Screenshot: A Brief History Of Video Game Controllers

The still-progressing saga of video games is, in many ways, the story of video game controllers and how they’ve evolved over the course of nearly 60 years. Controllers are the link between players at home and the games themselves. Before the dawn of wireless controllers, the cord connecting the joystick to the console was like an umbilical cord for hardcore gamers. An intuitive controller can enhance the gaming experience. A lousy, nonresponsive one can ruin it. With that in mind, Super Deluxe has created a fun, minute-long animated video that takes the spotlight off the flashy software for a change and puts it directly on the hardware. The designated title of this little history lesson is “A Brief History Of Video Game Controllers,” though viewers may think of it as “A Brief History Of Simulated Digital Violence.” That theme comes to the fore at the 0:15 mark with the 1984 introduction of the NES Zapper, known to a generation of kids as “the Nintendo gun.”

As this video shows, the earliest video games weren’t the least bit violent. There weren’t even any recognizable characters to inflict or receive acts of violence. Super Deluxe traces the lineage of controllers back to 1958, the year programmer William Higinbotham introduced the groundbreaking Tennis For Two for the oscilloscope. Back then, players had to content themselves with twiddling a couple of knobs. The first real home gaming system didn’t arrive until 1972 with the crude but innovative Magnavox Odyssey. Again, more knobs were twiddled. Five years later, the Atari 2600 had what looked like a recognizable joystick. From that point on, it was off to the races. Famicom, the Japanese version of the mighty Nintendo Entertainment System, had a controller with an actual D-pad as early as 1983. From there, the innovations kept coming, and they weren’t always from Nintendo. Soon Playstation and Xbox were debuting controllers of their own, either delighting or frustrating players along the way.

The video also includes some of the fads and follies of video game history, including a mention of the infamous NES Power Glove. The ersatz instruments of the Guitar Hero/Rock Band era also make cameos here. Probably the most awesome and ridiculous bit of hardware in the video is the W-shaped Wu-Tang Controller from 1999. “Yes, it’s real,” a subtitle proclaims. On a more serious note, the video ends with the Oculus Rift, the pricey VR headset that may or may not be the future of gaming.