SideWinder Strategic Commander
By Shaun Conlin
brought a great deal of gadgetry to light. Some things innovative,
some things merely remarkable improvements on otherwise unremarkable
products, all things vying for your dollar as "must have" peripherals
and appendages to suit your every gaming need. Ironically, the
LA Convention Center's unfairly infamous Kentia Hall, "the ghetto
of E3," also happened to house some of the coolest gadgets from
wee little companies lacking the money to rent a booth next to
Sony and friends. Hopefully, this year's crop of game-related
stock will garner enough praise and sales to make Kentia Hall
next year's hotbed. Maybe not, but it's nice to think of strong
efforts being rewarded someday.
functional of the cool is Microsoft's Sidewinder Strategic
Commander (Ok, these guys weren't in Kentia Hall. Big shots
making big shot gadgets.). You don't have to be an RTS fan to
appreciate the sheer functionality of this, the epitome of seamless
interface devices. It sits sweetly under the palm of your left
hand with spring-loaded joystick-like throw - the palm stick?
- and offers a shift-combined total of 72 fully programmable buttons
for all your preset needs. Build a compound, arm it, man it, and
set it about its business with one tap of your fingertip. The
downside? You'll piss off a lot of your opponents as they muddle
through 27 keystrokes to your single button.
ramifications of such an interactive device go beyond real-time
strategy games, too. Like a courtroom stenographer with that limited
key machine pumping out full text novellas in spite of apparent
limitation, the Strategic Games Commander is perhaps the first
step toward truly immersive interface. We still need the jack
in the back of the head, but a palmstick in the left hand and
a mouse in the right functioning as effectively or more effectively
than banging at keys on a keyboard is going to make the future
that much more "user-friendly." It's creepy, in some ways.
might also note that this clever "palmstick" thingy might also
function as an FPS interface. Lets' face it, no controller can
beat a keyboard and mouse when it comes to relentless fragging
through the eyes of the killer, but the keyboard has always been
the weaker of the two symbiotic devices. Strategic Commander would
seem to offer a much more seamless move controller than the claw
shape forced in the W, S, A, D configuration of a keyboard - plus
those 72 button combos are more than enough to meet all your fragging
presets with lots left over to throw in a couple of custom trick
moves of you own.
haven't marketed the Strategic Commander as an FPS device, in
fact it's remarkable versatility as an RTS unit is a strong enough
selling feature on its own. But beyond RTS games - hell, beyond
FPS games - the Strategic Commander brings us humans one step
closer to cyborgism. Cool!