Gripping and poking the yet-unreleased ultra-fancy $200 (£151) Scuf Gaming Vantage controller for PlayStation 4 was my most anticipated experience of E3 2018. (Sadly, this controller is only available for pre-order in the US and Canada, but fingers crossed for a UK release in the near future.) Of course I recorded it all on video. Watch this video for an interview with Scuf Gaming CEO and founder Duncan Ironmonger. Also watch this video for a sequence in which I hold the microphone up to the controller’s mechanical switches for your listening pleasure.
In their mission to “extend hand use,” as Ironmonger puts it, Scuf invented the rear controller paddle switch eight years ago, as Ironmonger points out to me in this interview. “Until then, these fingers back here were redundant,” he said, drumming his fingers on the back of the controller. Witness the glimmer in his eye as he speaks of his dream that, someday, a player wielding a controller will defeat an equally skilled player huddled over a mouse and keyboard.
I’m sure the above concept makes some would-be internet commenter bristle with rage, so let me interject: I’m not saying they’ve done it. I’m not saying Scuf Gaming have successfully made the controller that will destroy mouse and keyboards for good. I’m saying that, if inclined gingerly toward optimism, one can have a grand time admiring this man’s videotaped dedication.
I personally love controller paddles. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of paddles, here’s a primer: you can map any button on the controller to a paddle on the controller’s back. You can press these paddles with your middle or ring fingers. Now you can jump, aim, move, and shoot without your fingers ever leaving the analog sticks.
Scuf Gaming’s hypothesis, thus, is that the superiority of keyboards and mouse over controllers originates with most games’ designs requiring the player to lift their thumbs off the look controls at crucial moments.
Microsoft licensed Scuf Gaming’s paddles for use in the Xbox One Elite Controller, which has been my favourite game controller since I first used it. At the time I obtained my Elite I was already a stickler for controllers. I’d just finished pushing through the three-year process of designing and balancing an online competitive video game. That process had involved purchasing and spending at least two hours testing compatibility with 188 video game controllers by various dubious makers. By the end of this experience, I needed only stab my index finger into the right direction of a controller’s D-pad to arrive at a judgement of its uselessness or its excellence. The Xbox One Elite Controller arrived with the sensation of a tropical island holiday.
Thus I approached the Scuf Gaming Vantage with excitement. Indeed, I was more excited to touch, feel, and hold this controller than I had been to play any of the actual video games present at E3 2018. I’m going to play so many of the games that were at E3 2018—I just didn’t need to play them there. What I wanted most out of E3 was a memory—a muscle memory of what kind of tactile good time is possible with this new controller.
I’m sure for a lot of less obsessed game-likers the idea of a $200 controller ($169/£128 if you get the wired-only version) is ridiculous, so I took the opportunity to ask Ironmonger to pitch the controller to those sceptics. He then described game controllers as “the only tactile interface between the player and the game.”
I agree. I’d even go so far as I say that the controller is the most important piece of game hardware.
(Here the reader is invited to imagine an eight-hour video series in the vein of Ken Burns’ Baseball, in which I prove, using mathematics, that the controller is more important than game console.)
In conclusion, I like this controller a lot.