The designs of consoles has varied much over the years, from old cartridge playing consoles to disc playing ones. Generally they have always been quite large machines, though not the size of a desktop tower.
I think the design of the first Playstation console was very nice and intuitive. Almost symmetrical, it had the disc placement on the middle of the top of the console, it wasn’t bulky either. Then the four slots in the front, two for memory cards and two for controllers, again these were pretty symmetrical and placed in the best possible way. You had the on and off button placed to the left of the lid, which was a big round button with a small light leading from it, this was again similar to the button placement on the opposite side which controlled the lid for inserting and removing games. And there was also a smaller reset button, handy for all those demo discs that required a reset one you were done playing each game.
Sony’s PS controller was also a wonder. Originally with fourteen buttons, it was a sleek design and a big leap from the Sega Genesis controller. It had the directional buttons on the left side, and the now famous X, square, triangle and circle buttons on the right side. Also four buttons on the back of the controller; L1, L2, R1 and R2. There was also Start and Select in the middle of the controller. It fit well in your hands, all the buttons were easy to reach, and it was very light. But a little later, another controller was brought out and this had 2 analog sticks, which many games used from that point on. A lot of people preferred to control the game with these sticks rather than using the D-pad. It also allowed 2 extra key presses which were L3 and R3. The controller design was such a big success that they didn’t change it at all for their next console, the Playstation 2.
Moving on to the PS2, this was a much larger console compared to the PS1, but it made up for its size, not only in the power and the new games it could play, but with its ability to be placed on its side, and there fore stand horizontally. It was down to preference which was you kept it, and it could save space depending on where you placed it. It had a slide out tray for the games, some small buttons placed nicely at the front for reset, power and tray control. It had the same placement for memory cards and controllers as the PS1. Its overall shape was basically rectangular. Much later, there was a slim version brought out, and this was much smaller than the PS1, which was quite surprising, and yet it run all the games perfectly. And it was literally a miniature version of the first PS2. I would also like to mention about the game boxes for the PS2 games, most of them had a memory card holder placed above the disc’s space, which was very handy, providing you had the right sort of memory card to fit in the holder!
The amount of buttons on the Sony controllers was definitely needed, since as games advanced, more and more button were needed. Games began to get more complicated and realistic, so user input had to be more diverse. More and more games required multiple presses to perform different actions within the game. This is the same for today’s consoles.
The PS3 kept the same controller design, but with wireless options and a tilt sensor. The console itself however was a giant of a thing! Bigger even than the original PS2, it was accepted that its size was needed because of its vast processing power. But again, Sony brought out a slimmer version of their new console.
On Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the console is again rather large, but I think we are used to it at this stage! The controller is similar to the PS controllers already discussed, except where the shape buttons on the PS controls are, they are named A,B,X and Y. And the back buttons are called RB, LB (bumpers), RT, LT (Triggers). I had always wondered at the placement of the analog sticks though. The left stick is much higher, and the D-pad has replaced where it would have been on the PS controller, next to the right stick. While you can still access it easier, it seems that they only did this to avoid similarity to Sony’s placement of the sticks.
Overall I think the controllers are very intuitive. For games like Call of Duty and Gears of War, they work very well. Developers always have a way of linking controls and making it easy to play games. And most games copy each other. Using the same buttons for the same actions, only to make it easier for people to get into playing a new game. I remember trying to get my grandmother to play Driver 2 on the PS1, she complained that she wouldn’t be able to use the controller while looking only at the screen, and I said that you just have to get used to it, and she almost got it before she lost interest! But it shows that games and controllers are designed in such a way as that you don’t have to look at the controller at all once you know what buttons to press for certain actions. Plus, games always have a tutorial or beginner level to teach you the controls you’ll be using.
With the Nintendo Wii, PS Move and Kinect for Xbox, games can now be played with more physical interactions than just your thumbs. Wii was great for all the family to join in and have fun with the silly sports games, but even the respectable fitness games allowed adults who would otherwise never play games to give it a go. The same goes for Move and Kinect. The effect that these motion controls have had on games has been quite dramatic. Obviously most of them had to have specific games made just for them, but there are also a few games that have the option of controller or motion controls. Move and Wii is great for sword fighting games, since you feel more like you are in the game when you are actually slashing your arms and controlling the sword on screen. Also, since there is limited amount of actions you can perform and stances, games that are motion controlled have been made a lot simpler. They are quite intuitive, with actions that you perform being obvious choices for actions in the game.