Home Computer: Joysticks and the adolescent male

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The Independent Online
THERE IS NOTHING adolescent boys like more than waggling their joysticks - computer games are an overwhelmingly male obsession, writes Nigel Willmott.

Cod Freudianism apart, there is no doubt that a joystick - a device remarkably similar to that used by Sloopy and other First World War aces in their Sopwith Camels - is the best way to play games.

The joystick was specially developed by Atari for games and Atari-type joysticks still dominate the market, whatever type of computer the game is being played on. For a PC-compatible computer, a special piece of hardware with a 'port' or connector at the back is required to attach and operate the joystick. Until recently this meant adding it yourself to one of the 'slots' or sockets on the inside of the machine, but often newer systems have them fitted as standard.

The joystick moves up and down and from side to side moving the game protagonist on screen and has buttons attached to fire the usual array of inter-galactic weaponry. They are shaped to fit in the hand so that full attention can be given the devious ploys of aliens on screen.

However, games can also be played using a mouse - if the computer has one - which is functional, though not quite so adapted for the speed of movement games require.

In extremis games can also be played from the keyboard. For anyone who has toiled for years and still can only manage dyslexic typing, watching a nine or ten-year-old guide a lunar module about the screen with deft manipulation of keys using both hands is a humbling sight.

Joysticks are available with or without the extra control hardware from about pounds 15, but if you are contemplating becoming an addict, a more expensive heavy duty model may be worth the extra - you don't want to suddenly lose sideways motion as you are about to collide with the planet Tharg.

For truly obsessive gamers, devices such as Game Chairs, which have joysticks built into the armsrests, are available at about pounds 200. But delivery of one of these is likely to be followed by a visit from the men in white coats.

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