The History of the Arcade Game Joystick

Do you miss the good old days? No, not when gas was $0.25 per gallon and you paid the same for a loaf of bread. We’re talking about the days when all arcade game machines used joysticks during game play. How was the joystick incorporated into arcade gaming and how did it become a symbol for all things fun during the golden age of arcade games? Read on to find out.

Ralph Bauer’s Wonderful Invention

Sometimes called, “the father of video games,” Ralph Bauer is a German-born American video game developer who first introduced the joystick to gaming in 1967. Maybe you remember Sega’s arcade game Missile – the first game to utilize a joystick with an additional “fire” button. The popularity of the joystick exploded, especially when Atari released their first digital joystick in 1977. Even after Nintendo and Sega began releasing consoles with controllers and pads, joysticks could be purchased and added to enhance the gamer’s experience.

Nintendo Took the Next Step

Nintendo began producing controllers with directional pads in 1982. The simple up-down and side-to-side buttons took little effort for gamers to execute the motions of a game, and fit the current style of Nintendo games perfectly. However, it wasn’t long before advancements in complexity of the actual games forced developers to look backwards towards joysticks to achieve the much-needed movements to enhance game play.

The Nintendo64 Controller

Nintendo’s N64 controller placed a notched joystick in the center, called the “control stick” allowing gamers to precisely move about within 3D games like Super Mario 64. In addition, 1967 saw the release of the “Rumble Pak”, the first time game play was enhanced through the physical sensations released through the controller itself.

Sony’s PlayStation Version

Sony’s Dual Analog controller took this innovation a step further, by adding two joysticks on either side of its M-shaped controller in 1967, with the addition of rumbling vibrations in its subsequent model, the DualShock controller. Today, Sony’s DualShock design has gone mostly unchanged, signaling the success of the design and its positive reception and active use among gamers worldwide.

Next time you see a classic game with a joystick, realize that you aren’t just looking at a symbol of days gone by, but the foundation upon which all future game controllers were built.