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Statement: "Nintendo’s major console controllers throughout the years fluctuate between being ergonomic and not ergonomic."

A study on the ergonomics of Nintendo Controllers under this statement, as part of an assignment I have to do for college. Yes I'm a female game design student, oogey boogey boogey.

 

Computer Game Studies:

Industry Press Article

 

Statement: “Nintendo’s major console controllers throughout the years fluctuate between being ergonomic and not ergonomic.”

 

Student: Loughran,Niamh, DGH1

Lecturer: Shane Whelan















 

“We've thrown them at walls during death matches, hurled them in celebration after successful boss battles, held them close to us like the hand of a dear friend.” [1] (historyofcont.)

An accurate description of one’s bond to a video game controller as a avid gamer. For as long as there have been video games there have been video game controllers, from the very first controller - the two-dial system of the Magnavox Odyssey to the recent dual-shock Sony game controllers of today’s era. [2] (extensiveart.) As technology advances and cultures change and as game companies try to breach new audiences within these cultures so too will their consoles and controllers change. This change however doesn’t necessarily mean that it is improved from the last, or a previous game console or controller. The egronomic changes made by the companies to the console controllers is the focus I’m taking with this brief study, focusing on the major Nintendo controllers throughout its reign. Ergonomics is a science that’s designed to develop products so that they are comfortable to use by their human customers. An Ergonomic game controller is one that is comfortable to hold for an amount of time and has well placed and easily understandable buttons and functions, where as a non- egronomic controller employs the opposite, being uncomfortable for the player with irritating button placement. [3]- Loose reference

 

I believe Nintendo’s range of console controllers past and present show the greatest fluctuation of ergonomics having some of the most drastic changes in the game console world. [1] The first game controller for Nintendo , as with every other brands first console controller sets a standard for which we can base off. The NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) , The NES’ small rectangular controller introduced a lot of new features that broke away from the Joystick. The controller was simplicity defined, it had two red buttons for under your right thumb, A and B, a directional control pad (A D-pad) for you left thumb, and a ‘start’ and ‘select’ button in the middle (see image right) I’m going to be using the ‘engadget’ website to compare public reviews for this console controllers I mention if possible as they include reviews from consumers and not just reviewers. [4] NES-controller.jpg

 

Although having a high rating on this website for the ergonomic advantage for being innovative and nostalgic, there is egronomic complaints about its ‘cornered edges’ and how “Holding it for long periods of time really sucked!” (user: shawnppickett, 2 years ago) . This means that it leaves this particular controller as averagely egronomic.This comfort issue however was adjusted when the NES controller’s older brother came around to play, the SNES controller (see image left). Its everything the NES was but more hand-fitting and introduced shoulder buttons to the controllers features which made it an improved option for those culturally into action and fighting games [2] Users “liked the curved design” (user: casx510, 3 years ago) as it was an improved egronomic step. The colour coding of the buttons is also quite innovative and according to a discussion upon the Steam website, is key to game that are fast-paced and is linked to colour-to-button memory. [5] (steam) This makes the controller improved in terms of ergonomics to its predecessor. download.jpg

 

Unfortunately this good start isn’t exactly carried on when the Nintendo 64 system was released, and along with it its ‘trident’ design controller (see image right). With mixed views as to its design some feel that the three- pointed design means that “you would need three hands to be able to reach all of the buttons” [2], whereas others feel like “nintendo managed to make it work” [1] . The N64 controller had a cartridge attachment underneath for a memory card or a rumble pack, the first of its kind. A critique website however says where there is a game where both of these functionalities are needed, it is very inefficient and tedious to change between the two of them. [6]N64-Controller-in-Hand.jpg

The decidedly less ergonomic design of this controller skews from the rise of the the first controllers named, this is debatable as some see the controller as an innovative step. It’s notable design flaws in terms of comfortability however doom it to be a rather steep degrade in ergonomics.



 

The ergonomic quality of our next controller causes a fluctuation upwards. This controller is the one released with Nintendo's GameCube (see image left). Customers say such like it is “Nintendo’s best controller” (user: KennelRunner14, 1 year ago). It’s apparent handle-bar design made it comfortable for players hands with the separation of the dysfunctional third prong. Even so there is debate that some of the buttons are hard to press and is “fair but less than optimal” [6] this would hope to suggest that the GameCube isn’t enough improvement to be a fluctuation in the ergonomic quality. However backup articles praising it’s ergonomic and functional design [7] show that it is an improvement and perhaps it even exceeds the ergonomics of that of the NES and SNES controllers. With built in dual shock and improved user friendly controls it could be easy to say that this is the best wired controller Nintendo have created and is still remembered and in demand today. GameCube_controller.png

 

