The Commodore original joystick was an amazingly crappy design: the stick did not move at all, so basically you had no feedback about whether the movement had registered.

Also, the stick was a RSI-inducing (we did not know about RSI back then: it just hurt your hand) piece of plastic with a triangular section, while the base was essentially a small rectangle of hard plastic.

So, you grabbed the whole mess in two hands, and used the joystick with both, twisting the base, and sweating from your palms.

Eventually, the black plastic stick cover would come off the base (small wonder, due to the enormous forces in play), and you would be left with its innner core, a clear plastic stick with more hand-hurting protrusions.

A joystick is a device shaped like a stick that people use to interact with video games.

There are many different kinds of joysticks. Joysticks on their own are pretty phallic, but a couple of the new ones out there actually look a lot like real penises.

Arcade joysticks:
Short, with a plastic ball on top. Pretty standard on most arcade machines. The hand usually cups over the top, but some use the underhand joystick grip. These sticks are usually used with one hand, while [double finger hand.
The NES Advantage copied this design for use on the NES. Very nice.

Old joysticks:
These joysticks usually had one or two buttons, one the top or head of the stick and/or one on the base of the joystick, usually to the top-left. Both buttons were for thumb use.

On the Commodore 64, many one-player games set the joystick at Port 2 instead of the more logical Port 1. I assume this was because Port 2 was easier to implement.

See also:
Atari-joystick / TAC-2

New joysticks:
Tonnes of buttons. I've never actually used one of these. See also:
Microsoft Sidewinder

Joystick ascii interpretation:
       _         ||
 m1a  |-|        ||
  ____| |____    ||
 /   _| |_   \   ||
|  / ,| |. \  |  //
| ( ( '-' ) ) |_//
|  \ `'"'' /  |-'
|   `-----'   ;
|             ; 
Other video game interactors include:
koala pad
light gun
light pen
Power Glove
Joysticks are about the oldest way of interacting with arcade, and home, games systems. Joysticks were originally the ones straddled by pilots in helicopters (much bigger) and the name then originated from the slang term for something else that may stick out from between a person's legs.

Maybe the phallic similarities are more deep rooted than thought...

This is an overview of the different types of arcade joysticks available. Choosing the right joysticks is one of the most important steps when building a MAME Cabinet or refurbishing a classic game.

Before I get started I must explain the difference between 8-Way, 4-Way, and 2-Way joysticks, as this is very important. An 8-way joystick is operated by 4 switches representing up, down, left, and right. When you move an 8-Way joystick diagonally it will activate 2 of the switches and cause diagonal movement in games that support it. While 4-Way joysticks can only trigger a single switch at once, which disallows for diagonal movement (Except in Q*Bert, which has a 4-Way stick mounted at an angle, and allows for only diagonal movement). While 2-Way sticks can only go left-right or up-down, depending on how you mount them. Space Invaders, Galaxian, and many similar games used a 2-Way joystick.

These joysticks do not universally mix and match. 4-Way games do not play correctly with an 8-Way joystick. The only option for a 4-Way game is a 4-Way stick, because the games simply cannot handle the diagonals being pressed. . Many classic games use 4-Way sticks, such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Donkey-Kong.

Games that use 2-Way sticks (early space games for the most part), will play equally well with any flavor of stick, 2-Way, 4-Way, or 8-Way. The reason being is that any joystick can move left-right properly.

Now most games use 8-Way sticks. The majority of them will play with a 4-way stick, but this ruins many games (like newer space shooters, fighters, etc). There is one exception, that is puzzle games. Games like Puzzle Bobble, Uo Poko, and Money Puzzle Exchanger will play perfectly well with a 4-way joystick. You can't even tell the difference

Why would you want to select the wrong joystick anyway? Because you may have to make some compromises on the controls if you are building a MAME Cabinet, a quick switch JAMMA cabinet, or any other multi-game machine. No control can play every game, so you must select carefully so you can play your favorites.

  • Universal Joystick (Microswitch)

    These are your standard modern day joysticks. They are cheap, and produced under many different names. They can be switched from 8-Way to 4-Way action simply by turning over a little part on the underside. These controls have a kind of an exact feel to them, which is perfect for fighting and puzzle games. They also make a distinctive click with each movement (this is nearly impossible to hear in a noisy arcade, but it is quite clear in your home).

  • Universal Joystick (Leaf Switch)

    These are similar in appearance to the joystick above. But they use leaf switches instead of microswitches. This makes the movement of the stick more silent, and gives it a decidedly different feel. Many older games came with these sticks. All leaf switch joysticks require some adjustment from time to time (as the leaves get stuck or bent too far, etc).

  • Digital Rotary Joystick

    The rotary joystick is a customized version of the Universal Joystick. It features 8-way action, along with a rotating stick that has 12 different positions. This is a replacement part for Ikari Warriors although several other games used this stick as well. It is perfectly usable for other games, but costs nearly 4 times as much as a standard joystick. This one is only recommended for those who need it for a specific game.

  • Optical Rotary Joystick

    This is just like the Digital Rotary Joystick with the exception that the rotating stick is analog in its rotation. This allows the joystick to also function as a spinner. This is officially a replacement part for 50 Caliber, but it would be useful for a multi-game project as well.

  • Solid State Joystick

    These are sold under several brand names (Happ Controls calls theirs the "Perfect 360"). These sticks can be either 4-Way or 8-Way, which is user selectable. But they have no switches at all. Making them maintenance-free and much more silent. They are fairly expensive, but are well worth the price, simply for the easy 8-Way to 4-Way switching.

  • Fire Button Joystick

    These are Universal Joysticks that have a fire button mounted on top. Very few games use these controls normally. With the exception of cocktail tables, which would use them fairly frequently. I would stay away from these, unless you really like the design.

  • Digital Trigger Joystick

    These are 8-Way sticks that look just like a flight stick, with 1 to 3 buttons mounted on top. Not many games used these. Those that did are easily controlled with universal joysticks (which are much cheaper).

  • Analog Joystick

    The arcade analog joystick looks like a flight stick. With one or more trigger buttons. The analog stick has a large range of movement, instead of just a couple of distinct positions. These are very expensive, but they are the only way to control some games properly.

  • 49-Way Joystick

    These have only ever been used in a handful of games. These sticks have 16 distinct directions that can each register at three different intensitys. This combined with the center position makes for 49 distinct positions. These are only used in Gauntlet, Blitz, Blaster, and the sequels to those games. This type of stick was designed as an alternative to the analog joystick, but without the maintenance and high rate of failure that most analog sticks have.

Feel free to send me a /msg if I have missed any arcade joystick types.

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