If you put an Xbox or PlayStation controller in my hand, I will look at you like you just handed me a dodecahedral hand puzzle wrapped in Chinese finger traps. What am I supposed to do with this thing? There are, like, a trillion buttons. And the joysticks? Pfft. No thanks, I’ll pass.
On the other hand, put an original Nintendo controller in my hand and, brother, game on. Best thing about this icon? Two buttons. B and A. One four-way directional pad. Start and Pause. Simplicity, folks, that’s where it’s at. As Shakespeare wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Look, I realize my controller cantankerousness dates me. You young whippersnappers are probably snickering on your sofa, punching each other in the shoulder and saying, “Look at grandpa over there. Maybe we should get him an EZ Eyes keyboard, too.”
Mock me if you must. I don’t care. I will go to my grave still defending the original NES games, too. And I also understand the folly of exalting 8-bit graphics in an era when we can play dazzling, high-def, 3-D games on our phones.
But to try and explain the joy I get from blowing the dust off the cartridge pins, shoving it into the slot and playing a game of RBI Baseball would be like trying to tap the Dalai Lama’s source of enlightenment. Maybe I should join these guys.
The original hive of this enlightenment, if you will, was the basement of my friend Mookie’s house. It was there we wasted countless sunny afternoons playing long stretches of Tecmo Bowl and Baseball Stars. It was in these dark, subterranean confines, surrounded by Cool Ranch Doritos and Dr. Pepper, that the genesis of our misanthropic leanings first took root. And for the record, my punk band is totally going to do a cover of the Tecmo Bowl theme song.
About the only thing that could have made Mookie’s basement gaming den even better is this: a coffee table that is a fully functional Nintendo controller.
The table comes compliments of weaver of dreams and furniture maker Charles Lushear. Just to prove that we’re all adults here, with refined adult tastes in furniture design, Lushear made the piece out of maple, mahogany and walnut woods, which only adds to its elegance. The dovetail joinery and retractable cord are lovely flourishes, too.
And guess what? When you’re not conquering Contra, the controller face sits underneath a removeable glass top. That way, you don’t need to worry about spilling Diet Mountain Dew all over the place.
If I were a wealthier man, I would surprise Mookie and buy him this table for his birthday next year. But because it’s priced at $3,500, he’ll have to be happy with a paperback. For those who don’t have an NES system, Lushear says he’s looking into making a controller compatible with the Wii.
And now, I leave you with an homage to the great controller — a little finger ballet, compliments of the code to Contra: Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A.