Time and time again, I’ve encountered a certain question from fellow new gamers: What materials do I actually need to play video games? It's no wonder this query is so popular, as there are hundreds of bits and bobbins being marketed alongside the games themselves as totally essential experience-enhancers.
Buying games and consoles is expensive enough without being tricked into acquiring a bunch of useless plastic doohickies, which, honestly, is what most of the peripherals out there amount to. Avoid the items on this list at all costs -- and then spend that saved money on some of the peripherals you really do need.
Steel Battalion (and its ridiculous controller). It should come as no surprise to gamers that Capcom, a company known for producing some of the most crazy-difficult games ever, masterminded these shenanigans. In Steel Battalion, you fight baddies in a giant, two-legged mech, which is more fun in theory than in practice. There are more than 40 elements on the controller to concern yourself with -- and don’t worry, if you mess up, there’s no forgiveness. Didn't eject at the right time? Your save file's wiped, so start over. But more...uh, amusing?...is the fact that this game's controller is so big that you actually sit in it (I’m not making this up). I had the pleasure of actually encountering Steel Battalion in real life, and I can attest to the fact that, yes, this game is stupidly hard and, yes, the controller is awful, if not so comically stereotypical and overblown that it’s awesome. If you know a guy who paid $200 for this equipment, try it out, but it’s really more of a novelty than anything. Once you stop laughing at how mind-bendingly easy it is to fail at Steel Battalion, that’s it, you’re done, and all you’ll have is a coffee table-sized paperweight to show for it.
Mario Kart Wii Wheel. This accessory is just terrible. It's good in theory, but, oh man, is it awful in practice. I actually encourage you to test this puppy out if you ever play Mario Kart with someone who owns a Wii Wheel, purely to experience it. If you’ve ever driven a real car, you’ll find the process to be absolutely nothing like that, though I imagine this sensation is the opposite of Nintendo’s intentions. You'll spend whole laps tilting the wheel back and forth and side to side with wild abandon, hoping your car will respond correctly (and luckily not committing vehicular manslaughter because it’s just a video game). For that matter, do yourself a favor and don’t play with a Wiimote at all. Buy a GameCube controller and thank me later.
And as a matter of fact, we can add to this list...
Most Nintendo Wii Peripherals. You should honestly just look the other way when it comes to most, if not all, of the oddly specific peripherals Nintendo churns out. I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a Nintendo fangirl, but I draw the line at purchasing semi-functional bowling balls, boxing gloves, and maracas. Since the Wii is such a popular system for new and casual gamers, I feel like this warning is necessary: You really, really don’t need any of these things to enjoy your system.
Specialized Keyboards. Game Informer recently ran an issue featuring the Star Wars: The Old Republic Gaming Keyboard by Razer, a $250 piece of equipment that makes playing MMORPG Knights of The Old Republic easier. There are a number of other gaming keyboards on the market -- some made for other specific games, some a little bit more customizable -- and they’re all a waste of money for any gamer that doesn’t log hundreds of hours in her game of choice. Especially in the case of keyboards like the Old Republic one, you’re dropping a huge chunk of change for a piece of equipment that’s only useful for one game, and I just don’t see the convenience of some extra hotkeys adding up to a worthwhile expense, or even that much more enjoyable of an experience.
The Kinect Boat. This is a thing. It shouldn't be, but it is. Sure, approximately no one was fooled into buying this peripheral (I hope), but it's on this list partially to demonstrate the level of stupidity at work when it comes to gaming peripherals. The thing is, a lot of peripherals nowadays are marketed toward casual players who don’t have the same kind of savvy hardcore gamers do when it comes to judging what they need to have a great gaming experience. If you’re an experienced gamer, you've been through R.O.B., the Power Glove, and the Sega Activator, so you’re wise to the tricks. The Kinect Boat is something that I can picture someone’s mother hearing about and, imagining that it’s somehow useful, giving as the most useless birthday gift in the world. (I suppose it's not exactly "the most useless" because, apparently, it's advertised as being perfectly functional in water. But that’s not the point.)
All that being said, what accessories do you actually need that don't come in the box with your console? The answer, frankly, is not too many. Certain games, like Wii Fit, do require add-ons, but do your research before you buy because most are optional. You should also purchase quality controllers, including Wii nunchuks, GameCube controllers for playing GameCube games on Wii and using the Virtual Console, and an Xbox 360 controller if you use Steam or other online gaming platforms. If PC games are your thing, look into upgrading to a discrete graphics card next time you purchase a laptop. I also highly recommend rechargeable batteries for all of your controllers. You can use all that money you’ll save on batteries to turn your iPhone into a tiny pinball machine.
Which peripherals do you actually use, and which ones would you recommend avoiding?
'Gaming for N00bs' is TNGG Boston's bi-weekly gaming column, written by Vanessa Formato.
About Vanessa -- Vanessa Formato is a 23-year-old Clark University graduate, freelance journalist, vegan cupcake enthusiast and video game aficionado. She blogs about body image and tweets about puppies. So awesome, even John Stamos is impressed.
The author is solely responsible for the content.