The World's Weirdest PC Game Controllers
When it comes to game controllers, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid. For every good step forward in controller design, there are a dozen dead ends. Some devices may work very well, but are destined for the dustbin anyway. This slideshow is dedicated to those oddball controllers that set out earn our amazement but only aroused our amusement, instead.
Want more like this? Check out "The World's Weirdest Keyboards."
eDimensional Access Controller
Have you ever wanted to play games one-handed? To be able to rearrange all the buttons and control sticks on a controller while using it one-handed? Or to manipulate a thumbstick with your index, middle, pinky, or ring finger instead of your thumb? No?! Then the eDimensional Access Controller is definitely not for you. Please advance to the next slide.
Microsoft SideWinder Dual Strike
Somewhere around the end of the 20th century, a Microsoft designer decided to make a joystick that rotates about its lateral axis, and the SideWinder Dual Strike was born. At the heart of the controller (the joint between the sphere and the protrusion) sits an analog potentiometer that provides additional control in a handful of games. Otherwise, it's kinda like any other gamepad, only with weird buttons.
P.I. Engineering RailDriver
Want to be a steel-driving man like John Henry? Custom-designed for PC railroad simulators such as TrainMaster and Microsoft Train Simulator, the RailDriver lets you pilot a virtual locomotive with real knobs and levers. A must-have for every rail fan.
SpaceTec SpaceOrb 360
There may be only six degrees of separation between any given person and Kevin Bacon, but the SpaceOrb 360 allows six degrees of movement in 3D space.
Photo: CyberWorld, Inc.
Ergodex DX1 Input System
Many companies have attempted to replace the "left-hand" functionality of the keyboard in gaming situations, but Ergodex may have created the cleverest solution I’ve seen. The DX1 lets you position 25 self-adhesive keys anywhere on its surface. You can also tuck printed templates under its clear plastic surface that label your arrangement.
OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator
Strap the Neural Impulse Actuator to your forehead, and it’ll read your brain waves and facial muscle movements so you can control a game by frowning and smiling. But be warned: NIA's makers recommend having at least 5 hours of training to get any useful functionality from their contraption. And you’ll pay $99 for the privilege.
The mid-1990s success of Quake, with its mouse-keyboard control scheme, set designers' imaginations ablaze. "There must be a better way," they thought. They were wrong, as evidenced by this attempt at a purpose-built first-person-shooter controller.
Intel Wireless Game Pad
This wireless controller's most remarkable quality is that it is shaped like a U. It can also be highly useful in those tight situations where you're just one boomerang short.
Logitech CyberMan 2
This controller reminds me of the scene in Total Recall where Schwarzenegger places his hand in a three-fingered alien palm switch to start up the atmospheric catalyst. Unfortunately, no alien device starts when you place your four-fingered paw on the CyberMan 2.
Mad Catz Gametrak
No, you haven't stumbled into "The World's Weirdest Land Mines" slideshow (that's next week). The black box you see here interfaces with your PC and captures motion via two retractable cables that clip to special gloves you wear on each hand. With everything in place, you can play "Real World Golf" with a realistic swinging action.
Interact Pool Shark
Around the turn of the millennium, Interact released the world's first PC pool cue controller. For the first time, you could use your personal pool cue (or the tiny plastic one that came in the box) to shoot billiards on your PC. When you got tired of snooker, you could snap your cue in half and wield it as a weapon in imaginary bar fights. In a short-sighted move, Interact neglected to include a sensor for that.
Photo: Akiba PC Hotline
Indy 500 Power Grip Handheld Racing Wheel
Radar gun? UFO detector? According to Micro Innovations, this odd controller includes "a unique trigger [that] works as both accelerator and brake, eliminating the need for separate gas and brake pedals." If we added this technology to real cars, wouldn’t they be perpetually locked in place from trying to accelerate while braking?
This controller may look like a robot designed to transplant eyeballs, but don't be fooled: The Novint Falcon provides three-dimensional input and force-feedback to impressive effect in games like Half Life 2 and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08. I've actually used the Falcon, and it's worth trying out if you have the chance.
Belkin Nostromo Speedpad n52te
For the past ten years or so, peripheral designers have tried to usurp the popular WASD-style keyboard-and-mouse control combo that's so popular in today's PC games. The Speedpad is only one of dozens of attempts to replace the keyboard part of that equation.
XCM XFPS Storm Light Gun
The XFPS Storm Light Gun certainly looks weird, but it actually seems like a pretty neat control alternative if you're into first-person shooters. Probably not better, but neat.
Wolfking Warrior Xxtreme
Here's another one of those left-hand keyboard replacements that come in handy for first-person-shooter games--or so its designers say. Just don't try to type a term paper on it, though, because your head might explode.
Need more weirdness? Check out "The World's Weirdest Mice."