange design decision. Nintendo also recreated the wheel by dropping the X and Y buttons and replacing them with 4 smaller C-buttons.

In 1997 the Rumble Pak was released, making the N64 controller the first one that could vibrate in response to in-game events. The Rumble Pak was a separate peripheral that got plugged into the memory slot on the controller.

PlayStation DualShock (1998)

It didn’t come with a new console, but Sony released an even better PS controller a couple of years later.

Playstation Dual Shock controller

In 1998, the DualShock controller was released for the PlayStation, which added a number of new features. Most obvious were the two analog sticks, which gave gamers a choice between the D-Pad or the stick for movement, and opened up the door for camera control using the right stick. You could also press the analog sticks down, giving two more buttons to play with (L3/R3). Sony one-upped Nintendo’s Rumble Pak by adding internal vibration motors. The DualShock’s rumblings were far superior to the Rumble Pak’s loud and jarring gyrations.

PlayStation 2 (2000)

Oh PS2, how I loved you. What a great console with an amazing library of games. And that backwards compatibility… It’s the best-selling console of all time for a reason.

PlayStation 2 - DualShock 2 controller

Functionally and aesthetically, the DualShock 2 was not much different from the DualShock 1. Kudos to Sony for not messing with a good thing.

XBox (2001)

In 2001 Microsoft began their journey into the console market with the XBox.
Microsoft XBox controller
The original XBox controller was a hulking beast. I don’t even think that people with large hands liked it much, as even though it had a huge surface area, the buttons were inexplicably squished together. For me, Microsoft’s best design choice was swapping the positions of the D-Pad and left stick, which made everything feel much more balanced. The XBox controller had nice solid feeling trigger buttons, and also added two small black and white buttons (which I honestly can’t even remember a use for).

Nintendo GameCube (2001)

After the N64, which had some great games but lackluster sales, Nintendo released the GameCube, hoping to turn things around. Unfortunately, the sales were still dwarfed by the PS2.

Nintendo GameCube controller

The GameCube controller was quite different from the N64’s. They got rid of the middle grip, which was good. However, they also completely reconfigured the buttons again. Now we were back to 4 buttons (A, B, X, Y) on the controller face, which had 3 different shapes. There was a left and right Trigger, and the Z-button got moved above the right Trigger and changed into a shoulder button. There was no corresponding shoulder button on the left side. Like the XBox, the GameCube controller put the left stick above the D-Pad. I think the GameCube controller is funny looking, but it’s actually my favourite offering from Nintendo.

XBox Controller S (2002)

The next year Microsoft released a more reasonably sized controller for the Xbox, which became the standard.

Microsoft XBox controller

The A, B, X, Y buttons were moved into more standard positions with better spacing, though Start and Back got moved got moved to the left side because giant logo placement is clearly most important. It wasn’t quite there yet, but Microsoft was well on its way to creating a very good thing.

XBox 360 (2005)

Microsoft got a head start on the 7th console generation by releasing the 360 a scant four years after the original XBox.

XBox 360 wireless controller

And here it is. The XBox 360 wireless controller – the pinnacle of gamepad design. I love everything about this controller – the shape, the weight of it in my hands, the perfect placement of every button, trigger and stick in relation to my fingers. It’s sleek and smooth, the black and white buttons from the original XBox controller were removed and replaced with left and right bumpers. The center Guide button was added to turn the console or controllers on and off, or access the 360’s menu. If I could use this controller on every console I’d be a happy girl.

Of course, the problem the best controller being released in 2005 is that the future designs just feel inferior (some more than others).

 PlayStation 3 (2006)

Sony came out with two controller for the PS3 – the Sixaxis and the DualShock 3. However, they’re almost identical so I’ll address them both at once.

Sony PS3 Sixaxis control

Sony seemed to like the design of the DualShock, so the appearance of PS3’s DualShock 3 and Sixaxis controllers was very similar. The Analog button was removed, and a PS button (which functioned much like the 360’s Guide button) added. These controllers also used motion sensing technology to experiment with motion controls. Heavy Rain was the only game I played on the PS3 that used this (actually, it was the only game I ever finished on the PS3, period) and the motion controls weren’t as obnoxious as I expected.

Wii (2006)

The Wii was the last of the 7th generation of consoles, and with its release came the realization that I was definitely not Nintendo’s target audience anymore.

Nintendo Wiimote and nunchuk

Nintendo went off the motion control deep end with the Wii Remote. The Wii Remote is long and skinny, designed to be used with one hand and pointed at the motion sensor. The labelling of the buttons was completely changed – again. Now there was a 1 and 2 where A and B would usually be. A was now a big button near the D-Pad, while B was a trigger on the underside of the remote. Start and Select were now + and -. Some games used the Wii Remote on its own, while others added the nunchuck which gave players an analog stick for movement and a C trigger button. I guess using completely awkward controls and flailing around could be fun if you’re: a) a child, b) playing Wii Sports with a group of people, c) drunk, but otherwise these controllers are total bullshit.

