I think the last time I saw a halfway original idea for a game was around 1992. Everything I’ve seen since then has just been a re-hash of something old, with incrementally better graphics to make it prettier to look at, better AI to make the game harder to beat, and perhaps a new setting.
So I don’t play a lot of games. And when I do, I’d rather play an old game for an old system, which of convenience’s sake usually means running an emulator. But video games on a keyboard–even a really good keyboard–isn’t much fun, so I bought myself a cheap USB game controller.
The X-Kim GPTL-00A is a what passes for a basic controller these days, with a direction pad (no analog joysticks) and 8 buttons. It looks almost exactly like the original Sony Playstation controller. I paid $5 at Micro Center for it. A direction pad and, say, four buttons is all you need to emulate the old 8-bit systems that were popular when I was 12, so I thought the GPTL-00A might be perfect.
It sets up easily–just plug it in and Windows configures it as a USB Human Interface Device. Then my emulators just saw it and used it. Simple. Just how it should be.
But it has downsides. It’s lightweight, almost flimsy. And the buttons are stiff. After about 30 minutes, my thumbs hurt. I always thought the original Nintendo NES controllers were stiff and unresponsive and painful, but this controller is worse. It’s a little easier to hold, but after 30 minutes of play, both of my thumbs hurt. And all too often, I found myself watching helplessly as I tried to move my character on the screen, and the controller just wasn’t keeping up with my movements.
I was hoping it would be a decent controller for occasional use, because I don’t need to be using it more than maybe 5-10 minutes a day. It might be barely adequate for that. For me, the bigger question is whether, at $5, it’s worth driving 10 miles back to Micro Center to return or exchange it.
I think I would have been much happier with a Playstation 2-USB converter to let me put my Playstation controllers on PC duty. And since that converter has two ports, we could do family games of Pitstop II.
Family games of Pitstop II with two GPTL-00As would be more frustration than fun.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.