Click the Video Game Trend Map to display
an explanation of the map's four quadrants.
I suppose there must be certain metrics by which manufacturers determine if a video game controller is optimal. From button-layout to design decisions and functionality, a lot goes into creating a "good" controller. Many game consoles come with outstanding controllers (yeah, some don't) but not everyone sees video game controllers in the same light.
We felt there must be a good test under which we could evaluate the precision of any video game controller. Since gamers have different sized hands, this can impact how effective a controller's layout and design will be during game play. It was decided that any controller that is functional while wearing oven mitts, must be a damn good controller.
Retro Gaming Hypothesis
Finally, we decided to level the playing field through the use of oven mitts. This way each controller tested received unbiased scrutiny. We hypothesized that a well laid out controller would still be useable while wearing oven mitts.
Retro Gaming Analysis
We tested controllers from old-school Atari consoles to newer systems like the Wii.
Atari 5200 - These joysticks are notoriously the worst in the history of gaming. The side-facing fire buttons combined with a joystick that rarely centers properly has earned the 5200 a poor reputation regarding it's controllers. Oven mitts made the 2 fire buttons indistinguishable and the keypad unusable. Merely holding the joystick while trying to play a game was a chore.
Sony PSP - As far as handhelds go, the PSP is one of the nicer units with a comfortable size and layout. It fits comfortably in your hands and the controls are well-positioned. However it failed the oven mitt test as we nearly dropped the PSP several times.
Nintendo GameBoy - I never liked the form-factor or control layout on the Gameboy. It always felt to small and the controls too tightly packed in. This unit also failed the oven mitt test as we were helpless to get Mario close enough to rescue his 8-bit slam-piece from the Ape.
Nintendo VirtualBoy - Despite the prompt failure of this product, I always liked the controller. Dual control pads and the A & B buttons right under your right thumb made for a nice setup. You'd think having only 2 button would make the oven mitt test a snap, but no. We found the VirtualBoy more annoying than we'd previously remembered.
Sony PS1, 2, & 3 - Having used the same controller scenario from the beginning you might think Sony had latched onto the holy grail of controllers. Nope. We agreed that the Sony controllers have always seemed too small and not a comfortable controller for long periods of play. Oven mitts made the performance much worse. Don't get me started about discerning 2 shoulder buttons. Not happening.
Atari Jaguar - We have always loved the Jaguar controller. It's sized right and has sufficient thickness offering a great grip. It's the first Atari controller not to have a traditional joystick.
Nintendo SNES - This is a much improved controller than the former NES, but oven mitts fully killed it's usability. We still found the 4 buttons to confined.
NES - Oddly we were able to plod through a few games with this controller. I always found it too small, but with only 2 buttons and a control pad, it wasn't too badly hindered by the mitts o death.
Nintendo DS Lite - We expected this to be a dismal failure, but we were able to play some SpongeBob on the DS. Had we needed the stylus... forget about it!
Nintendo Wii - We weren't sure what to expect with te Wii. Would the oven mits block the remote signal? We were pleased to cruise through some Virtual Console favorites, but the New SMB made our hands sweat like Hell!
Atari 7800 - When Atari started out with the amazing 2600 controller, then went to the abysmal 5200 controller... I'm a bit confused about the 7800 controller. It's too skinny and side-mounted buttons suck. But that's not what we're here to discuss. The facts are in and the 7800 was quite easy to use with oven mitts although those side-facing buttons suck ass.
Atari 2600 - We love this joystick. Oven mitts had little negative effect as we plowed through Spider Fighter with relative ease.
Classic Retro Gaming Conclusion
Firstly we apologize for the complete lack of cohesion in this Trend Map entry. We began with the best of intentions to devise a foolproof methodology for rating video game controllers and joysticks. We thought leveling the playing field with oven mitts would root out the best of the best when it comes to precision game control. In the end we fumbled through a variety of games wondering why the fuck we were attempting to play with oven mitts.
However we did conclude that the Atari 2600 joystick is an awesome controller and that the more button are present on a controller, the more annoying it is to play while wearing oven mitts. Our hypothesis was proven true in that a well laid out controller is still playable while wearing oven mitts.