Rant: Is It Ever OK To Throw A Controller?

Two weeks ago, a million-dollar contest supplied an interesting prism through which to view the reactions to different people's failure to accomplish the same thing in a video game. In one, a gamer stretched a remarkable achievement into an inhuman streak of perfection, ultimately snapped as much by bad luck as his own physical limitations. In others, their attempts were thwarted much earlier, before they could even be considered any kind of an achievement.

The failure to throw a perfect game in MLB 2K12 and the gamer's decision either to not throw a controller into the wall, or to shatter it upon the floor, was likewise either entirely sympathetic, or entirely contemptible.

"People who smash $US50 controllers are childish douche bags," said one commenter, reacting to this anthology of disappointed gamers' disproportionate reactions. And that's certainly a reasonable opinion.

"I would have thrown that tv and system out the window," said another commenter, after seeing TJ Brida's very sedate response to losing a perfectly pitched baseball game in the 14th inning. And likewise, many of us would empathise.

Is controller-throwing ever justified? Is it never justified? What does it say about a video game that inspires such behavior? What does it say about a gamer who lacks that kind of self-control?

I've gone to some very dark places in my video gaming career. Remember the Flightstick Pro? That thing was probably $US80 in 1996. And I wrecked one playing X-Wing on the Mac. Picked it up by the stick and slammed the base into the desk on the game's penultimate mission, above the Death Star's surface.

In 2005, playing The Warriors on Xbox, the game's missions had the habit of switching to a forced perspective — either a platform elevation or an isometric view — and putting you into a minigame that didn't correspond to the controls you had been playing with for so long. On one level I repeatedly failed, I gouged a chunk out of my apartment wall with the controller, which I would go over with a toothpaste-and-water mixture before moving. My downstairs neighbour — extremely concerned — confronted me the next day. In a "don't ask" tone of voice designed to get me out of the conversation, I told her that I was dealing with some "personal issues".

Yeah, if you're willing to throw an embarrassing temper tantrum and physically destroy console hardware, you probably do have personal issues.

Why is it that controller-throwing is OK? I think it's because it's a symbol of the console. A twin analogue controller or a gamepad has no purpose other than to play a video game, whereas a mouse and a keyboard has other applications, and therefore destroying it would be even more pointlessly self destructive. It's why the Flightstick got slammed on my desk. But when I played Dark Forces with a keyboard and mouse, I took out my frustrations kicking the rubbish bin.

I don't think it is ever OK to throw a controller. If the game is that disappointing, take it to the store where you bought it and demand a refund. (I realise we're talking about physical media sold at retail. This phenomenon, to my mind, seems to be symptomatic of console gaming. If you're hurling keyboards and mice because of a PC game, then you really have issues.)

Do we want to see destroyed controllers? Sure! The post about MLB 2K12 players trashing theirs is the most-viewed post in the short three-month history of Sportaku. No. 2? The narrative about TJ Brida. Readers, even if they weren't sports video gamers, deeply sympathised with his disappointment — even as he made no physical demonstration of that.

It also raises up a truth that has been very hard for me to accept as a writer and, to be honest, a basically immature person: Never confuse a natural interest in the spectacle of anger for an actual interest in what is making you angry.


Comments

    Yes it is ok to throw a controller. its called Halo Reach, Solo Legendary facing 2 fucking hunters near the end of the game.

    After knocking over my TV which crushed three of my PS2 controllers playing Tekken, I realised anger was a really bad habit of mine with video games, and since then I've never thrown a controller again. The fact that I was 14 at the time makes me lean towards what the first commentator dude said - “People who smash $US50 controllers are childish douche bags”

    I have never smashed a controller but have had the urge to, multiple times. I think it's okay if you bought it's yours. If you're smashing someone else's then you're a douche. Personally, I think the urge comes from disappointment, when I fail in a level repeatedly I feel like I should be doing better. If I was taking a test over and over, I would learn and I would no longer make mistakes, so when the same mistakes keep happening and I'm not fixing anything, disappointment turns to rage. I think it would be the same if the situations were really happening. Take a racing game for instance, if we were to have access to unlimited of the same car on a single course and kept crashing at the same corner, we would be just as angry, surely.
    You do get the odd moron who gets angry because of something small, like that flower should be red, and they have issues, but video games are a medium where you are putting yourself in the shoes of the character, therefore when they fail, you fail. The more immersed you are, the more emotionally invested you are and you are much more likely to become enraged enough to destroy property.

    i throw my ps3 controller into the couch if i give an easy goal to a mate when playing fifa. I almost did the same when playing it on the vita and had t o pull back mid swing!

      I used to stand up and throw the controller at the couch, usually deep amount the cushions. I stopped after it bounced back and hit me in the lip.

        Haha my mate threw his controller into the couch but he forgot that his brother was lying there! Straight to the face! Ahhh good times...

