Home Gaming Friday Debate – It’s time to ditch the D-Pad

Friday Debate – It’s time to ditch the D-Pad

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FD-D-pad-2

When Nintendo introduced the idea of four directional buttons to mainstream audiences outside of arcades with a handheld version of Donkey Kong, it was a revolution. Here was an idea, that just about anyone could grasp within seconds. Press left to go left, press right to go right etc. The directional pad would soon evolve and go massive with the classic Nintendo Entertainment System console, creating a hardware feature that everyone from Sega to Atari would adopt in kind.

The D-Pad was, is and most likely will still be a concrete feature in any video game controller. Maybe it’s time to dump it in the trash of history.

I look at controllers today, and they’re ergonomic beauties. From the rumbly goodness of the Xbox One input device, through to the Dual Shock’s wondrous touchpad and perfection personified in the Nintendo Switch pro controller. The big three all have a D-pad link in common, which I believe is holding games back today.

There’s only so much real estate that designers can dedicate to a controller, with old-fashioned directional inputs taking up at least a healthy quarter of what’s available for your hands. If you’re using the same input ideas for games all the time, then sooner or later you’re going to hit a creative block. And before you too frothed up, yes I am aware that the D-Pad is still the best when it comes to playing certain genres.

Hell, the fighting game fans among you are probably calling for my head here, but get this: I am the world’s greatest digital punch-game player of all time (It’s true, go look it up or gaze at my spray-painted cardboard World Title belt) and I prefer analogue sticks. The D-pad is quickly becoming a niche way to play games, much like fully dedicated steering wheels are for racing games and waggling your arms around futilely in virtual reality wiggle experiences. Those are still valid input methods with their own smaller audiences. Maybe the D-Pad should join them.

I’m not saying that the traditional controller needs a radical redesign, merely a certain portion of it. In a future where games will be determined not by how they look as soon as the 4K uncanny valley is breached but rather how they are played, someone needs to take that first step and present a new idea to players. Valve’s Steam controller might be a good example of this, but I think the industry can do better.

It’s time to ditch the D-Pad once and for all. Because tradition is merely the baggage of the past. What do you think?

Last Updated: September 15, 2017

42 Comments

  1. Geoffrey Tim

    September 15, 2017 at 10:34

    “What do you think?”

    I think you’re an idiot. The D-pad is awesome.

    Reply

    • VampyreSquirrel

      September 15, 2017 at 10:40

      This is my comment of the week.

      Screw you Darryn!

      Reply

  2. RinceThis

    September 15, 2017 at 10:36

  3. Alien Emperor Trevor

    September 15, 2017 at 10:38

    What’s a D-pad?

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      September 15, 2017 at 10:43

      Keeps you from leaking during your deriod.

      Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        September 15, 2017 at 10:44

        Guess what I’ll be playing this weekend?

        D:OS 2! o/

        Reply

        • Original Heretic

          September 15, 2017 at 10:45

          Ah, I’m jealous! Have fun, dude.
          I started Warframe about two weeks ago, so I’m thoroughly into that right now.

          Reply

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            September 15, 2017 at 10:46

            Big update for that coming soon too!

          • Original Heretic

            September 15, 2017 at 10:48

            So I’ve read. Looking forward to it. I’ve just started Mars missions, so I’m still well away from any later content.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            September 15, 2017 at 10:51

            Damn you’ve got a long way to go. I remember clearing out the star chart back in the good old days. What frame you running with?

          • Original Heretic

            September 15, 2017 at 10:55

            I love long, free games! Especially since I roped one of me best mates in as well.

            I’m running with Volt. The only other frames that interest me as still a ways off.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            September 15, 2017 at 11:04

            Remember to wait until someone’s just jumped and then hit 2.

            …so they go flying face first into a wall thanks to the speed boost. Thanks Otto. Dick. 😀

          • Original Heretic

            September 15, 2017 at 11:06

            I’m playing on PS4. I don’t have a 2 button.
            But I get what you saying and thanks for the tip. Though I am avoiding PvP at the moment.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            September 15, 2017 at 11:10

            No I don’t touch PvP. That happened in PvE when I was using my favourite Zephyr.

