A joystick is a type of gaming controller that may mimic the appearance of an aircraft flight stick. One typically consists of a stick, mounted on a base of some kind, that can be articulated in two or three directions. One of the oldest control methods for video games, joysticks are prevalent on arcade machines and may also be available for home use. Most home video game systems have had a variety of joysticks available as optional peripherals, with older systems even using them as the primary controller. They are often sought out in situations where a game requires precise inputs and a great deal of control, such as in flight simulators or games in the fighting genre.
While the joystick is typically an analog input device, digital versions have also existed. An analog joystick typically works by transmitting an angle reading to a video game system or computer. This way, the device can detect where the stick is moved, along both x and y axes, at any time. Models with a z axis are also able to transmit this additional date along with the x and y positions.
Analog joysticks often have what may be known as gates. These are a part of the movement mechanism, and allow the user of the stick to easily lock it into four or eight different cardinal positions. While the movement remains analog, this may be useful to some people that use a joystick for fighting-type games. Round gates may also be available, and it is often possible to modify a joystick with a different style of gate according to personal preference.
Digital joysticks operate in much the same way as the analog variety, though they are only capable of reporting that a movement has occurred, rather than the distance the stick was moved in that direction. These may still be capable of reporting in-between movements, such as an up-left movement, a down-right movement, or anything in between. They were commonly seen in many of the earliest home video game systems.
Many home computers may have a port that was originally designed specifically for a joystick connection. This port was later used for all kinds of game controllers, including console-like gamepads in addition to traditional joysticks. While most computers still have this port, modern joysticks may often be connected via universal serial bus (USB) or other ports, like IEEE 1394. Joysticks using these types of connections may include features like force feedback, with which the game can send a signal for the joystick to vibrate or resist movement.