Wiimote horizontal grip

Some games let you hold the Wii Remote horizontally… I have nothing nice to say about this.

Wii Classic Controller

If you hated the Wii Remote, Nintendo also sold the Classic Controller (along with about 90 other accessories). With the exception of the analog sticks, the Classic Controller has a very similar design and shape as an SNES controller. Because of all the controllers you could replicate, why not copy the one released in 1991? Attach the cord to the bottom instead of the top just to show what a special snowflake you are as well.

Wii U (2012)

The Wii U was marketed terribly, and sold accordingly (though it seems to be improving now). As someone who pretty much stopped paying attention to Nintendo after the Wii, I was under the impression that the Wii U Gamepad was the new system, rather than the controller for a long time. Sigh. Nintendo, why don’t you want me to love you? (I could probably write a whole post on this).

Wii U gamepad

The Wii U Gamepad is huge. Like a handheld console, except even bigger. The thing that drives me crazy about many Nintendo controllers (well, one of the things) is that no matter how big the device gets – whether it’s the Wii U Gamepad or the 3DS XL – the controls stay child-sized. The D-Pad is small, the buttons are tiny and close together. My hands aren’t even large, but I pick up a DS and think “wow, this definitely was not designed to be held by me”.

The one cool thing about the Gamepad is that you can use it like a handheld and play in bed or something while the console is in the other room (you do have to get up to put the disc in though). However, playing with this monstrosity when you’re sitting in front of the TV the Wii U is connected to is so completely unappealing. It just isn’t at all comfortable to hold. The touchpad is used to as a 2nd screen to supplement gameplay in a lot of games. That can include things like displaying the track map in Mario Kart 8 (a feature which does not offend me), or having to blow into the microphone or rub the screen to reveal secrets in Super Mario 3D World (a feature which is fucking obnoxious).

Wii U Pro Controller

Thank goodness Nintendo had the sense to release a proper controller for the Wii U, because if I had to use the Gamepad or a Wiimote I would never touch the thing (which would be a shame, because Mario and Donkey Kong are fun). The Pro Controller looks like a rip-off of the 360 controller. I don’t know how Microsoft feels about this, but I think this was an excellent design decision. For some reason they’ve swapped the positions of the right stick and A/B/X/Y buttons, which makes this controller more awkward than it needs to be, but it’s still 100x better than the other options for the Wii U.

PlayStation 4 (2013)

The PlayStation 4 is currently the most powerful console. Apparently, with great power comes great responsibility… and the need to “improve” on an already very good controller.

PlayStation 4 DualShock 4

The DualShock 4 is pretty similar to the DualShock 3, but made a few changes. The grips are wider apart and the Start/Select (now Options and Share) have been moved to the top in order to make room for an gratuitously large touch pad. In games like Tomb Raider and Murdered: Soul Suspect, the touch pad is used open the game menu or map which is okay by me, even though it’s too big for this to be the main function. However, a game like Infamous: Second Son makes you swipe the touchpad to perform certain actions, which feels totally unnecessary. They also added a large light bar along the top edge of the controller. Apparently it’s used for player identification, though the light will often change colours based on things happening in the games. Generally the bar glows a really bright blue, so if you’re playing in the dark don’t tip the controller up if you don’t want to be blinded.

The speaker added to the controller is kind of cool, and the motion sense is still there, but has been used sparingly in most games I’ve played.

XBox One (2013)

The XBox One is the most recent major console release.

XBox One controllerMost of the development for this controller was focused on refinement, while the design was left relatively the same. The textures of the analog sticks have changed and gotten a little smaller. The Start and Back buttons were relabeled. The biggest improvements are on the bumpers and triggers – they feel really nice, solid, and responsive now. The Guide button now glows white instead of a muted green. I’m not sure what it is about the latest generation and making the controllers glow so brightly – isn’t the glow from the tv enough? I don’t find the XBox One controller quite as comfortable to hold as the 360’s, but it’s pretty close.

Top 5

Here’s the TLDR version of what I’d rate the best major console controllers from 1985 onwards.

  1. XBox 360
  2. PS DualShock 2
  3. XBox One
  4. Nintendo GameCube
  5. PS DualShock 4

And the worst? Pretty much everything else from Nintendo, with the Wii Remote taking home the award of “controller I’d most like to throw in a fire.”

What do you think? What are the best and worst console controllers?