    Yeah I'm pretty bad regarding this, though ONLY with multiplayer games, and after I've had a few drinks. Even very drunk (I'm making myself out to be a huge alcoholic.. anyway) I'm always really genial, but when I'm playing Battlefield 3 and losing because of my terrible coordination, I lose it. Terrrriiiibbbbblle. I have decided to only play when I'm with others.

      wait wait wait.....You're saying you get drunk (losing co-ordination) and then get angry because of a lack of co-ordination....I know a group you could attend, they might be able to fix your problem ;P

        Hahah, yes. Basically. It's a terrible terrible cycle of shame and broken controllers. And headaches the next day.

    I've broken at least one 360 controller, but I think that's about it.

    The only controller i have ever broken was a PS2 controller trying to get past the test for the Pilots license in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.

      Ohhhh i fucking HATED that one...

    I broke my gen1 nintendo ds getting beaten by the champion in pokemon pearl.

    I have a PS3 controller that has a damaged shoulder button because I got annoyed at a game, although I can't remember which one. I am bad with getting angry at having to do something over and over with no success, but I've managed to stop myself destroying property over it.

      Dante's Inferno, wasn't it? :P

    I broke several N64 controllers playing mario party

    ..but that was from wearing out the joystick, not throwing them. It just seems stupid. If the game is badly designed, stop playing it. If you're frustrated at yourself, don't destroy a controller for no reason. If it's something like dark souls, accept that you'll be re-loading saves extremely often.

      Wasn't it Dante's Inferno? That bit with the gold bricks.

    I have a habit of trying to crush the controller rather than throwing it.

      Ha, same here

    I've never even come close to throwing a controller. Some things get you riled up yeah, but that has never translated into violence. Mostly just frustrated grunts or swearing. And that's only if there are people to listen. If i'm on my own, the most dramatic reaction i can have is just quitting the game.

    I have only done something like this once though it was not to a controller, i turned off my N64 and remove my copy of Cruisin USA and threw the game at the wall.

    later i pick it up, check it over and found one of the sides had come unclipped and i push ed it back together heard a click - check that it work and sold it to a friend

    plz oh plz let there be a mythbusters myth that involves video game rage with explosives

    My Xbox is plugged into my PC monitor so I usually just drop the controller onto the desk if I'm ever feeling ragey. Haven't actually thrown a controller since I was 8 or 9.

    Kind of related: I threw a 360 out of a window once in a non-gaming related argument with an ex, and he was like "What are you doing you crazy bitch, that's yours, remember??!"Lesson learned - never get so angry you destroy your own property by mistake, always make sure it belongs to someone else first.
    I am worse than any guy I know, I flipped the table, for real over a Magic the gathering game once, and almost punched a guy, there were like 3 people holding me back. Yeah, I need help. :p

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDmUtkqjZhY&feature=related

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYuF3T7s7XY

      Francis... is that you?

    If you have ever smashed a controller, it would have been because either you haven't been good enough at the game, or the game has some major faults. If it's the later it would make more sense to throw the disk against the wall, and if it's the first.... throw yourself against the wall.

    If I ever get close to throwing or smashing my controller then I turn my PS3 off immediately and go do something else, that isn't so rage inducing.

    If that game glitches on you and sends you back 1/2 an hour, i reserve the right to punish something so it might as well be myself and the nearest thing to me that which being the controller in my hands.

    Only ever abused a controller once and that was in GT5. If you hit an AI car you'd spin out and they'd keep going. If the AI car hit you, you'd spin out an they'd keep going. After attempting one of the extreme events repeatedly and having this happen over and over I lost it and kicked over the stand I had the wheel mounted on. Didn't break anything but regretted it immediately.

      i can't remember if this was GT5 or 4, but if you rammed a car you'd be speed capped to 50kph. if they rammed you, youd be speed capped to 50kph. i bit the rubber cap off one of my analogue sticks

    I have never thrown a controller, although I had accidentally dropped one of my Halo Reach 360 controllers onto tiles, from about 1m high, no dents, nothing, but it fell on the right bumper and now it doesn't work right since.... might have to open it up and fix it soon (could just be a bumped sensor.... hopefully!)

    Funny this article appears now.

    I've done a few phenomenal feats in my time. Mile High Club in COD4, Well Done in Super Meat Boy, and never felt the urge to utterly destroy a controller... until about 30 minutes ago. My 4 year old was having trouble with de Blob 2 on the Zoo level. Just wanted it finished so that the hour she'd spent on it wasn't wasted. Took me nearly an hour if repeating the final section as there were so many 'instant death' objects that would appear as the awful locked camera would spun around, and the only checkpoint the game had was about 10 mins play time prior. It took a GREAT deal of restraint, not just to smash the controller into the game disc until they were both shattered remains, but also showing a 4 year old that kind of frustration is unacceptable. I didn't smash the controller, but the game went in the bin.

    Nah. Geting angry and smashing stuff does not make you play better. Accepting your failure and focusing properly, increases your skill and concentration. Playing better is the only way. On a lighter note, me and me mates usually turn our epic failures into stupid body movements and noises - + lotsa swearing and laughing when we make fools out of ourselves.

    Two fisted keyboard masher here.

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