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I’m not a fan of wireless controllers. Oh, I agree that they are convenient. There is no risk of living room traffic tripping over the cord and either disconnecting the controller or yanking the console itself off the stand. Want to play a game from the bathroom using a series of angled mirrors to view the TV set down the hall? Go nuts.

We can probably agree that the first controller to get wireless “right” was the GameCube’s WaveBird. I remember picking one up on a whim at Walmart and loving it instantly. It was so reliable! Sure, it felt a bit lifeless with force feedback removed, but the battery life was great!

Those tiny concessions were only the start of my misgivings.

First, batteries are an expense we could have done without. You can spring for a set of rechargeables, raising the total cost of a controller that is already pricier than its wired counterpart. Then there’s the fear that the controller will die in the middle of a game and there won’t be any spare batteries in reach.

The PS3 controller is equipped with an on-board, irreplaceable battery that is charged by running an included cable from it directly to the console. Might as well just leave the thing plugged in and save yourself the trouble of checking juice levels on a regular basis. We never had to worry about old controllers running out of power.

Second, there’s the latency issue. Doesn’t happen often, but for a brief second the controller simply won’t respond to your input. Nothing is more unnerving than a noticeable delay in your commands and the on-screen action. There’s a reason why competitive gamers stick to wired controllers.

Finally, you can’t simply bring an extra controller over to someone’s house for some local co-op anymore. Your controller has already been assigned to your home machine, so you’re gonna have to sync it up to your buddy’s console. There’s some button sequence listed in the manual that you’ve most likely forgotten. It would probably be more convenient yet more expensive just to buy a whole controller set.

To be fair, these are all minor annoyances for most people. For me, it’s enough to make me swear off wireless controllers – when possible. Yeah, the 360 and PS3 have wired alternatives, but the Wii does not. I’m kinda stuck there.

Wireless controllers are just one part of a greater “wireless movement”. The true reasons for my disappointment are less practical and more abstract. I don’t know how well I can explain myself, but here it goes.

Gaming to me is a very personal, very connected experience because of these physical tethers. Everything was very real, very tangible. Now our lexicon is filled with terms such as “wireless”, “cloud computing”, and “digital distribution”. These words feel very cold and impersonal, and represent concepts that have no definite form.

Remember the days when you would huddle right up close to the television, soaking in swathes of colors at a distance your mother disapproved of? Instead of lounging on the sofa, you were right there with your nose up against the glass. Two-player games were as much a game of physical shenanigans as you yanked your friend’s controller from the socket, stealing his thunder as he swore at you and scrambled to reconnect the cord.

Consider the evolution of software storage media. First there were cartridges, strong and sturdy, able to withstand most pre-teen playroom punishment. Then came CDs and DVDs. Slightly more fragile but nevertheless evidence of your gaming passion. Now is the dawn of the digital download and the promise that some day all our money will go towards bits and bytes on a data stream.

Multiplayer gaming barrels towards an all-online model as fewer and fewer titles allow for local play. It’s far easier to pair up with strangers than to set up times when friends are available. We join online communities at the expense of fostering local ones.

When cell phones arrived, everyone loaded their friends’ numbers to memory. Then we loaded up hundreds of other “contacts”, from the briefest of acquaintances to people we promised to call in the near future but never do. These days, no one actually remembers phone numbers. Why should they? Keeping someone’s number once held special significance. Now it’s just stored info.

That’s how I see gaming. It’s just entertainment we “consume” now. We are so detached from it that we play in a manner similar to channel surfing, having little regard for what’s on. It’s just something you do. You may not think that it should make much of a difference, but you’d be surprised how much a little physicality can go in strengthening emotional ties. It’s certainly true outside of the scope of gaming.

One by one, these wires are being severed in favor of added convenience. Perhaps I’m just a crotchety old man in his mid-twenties with fond memories of years gone by. Or maybe I’m more concerned with the flip side of “progress” than the progress itself. Either way, you can’t deny that connections are stronger when you can physically see them.

What have I done about it? For starters, I bought those white GameCube controllers from Japan around the time Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out. The cord is twice as long as the standard controller! That’s a sensible solution to a couple of problems related to wired gamepads, right? There’s also no way you’ll see me let go of my physical game collection and replace them with licenses to play electronic vapor that I’ll never actually own.

But that’s me trying to stay wired in a wireless world. Does that seem strange to you?

  1. The wired PS2 Dual Shock is easily my favorite controller of all time.

    That’s why I go to great lengths to get adapters to use it on my PC, and way back when, on my Xbox!

  2. I have a strong feeling you’re not a fan of motion-enabled controllers …

  3. The PS3 controller battery is 100% replacable

    • Yeah, you can get a new battery offline for under $15. And taking the controller apart and putting it back together isn’t terribly hard (you just need the right screwdriver, which you can get from just about any hardware store if you don’t have one already).

  4. I can’t wait until everything is wireless. I do occasionally play with stuff connected so it can charge, but I’d much rather have everything be wireless (tv connections, power supply, controllers, etc) than have a million cables cluttering up my living room and behind the TV. It makes moving things a pain, and it makes keeping the area looking clean and organized almost impossible.

