Why is the joystick on the left side?

ChocolateChocolate Joined: Posts: 3
I've never gotten a satisfying answer to this simple question.

I've always expected something practical for the reason. "The joystick is on the left side because ____" and that'd be the end of it. But, no, the replies I've gotten usually range from "because it is" to "suck it up, get used to it." I've never done the arcades. I've played controllers my whole life and within the past few years, migrated to PC with keyboard and mouse.

I've heard reasons like that your right hand is more dextrous and able to do the complex button inputs. But that's not true as shown by this Starcraft video. PC players use their left hand for complex key inputs and their right for mouse movement so that argument is weak.

Then there are replies like "Go make your own fightstick" which completely ignore the question.

I would get frustrated sometimes and literally flip around the fightstick and pretend to use it with my right hand, feeling it more noticeably natural and instinctive. I've had suspicions that being left handed would be an advantage (at first). We use so many things right handed so why is something as complex as motion inputs given to our weak hand?

I'm not familiar with arcade history, but my guess is that it has something to do with the network effect. In basic, the more popular something is, the more useful is becomes. The more left handed joysticks there are, the more people have to use it to play, then the more left handed joysticks are made and so on, becoming a self-perpetuating cycle.

My favorite network effect example is the QWERTY keyboard which many people don't realize may not be the most efficient layout.
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Comments

  • eltroubleeltrouble Joined: Posts: 5,562 ✭✭✭✭
    It's basically the network effect. There have been arcades with the stick on the right side, and the buttons on the left, but they weren't nearly as prevalent as the design we have today. Eventually arcade cabs started to standardize this layout on all of their cabs, and thus, we have what we have now. It's similar to how the standard driving position got developed. A really popular brand pioneered what they thought to be the ideal setup, and so all others followed suit in an attempt to identify with their established customer base.
  • XthAtGAm3RGuYXXthAtGAm3RGuYX Flawless Prosecutor. Joined: Posts: 7,351 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I always chalked it up the the fact that almost every video game platform ever has had a default input method for movement on the left side of the controller. Gameboy, NES, Playstation, Xbox, Gamecube, you name it. With the exception of the weirdos that play inverted controls on video games, the rest of us inadvertently associate movement with the left side of the controller and our left hand, while all other inputs are associated with the right side of the controller and our right hand. When you think about it when is the last time you played, for generic example, Call of Duty, and wiggled the right analog stick and wondered "Why aren't I moving?!?"? Hopefully never, Whenever you start a new video game you will pretty much always go immediately to the left side of the controller when you want to move.

    TL;DR: Over the years of gaming, left of controller = movement. Right side = everything else. Hence, joystick is on left side, everything else is on the right.


    Fun fact: I did not include any non first or third person games into my hypothesis as they normally don't grant direct access to a character's movement. I'm also not speaking about the network effect or whatever since it's likely to be mentioned multiple times by others.
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  • GordonsBeardGordonsBeard QCF+P Bad Stoned Joined: Posts: 379
    Tradition?
    I mean you kind of answer your own question, it's the network effect.
  • pheraipherai LIVE FOREVER Joined: Posts: 11,544 mod
    dude I've never seen a cab with a stick on the right side in any arcade. I've heard its like that in Mexico. Either way since they are controllers that are publicly used, there's no real point to try to accommodate people who might be more comfortable with it on the right side. Whatever you (arbitrarily) choose you'd have to stick with it to provide some standard for people.

    @XthAtGAm3RGuYX

    I think its more likely that consoles adopted this practice from arcades. Arcades have been around longer.
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  • eltroubleeltrouble Joined: Posts: 5,562 ✭✭✭✭
    dude I've never seen a cab with a stick on the right side in any arcade. I've heard its like that in Mexico.

    I've seen a couple of Mortal Kombat 1 cabs like that when I was a kid in the 90s. They're a rarity though.
    I think its more likely that consoles adopted this practice from arcades. Arcades have been around longer.

    You know, I'm curious about who set that standard first, consoles or arcades? Personally speaking, I first saw this "control on left, buttons on right" layout on the NES/Famicom in the 80s, and as far as I know, the arcades before that usually had a joystick in the center, with buttons arbitrarily on the left or right side.
  • XthAtGAm3RGuYXXthAtGAm3RGuYX Flawless Prosecutor. Joined: Posts: 7,351 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @XthAtGAm3RGuYX

    I think its more likely that consoles adopted this practice from arcades. Arcades have been around longer.
    It could be. I was born in 94' so arcades were pretty much out the door entirely by the time I started playing video games. Regardless of that I think consoles keeping the setup going is what cemented that idea into place where movement is left, the rest is right.
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  • petran79petran79 Here comes an old challenger Joined: Posts: 1,520 ✭✭✭
    because people wanted to smoke a cigarette from time to time, so it was easier to leave the right hand to grab the cigarette or a drink!

    seriously:

    the Atari2600 controller could be played by both left and right handed players.I was used to that controller for a while.the Amiga joystick was similar.
    only with the NES and the Master System had I to be used to controls left, buttons right button.
    I've seen a couple of Mortal Kombat 1 cabs like that when I was a kid in the 90s. They're a rarity though.

