Person holding a Sony PlayStation Dualshock Controller
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Many family rooms have them: the wonky video game controller that one martyr is always forced to play with, saying something like, “I guess I’ll use the bad one.” But that’s never the end of it. No one uses the bad controller in silence. It’s a loud struggle—but a worthy one.

As long as there have been consoles and basements and childhoods, there’s been at least one worn out controller plaguing their innocence. Sometimes one can see it upon entering the video game room: there’s duct tape around the base, a splint holding the trigger, and the surface looks like it was dragged behind a motorcycle. Here a game of musical chairs occurs, though it feels more like Russian roulette, because having the wonky controller means you’re going to be killed pretty quickly.

Silently Suffering the Bad Controller

It’s handed out like a leftover veggie dog at a barbeque, and the chintzy owner begins giving elaborate instructions. “Press A two seconds before you actually need to press A,” he says. “Just hold down the trigger the entire time, and try to ignore the electric shocks. Hold it upside down when turning. L only works when the controller is completely submerged in olive oil, but we have a big bowl you can use.”

Initially you play with the controller in disgruntled silence, and accept your lot in life. “I am the bad controller person and I must make the best of it,” you think to yourself. This positive attitude lasts for about 45 seconds, and then the passive-aggressive deep breaths and murmurs commence. Suddenly the room is filled with a cacophony of “Come on” and “I pressed it” and “I would have won that if this thing worked.” Someone offers to switch controllers, and you don’t even respond.

This is certainly the way it can go, but it doesn’t have to. Like anything, one must remember that having the wonky controller does not define who you are, it’s how you respond to it. Because the only thing more annoying than a person complaining about using the bad controller is when the person with the bad controller starts winning.

But There’s Hope

A gamer holding a controller and shouting in victory.
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As a kid, I just assumed I was cursed to forever be left with the subpar controller, and so tried to compensate any way I could. I’d press the delayed button a little sooner, I’d focus on what the controller could do well and just do that thing perfectly over and over. And if the sticky button needed to be pressed so hard to work that it practically left a permanent imprint on my thumb, then dammit I would do that.

When the victories started flowing while using the hampered controller, I reached a level of obnoxiousness I hope none of you ever witness. “Does anyone here have a wooden spoon? Pretty sure I could win with that.” It made playing with the bad controller worth it. A win with a wonky controller is worth five wins with a good controller, like when Lebron won a championship in Cleveland.

That extra work with the controller turns an excuse into a point of pride, and soon you may find yourself requesting the bad controller and happily winning despite it. If I have kids, they will only know wonky controllers, so when they go over to spoiled friends’ houses, they’ll utterly dominate.

While rickety controllers are mostly a thing of the past with modern technology and redesigns, they still show up now and then. No amount of coding and quality control testing seems able to eliminate them. I’m glad. Can you imagine what kind of horrible world we’d have if there were only perfect, out-of-the-box controllers? You saw Gattaca. It would be an existence without character earned through struggle, a safe and innocuous place lacking gumption and originality. At least, I think that’s what that movie was about.

So if you have a bad controller at home, try to remember that using it builds strength, makes you a better player, and causes all future struggles to pale in comparison.

Or you could just buy a new controller. Either way.

Xbox Core Wireless Controller

New controllers do come in handy sometimes.

Profile Photo for Chason Gordon Chason Gordon
Chason Gordon is a staff writer and editor for How-To Geek. His writing has previously appeared in Slate, Vice, Input, and The Globe and Mail, among others. He currently lives in San Antonio, but is on a month-to-month lease.
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