Anyone over the age of 30 will be able to remember the early days of computer games, when the images on the screen were so pixilated they could have been duplicated on paper with a half dozen felt tip pens in about twenty minutes by the average eleven year old. The games themselves took at least ten minutes to load from the tape, and the only conceivable method of interacting with the computer was to use the keyboard.
As technology developed, the advent of two new devices opened up a whole world of possibilities, with disk drives providing faster loading and bigger games, and a joystick allowing more dynamic and faster control of the images on the screen. It is hard to believe, but at this stage the idea of a computer mouse was still unimagined by home users.
Today, computer gamers have an incredible wealth of input devices to enhance the gaming experience and allow for far greater control and accuracy over the game. This has also helped in many cases with greater attention being paid to ergonomics, since many gamers are increasingly spending longer and longer periods of time on the computer, as games are becoming more and more detailed, with longer storylines and more in depth sequences of events.
The humble keyboard is still the most widely used input device for gamers, but even these have been adapted and developed, with some keyboards being specially designed and adapted for certain games, with commonly used keys laid out in a more usable pattern, color coordination of keys, and even extra keys to cope with specific commands.
The humble mouse has also been improved upon, going from the old mechanical style mouse to the newer optical mouse, providing greater and greater accuracy and speed of movement, and providing a smoother movement for greater accuracy in the game. Extra buttons are again often incorporated to allow the user to quickly enter specific commands. The mouse has been one of the most ergonomically designed devices in recent years, as it has so frequently been linked to a number of physiological conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and other RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) related problems. Mice now are available in a range of sizes, shapes and comfortable grips, with wrist rests sometimes incorporated.
Joysticks are most often used for flight simulator games, because they most closely mimic the steering controls of a number of aircraft, and provide a fairly intuitive means of steering and control. As a result of this, many joysticks have been designed to incorporate a greater number of buttons and features to allow greater accuracy in replicating the controls of an airplane, with throttle levers, and a range of buttons for controlling features such as landing gear.
But an even greater range of input devices have been created, with steering wheels and even foot pedals for driving games, and control devices that attach to your wrist and that identify movements of all parts of your body, able to sense you leaning, twisting and throwing in the way that you naturally would. In this sense, it has almost become the case that the human is as much a part of the input device as any technological gadget!