Third Party Interfaces

As in most forms of competition, the equipment you have access to in video games says something about you.  Your equipment can say something about your skill, commitment to the game, or your social status. As I grew up, the last of these was especially prominent. Family visits and gaming with cousins always had one constant, the dreaded 3rd party controller. Whether it was on an Xbox, Playstation 2, or Gamecube, there would nearly always be one first-party, official controller, and everyone else interested in playing would be relegated to the 3rd party sets.

The plastics felt flimsy, the joysticks stuck, the buttons didn’t register, and often, the cord was so short the only way to play was by sitting right next to console. If you were the host, oldest, or had brought your own controller, everything would be fine, but otherwise, you had to deal with an inferior interface. Many arguments were started over the outcome of a game, with a constant point of contention being that a bad controller left you at a disadvantage. Usually, this was true, and everyone knew it to be true, but status meant that if anyone had to deal with a disadvantage, it was going to be the youngest siblings or cousins.

While I don’t think there is a particularly important message within these recollections, they definitely brought me back to the discussions we had about interface in class. The reason for these controllers existing in the first place is that many families find the price of first party controllers too expensive, and opt to buy the third party peripherals instead. But alongside the cost saving measures, there was definitely a price paid in interface, one that younger siblings felt and have turned into a running gag that still shows up today.

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