          • Ottokie

            September 15, 2017 at 11:37

            Hundreds of hours later and not a single second has been spent in PvP xD

          • Original Heretic

            September 15, 2017 at 11:39

            PvP is for the people who spend too much money on F2P games.

          • Ottokie

            September 15, 2017 at 11:43

            Warframe is the most expensive game I own on steam xD

          • Ottokie

            September 15, 2017 at 11:36

            :3

          • schitsophrenic-toothbrush

            September 15, 2017 at 11:33

            Any good? Is there a hectic paywall as its free to play

          • Original Heretic

            September 15, 2017 at 11:43

            I’m really enjoying it, as is my buddy who I roped in to play as well.
            I’m still bit of a noob, but from what I’ve seen, just about all the items that you can pay real money for are also available via in-game currency and grind.
            You either spend the real money currency and get the item right away, or you spend in-game currency to buy the blueprint, gather components, then make the item yourself.
            It’s a rather cool system.

        • RinceThis

          September 15, 2017 at 10:47

          Left the e out…

          Reply

          • Original Heretic

            September 15, 2017 at 10:50

            Did your spelling break?
            EDOS.
            DEOS.
            DOES.
            DOSE.

            Which one of these nonsensical efforts at a word were you referring to?

            Now, if you said he left an o out, that would have been a different story…

          • RinceThis

            September 15, 2017 at 10:51

            Damn it, that’s what I meant!

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            September 15, 2017 at 10:51

            But it’s not what you sed!

          • RinceThis

            September 15, 2017 at 10:53

            I no wot I ment!

          • Original Heretic

            September 15, 2017 at 10:58

            Oh, okay, I see. Phonetic spelling. a.k.a. you’re a lazy git.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            September 15, 2017 at 11:01

            Cos he’s phoning it in? 😀

          • Original Heretic

            September 15, 2017 at 11:03

            Because his spelling ability is phony. No wonder he prefers doing video reviews.

          • RinceThis

            September 15, 2017 at 11:10

            shush!

        • Dresden

          September 15, 2017 at 11:06

          D:OS 2 hype! o/

          Reply

        • schitsophrenic-toothbrush

          September 15, 2017 at 11:31

          Dude Im jealous! This needs to come to PS4 soon!

          Reply

  4. Original Heretic

    September 15, 2017 at 10:43

    No way should it be scrapped. And not just because of certain genres like fighting games where the D-Pad is often necessary to pull off some of those insane combos.
    In games where every button serves to function as a character action, the D-pad is necessary for quick items on the fly.
    What alternative do you offer to that? Those cumbersome selection wheels? No farking way.

    Reply

  5. HvR

    September 15, 2017 at 10:52

    Also think it should stay especially if you look outside of gaming to the other functionalities you find on consoles these days navigation and selection a lot of times is easier with the D-pad and for non-gaming users much more intuitive.

    Reply

  6. Skittle

    September 15, 2017 at 10:53

    Put the D-Pad provides additional buttons. The controllers would be as useless as a keyboard without a numpad (I know some people use such devices, shame on you)

    Reply

    • Matthew Holliday

      September 15, 2017 at 12:33

      But that was the point of L1L2 R1R2. Ergonomic macro buttons.

      relegating the D-pad to a set of macro buttons is a waste of space, they arent efficient or ergonomic at all.
      Its tolerable on the PS controllers, but on the xbox ones, trying to push the down buttons without changing grip pretty much dislocates your thumb.
      And since left analog is usually your primary movement stick, having to take your thumb off to use the D-pad is sometimes impossible.

      Im not thinking remove them, Im thinking change them.
      Like a shift button underneath for combinations, or like that xbox elite controller with the extra paddles.

      Reply

  7. Kaz Miller

    September 15, 2017 at 11:08

  8. Ottokie

    September 15, 2017 at 11:23

    What did the D pad ever do to you?

    Reply

  9. Magoo

    September 15, 2017 at 11:32

    If you had something better to replace it, then why not. But why look for the reason?

    Anyway, what do I know. I use the QWERTY gamepad. It has a few more buttons, so not necessary to throw anything in the trash.

    Reply

  10. brad coetzee

    September 15, 2017 at 13:01

    this article is borderline clickbait haha!

    remove the d-pad = remove buttons in general.
    Devs have attempted this with motion control, it gets met with backlash.

    Reply

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