See also my writeup under Letters or Symbols? for a long-winded, dull rant.

The super nintendo controller was a big thing because Nintendo, for their big, earth-shattering (to them) new 16-bit console, had just decided to go all-out. After all, Sega had just released something with three buttons, and they had to outdo that, right?

The 8-way directional pad and start/select were unchanged, but the traditional A B buttons had expanded into a mind-boggling *gasp* four!, Y, X, B and A. As if this weren't already more than any game designer could ever use, they had added the toss-off "tilt" L and R buttons up top, where your index fingers would slide naturally.

The SNES controller felt more natural to me than any other controller before or since, and I think that was because of one other tiny little thing that makes all the difference in the world:

Concave buttons.
Half of you are going "huh?" right now, the other half are nodding your heads sagely. Because the Y X on a Super Nintendo controller were indented. You may not have been aware of this, but it affected you. See, when they were first developing the Super Famicom, they decided to do something that very few (not enough) companies actually do: Sit some people down in a room, ask them to use the product, and watch them. When they did this, they discovered the same thing you'll discover if you watch people playing Playstation for any length of time: People kept looking down at the buttons, not quite sure what they were pressing. So Nintendo decided to provide that wonderful thing, tactile feedback, by indenting two of the buttons, so you could essentially feel which way is up. You didn't have to look; your fingers knew where they were. I think this tiny, tiny thing went a long way to why the SNES controller got embedded in your hands in a way the PSX controller never seems to.

The SNES controller sparked a miniature revolution, not because it opened up new fields of creativity but because it was essentially mandatory that any new console controllers had to be wierder than the Super Nintendo Controller. (So they would appear innovative, and all, y'know.) L and R equivalents became mandatory, and you had to come up with some wierd gimmicks of your own, about half of which turned out to be good ideas: Four L/R area buttons! Analog joysticks next to the 8-way! Little LCD screens in the controller! A built-in vibrator! A trigger! A Pen Input! A Full 104-key keyboard with Wireless Ethernet connectivity! The ability to recieve e-mail!

But for some reason none of them used the damn concave buttons.

nokobon says Thought you should know that the Super Famicom controller never had concave buttons, just the SNES.

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