17-button controllers (e.g. XBox One, Dual Shock, or Stadia Controllers) are dominant in the console space, strongly present in PC, and largely absent (currently) in mobile. They’re arguably the most iconic identifier of gaming as a broad activity. When one has mastered their use, they make possible the mapping of a broad range of simulations and experiences onto a single intuitive input vector. Yet they can be intimidating to approach, difficult to learn, and, if not designed for deftly, create unpleasant cognitive load, interfering with immersion.
With streaming on the horizon, we’re at an inflection point where we could potentially advocate for platforms going in a different direction with input mechanisms. Should we?
If we were to standardize a different controller or other input mechanism, what form should it take and what benefits would it bring to the table? What changes would a new controller necessitate in game design? If it was easier to learn, would it also require a sacrifice of control fidelity from game designs/interfaces?
Alternately, if the 17-button controller has earned its place in the market because it is the best mechanism for game input, how can we make it easier to learn? Are there particularly good patterns for “teaching someone to drive” in 3D worlds with a 17-button controller? Should “touch controlling” classes be taught in the way that touch-typing is?
I’d love to see a group dig into the future of game controls and explore the trade-offs between approachability and interface flexibility.