    Then again, I still play most games by sitting on the floor in front of my couch, looking upwards at the TV. It just feels more natural. :)

  5. Gaming doesn’t feel impersonal to me. If it felt impersonal, it would be me being forced to play games I would never play otherwise, such as Barbie Horse Rainbow Adventures, or something else entirely.

    I customize my gaming experience by playing the games I want. Just because there are no wires attaching me to the console, or no disk in the drive, doesn’t make it impersonal. That’s technology, baby. However, I’m sure the older generation felt the same disjointed feeling when records and 8-tracks were phased out. You either adapt to the technology, or you die out. That’s a law of nature.

  6. avatar wolf

    well well Mr. Negative Nancy… I bet you don’t like kids walking on your grass either. Dumb article imo

  7. avatar this article is nonsense

    i agree with the guy above. this guy is complaining about nothing. go buy a crappy wired mad catz controller and shutup

  8. avatar Prixmans

    I just read an article about how they are coming out with wireless electricity. Soon nothing will have cords and call me what you want but not having cords is a blessing if you have kids. I use to have a ps2 for my kids and they got the cords tangled on a daily basis.

  9. avatar Anon

    I agree, something I think you should have included (and I’m unsure if you agree, or even know of it) is with DRM how restrictive digtitally downloaded things are, for example, funimation a anime licensor offer anime to download legally for $2 a episode, good deal and you support them (not the actual anime industry, but that’s another argument entirely) however, you can only move the file 3 times legally beetween your computers, now who really owns what you downloaded? If they did something like that with physical objects it would be unheard of, DRM does nothing to stop piracy, I feel that in the near future things will start being digital download, but there will be revolt on the way they handle it, until they remove the DRM.

  10. avatar Oh dear

    I personally think this article is digustingly aweful. You do realise that the Ps3 six-axis does not have a button sequence to connect to another console. Its a one button touch. Your complaining about issues that aren’t there. The controller itself tells you when your battery is running low, so just plug in then.

    like your surname, your a ponce

  11. Decent article, I liked it. There really aren’t that many wires to me. If batteries really become an issue I’ll invest in wiring my 360 controller and ps3 (when I get one). I still enjoy playing my ps2 cause I’m comfortably laid back in my bed when I play it. It’s all about how you arrange things for yourself.

    I’m cool if everything goes wireless, but I don’t mind having wires either.

  12. avatar Dr. Face Doctor

    Maybe I would leave my PS3 controller plugged in if the usb cable that came with it wasn’t so freaking short!

    • Get a usb cord extender. They’re a few bucks on places like Newegg and it solves your problem quickly and easily.

      Or you could get a charge base/mat to put near where you play so you can just put it away right there without being near the PS3 itself.

      I do both… but I also play way too many games, so its sort of a necessity.

  13. avatar name

    there is not 1 valid point there.
    the sync could not be easier i bring my DS3 controllers all over the place from my ps3 upstairs to my one downstairs to the one at work to my cuzs one to my mates ones.
    all you have to do is push the PS button thats not too hard for you is it?

    i have never noticed any latency issues with my DS3 controllers im still using my sixaxis that came with the console on launch.
    the only thing i was worried about is the battery life i thought they would die out very quickly but as i said im still using my sixaxis 3+ years later.

    getting off your but and plugging the thing in every 3 days or so is such a inconvenience is it?
    be grateful that we have wireless controllers, now i dont have to worry about people walking around tripping over them and sending my console flying onto the floor.
    lost count the amount of times that happened to my ps1 and ps2s.

  14. avatar user1337

    just to let you know, the ps3 internal battery can be replaced. The replacements are quite cheap as well. Its just a little more annoying to replace than regular batteries.

  15. avatar nitrousx

    evolution of wireless devices are slowly taking over, kinda sad in some respect i don’t mind wireless has such just dislike the batteries issues and lag that occasionally happens. I do to miss the days when co-op or local multi-player really meant something, but now it’s hardly used the whole online convenience that’s there now 24/7 as change how we communicate socially.

  16. avatar Sugreev2001

    There are people like you who complain just to be complaining.Sure,springing cash for batteries is never fun but there are some who’ve owned Handhelds since the early 90′s,when the Game Gear required 6 AA batteries and the Gameboy required 4 AA batteries.Now I only buy mercury-free batteries like Duracell which last longer than normal cheaper ones,and for someone who plays almost 3 hours in a day,they’re a bargain when I only have to change batteries for my 360 controller once a month.My PS3 on the other hand,has the best controller in the business.I only need to charge the controller I use regularly once in a week and it’s never died on me,since I always check the juice left when I switch on the console.

  17. “Perhaps I’m just a crotchety old man in his mid-twenties with fond memories of years gone by.”

    Dude, I’m a crotchety old man in his 30′s with fond memories of years gone by, yet I absolutely LOVE my wireless controllers. I don’t need a cable to feel more connected to my games. Instead I feel a sense of freedom which I’ve never gotten to experience before.

    I will admit though that when it comes to my PC games, I still use a wired mouse and keyboard. This is because I do the majority of my competitive online gaming on my PC and I require the split second accuracy you get from wires. I don’t need this from my console though.

    • Same here. It comes down to frequency of use in my case. Since my gaming PC is also used for mundane tasks like email and Excel worksheets (and eventually, AutoCAD and Revit), I need the constant power source. A console I’m likely to use an hour a day, if that.

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