For everyday use at least, surfing the web and the like, I’ve preferred a trackpad for quite a while now. There are two main reasons for this: First, multi-touch gestures mean I much more rarely resort to keyboard shortcuts now - and they’ve been good friends for many years, being far from cumbersome themselves. Second, whether it has a ball or a laser, sooner or later the tracking mechanism in a mouse gets gunked up with something and it’s just… eugh. It’s so dull to have to regularly tease wads of grunge out of the thing just so it’ll work. Dull.
It’s a different matter entirely when gaming, though. I found the limit of my beloved trackpad recently when I tried to play a favourite old click-and-scroll adventure and certain combinations of moving the cursor and clicking were completely impractical. [N.B. - Lucasarts’ Full Throttle is one of the best games of all time, whether or not it’s hard to play with a trackpad.] So I found myself wanting a mouse again.
This made me wonder why my instinct was to look backward to my mouse as the solution, despite it still having the problems that put me off it to begin with, rather than to look for a new solution outside of that narrow binary? As you might have guessed, nostalgic looking backwards is very in character for me, but apart from that there’s not much excuse, especially since a potentially brilliant solution has already made a polite little cough and introduction. The steam controller combines dual trackpads under the user’s thumbs in a role akin to that usually occupied by sticks, on a gamepad specifically designed to fundamentally rethink mouse-based PC gaming.
What's more - it's far from alone. As well as the huge number of existing other pad controllers, joysticks, and plasticky steering wheels, motion controls are starting to break into PC use and gaming. The Razer Hydra let us play Portal 2's Sixense In Motion DLC Pack, while Leap Motion wants our hands to let go of interaction tech entirely.
What's your favourite all-rounder? Do you have an ingenious idea for a new kind of control that you need to get out? Are you that lone eccentric who's adamant you'll never be happy steering your web browser with anything but a hefty plastic wheel that came with a decade-old racing game, and you'd like to tell us why? Friends, the floor is open.