Many a discussion in the office has revolved around the ‘best’ control method for PC games, with some sternly of the opinion that mouse and keyboard are the only way games should be played while others, such as CCL Tech’s Dave, are quite happy to use a variety of control methods depending on the game. Personally, I spent a few years away from PC gaming and when I came back it was with a controller in hand.


Despite having consoles as a kid it was getting a gaming PC as a teenager that really hooked me, and I spent many a year with a mouse and keyboard combination, largely in the original Half-Life though I do recall having a dodgy PlayStation ripoff pad that I used to use for playing old emulated games.


Some years later this was replaced, along with most of my other peripherals at the time, by Microsoft’s Sidewinder range. This was in the days before USB was on every single device, so both my Sidewinder Game Pad and Sidewinder Precision Pro joystick connected through the gameport on my soundcard, though luckily I got the later version of the Precision Pro meaning it came with an optional USB dongle allowing me to still use it now.


At the time the Game Pad never got much use, again mostly for older console games but I fished it back out a year or so ago with the intent of using it and it was no longer up to the task. The combination of gameport connection and lack of analog sticks means it lacks a significant amount of the functionality of a modern controller, plus no computer these days even has a gameport unless you were to specifically install an older style sound card.


After several long years of Warcraft addiction, a move left me temporarily without a gaming capable computer with only my Xbox 360 to play on. This lasted quite a lot longer than the time I was without a computer, and it must have been close to 5 years before I ever came back to a PC with any intent to play a game on it, and I’d likely have continued with just the Xbox if not for both working at CCL and the super cheap lure of the Steam sales.


After realising the Game Pad was no good, I invested in a Microsoft Xbox 360 Wired Controller for Windows (Black), which is now used for just about everything with the only real exception being the odd RTS game – I have played Command and Conquer 3 on the 360 and was quite impressed with how well the controls worked but that did require a massive redesign of the user interface of the game which simply isn’t feasible with a PC version. I realised just how much I’d changed when I played the Half-Life remake Black Mesa and went searching for a script to copy the Xbox 360 Orange Box controls within a minute of starting the game up, dropping the mouse and keyboard controls from the game that had been such a familiar part of my life years earlier.


Most modern games are now developed with the consoles in mind first of all and almost everything now retains its Xbox 360 control layouts by default and automatically detects the control layout without any further effort so for almost anything made in the last 3 or 4 years its simply the case of connecting your pad and you’re good to go! New games like Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and many many others will even have the onscreen control prompts automatically changed to match the pad, meaning you’ll have almost the same gaming experience as you would on the console and not even need to worry about setting the controls up, and the pad is automatically detected by Windows 7 and 8.


I’ve even been able to enjoy playing older games in this way thanks to the excellent Xpadder which allows you to map keys to the buttons and mouse movement to the left stick, meaning even games from some time ago such as the original Deus Ex or the PC ports of the Grand Theft Auto trilogy (the PlayStation 2 games) play perfectly on the pad, though these can require a bit more work to get a usable button layout configured.


I’m quite looking forward to trying out the pads for the upcoming Xbox One as well, even though I doubt I’d get the console at launch I’d definitely consider picking up one of the controllers for use with my PC, if nothing else for what seems to be a drastically improved D pad.


I still remember my days gaming with mouse and keyboard fondly, but for me the simplicity and familiarity of the controller stuck with me from playing on the console and now I wouldn’t want to be without it. I’ve recently gone between platforms on a couple of franchises as I slowly shift back to the PC, and being able to keep the familiar control layouts and ability to relax back in my chair have marked the end of my mouse and keyboard days.


If anyone else has similar stories or wants to completely disagree with me, feel free to comment!

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