Jump forward a few years from the GameCube and we have Nintendo's answer to motion control, the Wii console controller (see image right). Nintendo released this controller with both a completely break-away, wireless design and an aim towards the casual gamer culture. [1] This completely wireless,motion sensor operated controller has a one-handed, vertical design leaving the other hand free for the attachable remote functionalities that the console allows. The vertical, one-handed shape means that “the hand cramps that can accompany traditional controllers aren't an issue with the 'Wiimote'” (user: CNN, 2006) However there are some feelings from the same source that feel that there is a lapse to the rectangular design of its ancestors and therefore has similar corner based comfortability issues, however rubber casing-accessories can mend this. Functionality wise there are complaints from users that the wireless feedback is sub-par and “in-accurate” (user: Asmo, 10 months ago)  so its difficult to say whether this is an improvement or not, although with cross checking it gets a positive response innovation wise , but there is agreement on the inaccuracy of the feedback. [6]  Although comfortable this is a step slightly down on ergonomics from the public view, a step up in technology, but that’s not what we’re discussing here. WiiRemote1.jpg


 

The most recent console in the Nintendo line is the Wii U. Personally, I think that the Wii U controller (see image left)  is a massive plummet movement down the egronomic scale giving more weight to statement of economic fluctuation. There is feeling that it is felt that it is a bit of a disappointment and hope that it isnt the last of the nintendo control systems [1]. The Wii U controller is one that has a built in screen, in effort to break the cultural link between console games and portable tablet games, for which the gamepad is capable for both. I was thinking that considering how big the control pad is to hold it seems that users seem to like it. Users feel it’s “Light and comfortable considering its size. Layout is nice. Still, it's quite large” (user: Alondite, 11 months ago). It also fits in with the cultural trend of ‘indie tablet app developers’. The ‘gamespot’ website however trashes the controller wholly, it complains how large it is for players to hold and states that it has questionable button layout, and rock-bottom quality of the shoulder buttons, as well as the clumsiness of the single-touch-screen, along with the noticeably cheap materials.” [8] Also a review on IGN feels although its innovative it also has its problems. [9] By this we can say that although diverse, the Wii U gamepad is rather two large and a bit lacking, but not as much as perceived as users seem to think it is enjoyable ergonomically, leaving it not too much down on the Wii remote. Wii-U-GamePad.jpg

 

Overall it’s clear that with each major Nintendo controller there is a new innovation of technology, this focus on this alone however can worsen the quality of the controller if the company doesn’t focus on the ergonomics- the comfort and functionality. From its beginnings we can conclude with the done research that with the egronomic drop the N64 controller caused, the rise the GameCube controller caused, and the drops of both the Wii and the Wii U controller that the ergonomics of the controllers do infact fluctuate, but not as much as I perceived. The console controllers never become as bad as to say that the controller is close to unusable and the controllers aren't as qualitatively good as to say that they are without flaw ergonomically. Nintendo manages to cover its ergonomic flaws successfully however with its habit of introducing the innovative.  This fact is what makes them successful and a well known company, with well known consoles and, of course, well known controllers.


 

References:

[1] : Shortlist.com. History of the video game controller. Available at: http://www.shortlist.com/tech/gaming/history-of-the-video-game-controller#

[Accessed: 02/04/15]

 

[2]: Whitmore,C. (2008). 13 Things: The Game Controller: From the Beginning. Available at: http://proteus.brown.edu/13things/7643 [Accesed: 02/04/15]

 

[3]: Adams, C. Ergo 101- What is Ergonomics? Available at:  http://ergonomics.about.com/od/ergonomicbasics/a/ergo101.htm [Accessed: 02/04/15]

 

[4]: AOL. Inc (2015). engadget. Available at: http://www.engadget.com/

[Accessed: 02/04/15]

 

[5]: ‘Rylo151’ (2015). Steam, 24th Feb. Hand of Fate.

Available at: https://steamcommunity.com/app/266510/discussions/0/617328415076369149/

[Accessed: 04/04/15]

 

[6]: The Video Game Critic (1999-2012) The Video Game Critic!

Available at: http://videogamecritic.com/n64info.htm [Accessed: 04/04/15]

 

[7]: Hernandez, H (2013). Goodbye GameCube Controller. It’s Been Fun.

Available at: http://kotaku.com/goodbye-gamecube-controller-its-been-fun-514157610

[Accessed: 04/04/15]

 

[8]: Crossley.R (2014). Wii U: The Year Two Review.

Available at:  http://www.gamespot.com/articles/wii-u-the-year-two-review/1100-6423304/

[Accessed: 09/04/15]

 

[9]: Vargus.N (2012) Nintendo Wii U Review (2012).

Available at:http://ie.ign.com/articles/2012/11/21/wii-u-review

[Accessed: 09/04/15]


 

  • Each reference used as (user: _, ‘time submitted’ ago) is information taken from the Engadget website.


 

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