The Unsung Hero of the Switch’s Design

So recently I got myself a Switch. I’m enamoured with it for one simple reason. It has a lot of indies and can be played portably. I couldn’t imagine playing Stardew Valley on any other console. I own Stardew Valley on my computer but usually, I’m using my computer for other purposes. With the Switch, I can play a game while I’m commuting. I can play a game while the TV is being used for Netflix. I can play the Switch in another room easily. I can bring my Switch to a friend’s place. The Switch fits around my life and that makes it the ideal console for me and possibly for other busy adults as well. So much of the antiquated idea of gamers revolves around the console as a static platform. Sure, phones games exist but a combination of factors means that phone games have their own shape and form to them that lends itself to smaller experiences. The Switch can handle beefier experiences and a controller with more nuanced controls than tapping. With that, I’m going to talk about a feature of the Switch that I never realised the benefit of until I had a Switch. The controller.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Nintendo Switch’s design, I’ll explain it briefly. The Switch itself is a touchscreen tablet. The console itself is housed in that design. It can then be housed in the dock. The dock has a USB-C connection at the bottom that the central tablet connects to. This dock contains the charging cable and the HDMI output. The dock allows the Switch to function as a traditional console and/or charge the portable tablet. Now comes the part of the Switch that I have fallen in love with. The Switch comes with two JoyCons. They can slide into the sides of the console tablet to make it look like a sleeker Wii U tablet. They function as a controller similar to the Switch’s contemporaries, the Xbox and the PS4. These two JoyCons can also slide into a controller frame which makes the JoyCons look like a contemporary controller.

However, the thing about these JoyCons that got me really excited. The Switch comes with two of them. Now each configuration I’ve described has these two JoyCons acting as one controller. These JoyCons however, can be used as single controllers. That means that the Switch comes with two controllers out of the box. The PC and the Switch both have games that are couch co-op/competitive. I like couch co-op/competitive because it means you only need one copy of the game and you can play in the same room. Playing in the same room means that this hobby can be much more social. The problem with couch co-op on PC is twofold. My computer is in a separate room to my living room. Moving equipment to play a multiplayer is painful. It can be planned around but it means that you need to plan around it.

The Switch’s controllers and compact design mean that you can take the Switch with you, hook it up and you already have two controllers. Buying controllers on other platforms is a pain. The console comes with one packed in but you have to buy additional ones. Most systems have a local maximum of four players. These controllers cost $100 AUD per controller. So to have four people playing with controllers on the one system, you need to fork out $300 extra dollars. However, the Switch begins with two controllers and two more can be purchased for $120.

Having just purchased a Switch the other day and wanting to show it off, I had asked my partner if they want to play. Now, with the controllers right there, introducing them to my hobby is easier than ever. So that’s what I love about the console. It has the potential to become much more social than its other counterparts. Hopefully, with consoles that are more social, we can create communities of gamers who are less socially malnourished and less likely to start reactionary movements like GamerGate. At my most optimistic, this could change gaming. Being slightly more realistic, it is a great tool for those with friends to easily offer an extra controller and who knows what could grow out of that.

 

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