Call it "The Lighter Side of Gaming", if you will, but "JoySchtick" just sounds so much cooler! Join Tim Snider through his irreverant (and completely true) misadventures in videogaming.

Out of "Control"

My buddy Roger (discussed in an earlier Joyschtick ) was a bit of a classic gaming MacGyver - with his specialty being controllers. He could build, juryrig, or repair nearly any controller, which was handy because he was the very reason most of our joysticks, gamepads, paddles, and steering controllers were busted in the first place.

If a character on-screen didn’t react as fast as Roger wanted it to, he’d crank the stick as far as he could until the “snap.” If the Kaboom buckets weren't under the bombs, he'd violently thrash the knob of the paddle back and forth until the poor controller sounded like a maraca when you shook it. Commodore 64 Pitstop was quite the joystick casualty creator. If he missed a turn, he'd bend it 90 degrees while screaming, “THIS WAY, YOU BASTARD! I WANTED YOU TO GO THIS WAY!” -CRACK-

Anyway, Roger's game-related tantrums ended up being a good thing on occasion, because he was then forced to apply his above-average electronic skills toward fixing whatever he messed up - and oftentimes, the "new" controller worked better than the original.

I recall once, after yet another joystick snap, I mentioned to Rog that he may want to build his next joystick out of steel so it could better handle his "aggressive style of play." So that's what he did. He took some stainless steel sheet metal and cobbled together it together with some heavy duty switches and springs and made a joystick that wouldn't break if you ran over it with a car. (I know this because that's how we tested it.) It worked for a while. Roger wasn’t able to break the damn stick. Instead, he’d get stressed out; whip it over his head by the cord; then hurl it in some random direction, nearly braining one of us.

We threw it away one day when he wasn't around. Better the sticks get broken than our skulls.

When he wasn't breaking things or nearly braining one of us, Roger would tweak our existing controllers with his own special alterations. He installed Turbo and Rapid Fire buttons on our joysticks before they became common. He was the first to figure out how to wire up a joystick so it could be rotated 90 degrees - placing the red fire button in the upper right corner. Presto - instant left-handed joystick.

He custom designed a controller for the Sega Star Trek game. Rather than pushing forward on the stick for Thrust and pulling back for Photon torpedoes, Roger's Star Trek controller had extra buttons mounted on it for these extra functions. Of course, it looked like the joystick had broken out in some kind of plastic button acne. We called it "Frankentroller."

He even designed a Pitfall “jump” controller. It was a simple footpad made out of a couple of planks of plywood. When you lifted your foot - as if you were the one jumping - it caused Harry to jump. Roger had designed the footpad years before the DDR craze had occurred.

I daresay, Roger could've gone far in the electronics field if only he had been able to rein in his anger issues. I think he works for the post office now.

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Last updated: Monday, March 20, 2006 07:38 PM