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In praise of buttons

In praise of buttons

See, you know where you are with a good button and the bigger and chunkier the better, in my book. Modern technology allows for devices to be compact and sleek and minimal, and I’m all for simplicity but not at the expense of knowing, without any doubt, that I pressed what I meant to press.

It’s a problem I’ve had with this generation of consoles. It started with the 360. That power button looks like a good button at first glance – it’s big, it’s round, you can’t miss it. I was reminded of the classic original PlayStation power button – now that was a great power button. But when you press it, it sort of half gives – a successful press feels very similar to a failed press. I mean, what kind of button has a failed press anyway? Presumably, the minimal amount of give is the result of Microsoft’s ‘anything to make it smaller’ design policy, and not of any effort to be too fancy.

Which brings me onto the PS3. God, I hate those stupid touch pads and regard the buttons on the slim as a step forward, not back. You know exactly where a button is, exactly when you have and have not pressed it and, most importantly, it takes an instant to press it. You don’t have to hold it ‘til its warm enough to have turned into a Transformers badge then emits a seemingly random sequence of beeps and flashing lights before anything actually happens. I did like that big, chunky switch on the back, mind you, and was sorry to see that go from the Slim.

And don’t even get me started on touch screens. I truly don’t understand why someone would spend hundreds of pounds on a gadget, only to then have to cover its shiny, new screen in greasy finger-marks just to use it. I can just about tolerate the DS and its stylus – at least there’s some precision and no grease there – but the iPhone. It’s just clumsy and gross, man.

Finally then, the PlayStation Move. Admittedly I’m not really sold on motion control as a whole seeing as, even with buttons, it fundamentally goes against the principles (or maybe they’re bugbears) I’m outlining in this piece, but it seems to me that a motion controller with buttons beats the hell out of one without. Kinect might boast more sophisticated technology, but without buttons you’re surely going to end up flapping your hands at it ineffectually just to navigate menus, just like you did with the EyeToy.

This piece was written using buttons (or ‘keys’ as they’re otherwise known). I’m getting cold sweats at the very idea of typing all that with an iPad.

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  • daniel

    I’m an xbox man ,but I totally agree about control, waving your hands in front of some sensor you hope works well sounds like a pain in the ass! I’m not a kid any more and can’t imagine playing the types of games I like
    for any extended period like that. People are always trying to make things
    different,sometimes the old way is better.

  • Conor w

    If it ain’t broke dont fix it.Buttons all the way.

  • Jack

    You can’t go wrong with buttons. I mean, let’s face it, there really isn’t anything more satisfying than give a button a nice big push, right?

  • Pionir

    This goes right back to the 80s the C64 & BBC B owners always felt superior to Spectrum owners because of the “proper keyboard” – no wonder Speccy games needed a joystick.

    However regarding the iPhone (and android phones) – while they’re rubbish for typing on the keyboard on screen, there is a new breed of keyboard coming out which are gesture based and actually work quite well (and some would say better than tiny buttons would in the same space).

    I still want buttons on my game controller though thanks!

  • Pionir

    Another thought occurred to me, what would Daley Thomson’s decathlon be on an iPad or Kinetic/Move. A ruddy nightmare I should think.

    Perhaps you should do a top 5 games that could never work on touchscreens / motion control?