    You know, I'm curious about who set that standard first, consoles or arcades? Personally speaking, I first saw this "control on left, buttons on right" layout on the NES/Famicom in the 80s, and as far as I know, the arcades before that usually had a joystick in the center, with buttons arbitrarily on the left or right side.

    In the 80s a lot of arcades had buttons on both sides for left or right hand. this trend seemed to have disappeared in the 90s.

    even so I remember some games despite that layout, had modified cabs with buttons been on the right side only. Eg I remember a Dig Dug cab in a multi-store. Probably to save up space.

    It probably had to do that the consoles had already established that sort of control.

    though fighters are much harder to get into.
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  • WTF-AKUMA-HAXWTF-AKUMA-HAX I'm well Aware Joined: Posts: 9,357 ✭✭✭✭✭
    You can play crosshanded if you want.

    Seth Killian joked about that and giving a nod to the other crosshanded players he ever randomly came across in tournaments and arcades. There's some kind of unsaid and understood code between them, in that they both play with this much more rare way of controlling their characters. Yes, sometimes by necessity of being left handed. Arcades setups were the only way, so he learned and practiced with this crosshand setup by choice.

    Qanba put out that reversible stick too if you would be interested in trying one of those.
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  • CryohCryoh Rock Shock Thunderous Beat Joined: Posts: 9,539 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I had assumed that they put the stick on the left in order to make the games slightly harder to control, which would then get the arcade owners more quarters.
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  • petran79petran79 Here comes an old challenger Joined: Posts: 1,520 ✭✭✭
    You can play crosshanded if you want.

    Seth Killian joked about that and giving a nod to the other crosshanded players he ever randomly came across in tournaments and arcades. There's some kind of unsaid and understood code between them, in that they both play with this much more rare way of controlling their characters. Yes, sometimes by necessity of being left handed. Arcades setups were the only way, so he learned and practiced with this crosshand setup by choice.

    Qanba put out that reversible stick too if you would be interested in trying one of those.

    I play crosshanded too, but only regarding fighters. Crosshanded gives you a stability too, since your arms are tied (literally!).
    Or else I would require many months practice. . For other genres I dont have any issues, even though I play better with right hand for controls. I prefer the WASD/mouse control for 3D action games and FPS as well. the energy I'd spend to play FPS or fighters with a pad, can be better used on a crosshanded stick.
    Still some control problems due to the weird angles are unavoidable but much still much better than playing with left.
    I had assumed that they put the stick on the left in order to make the games slightly harder to control, which would then get the arcade owners more quarters.

    nah, in order to make them harder they gave us a small seat where we couldnt lean our back.......On net cafes they have now those comfortable chairs and can sit for hours!
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  • eltroubleeltrouble Joined: Posts: 5,562 ✭✭✭✭
    I had assumed that they put the stick on the left in order to make the games slightly harder to control, which would then get the arcade owners more quarters.

    It wouldn't make sense to make arcade games difficult to control, because people wouldn't play it in the first place. It's a better business strategy to make games easy to control, but difficult to beat, which incentivizes people to put in more quarters in an attempt to beat it.

    But even ignoring that, the vast majority of people who play on arcade sticks use the standard layout, so clearly it works for most people.
  • Missing PersonMissing Person Scurred of stupidity. Joined: Posts: 12,045 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Well, a righty still has to fret guitar strings with his weak hand, and that's pretty complex in itself.

    My theory is that while the weak hand may not be the greatest at complex motions, it is easier to train your weak hand for these motions than to train it to time itself to strike objects at proper timing with those motions.

    I can easily fret guitars with my right hand, sure, but it's certainly difficult for me to strum or pluck strings in time with those frettings using my left hand, as a righty.

    Now certainly there are exceptions, such as ambidextrous people who write predominantly with their right hand but play guitar left handed, or lefties that learn how to play street fighter with their left hand on the stick. But the latter is a matter of growing up in a predominantly right handed society and having to adapt somehow to play in arcades, and the former is a psychological/physiological thing I couldn't even begin to understand. But you get the basis of my theory.
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  • eltroubleeltrouble Joined: Posts: 5,562 ✭✭✭✭
    Well, it also might have to do with the fact that if you use your left-hand for the majority of movements requiring dexterity, it helps to activate the left-side of your brain. That's the theory anyway. It's why sometimes you see FPS or FTS guys use their left-hand for mouse movements despite being predominantly right-handed.
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