The latest generation of the Apple iPods, also titled the 4th generation iPods or “4G” for short, as well as the line of iPod Minis has a nifty new technology Apple has termed the “click wheel”. The click wheel is the base controller of the iPod, housing control of all possible things you would ever WANT to control on your iPod. The click wheel is a touch sensitive round thing in the middle of the iPod, not unlike the touchpad on a notebook computer. To move through the options in the menus, control the volume, and jog through a song, you touch your finger to the click wheel without pressing down, and you rotate your finger on this wheel. Clockwise to advance, and counter-clockwise to reverse, it’s quite an innovative navigation system.
Controlling the other functions of the iPod can be done by pressing down on the different parts of the wheel. With a series of different function strategically placed at compass-points, and a big button for selecting an option in the center of the wheel, it’s pretty easy to find what you want.
What does this have to do with games? My iPod mini came with 4 games preloaded on it. Simple games, not at all unlike the ones found on your cell phone. These games are Brick, Parachute, Music Quiz, and Solitaire. Brick is a simple remake of the classic Atari game where you control a paddle and bounce your ball at bricks to knock them down. Parachute is a little game where you control a cannon, and try to shoot both the parachuters and the airplanes dropping them out of the sky before they reach your base. The music quiz plays random clips of music from random songs in your music collection, and prompts you to select from a list of 4 options which song is right, before time runs out. Lastly, Solitaire is the classic single-player card game we all know & love from our Windows computers.
The click wheel is used to control each of these games differently. Circling it clockwise and reverse moves the paddle left and right in Brick. It also rotates your cannon from left to right in Parachute. In the music quiz you use it to highlight the answer you believe is right, and then press the select button in the middle to make your answer. In Solitaire, you move a hand over each card left and right by rotating the click wheel, picking up the card with the select button, moving the card where you want it to go with the click wheel, and then pressing select again to put it down.
The reason I thought it important to note the design of the click wheel is because of everyone’s running around talking about the “innovative new controller” designs for the next generation console systems (PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Revolution). Supposedly Nintendo’s system is supposed to have an awesome new controller feature that has yet to be revealed. I could see a design similar to the iPod’s click wheel being integrated into the new generation controllers for these systems, perhaps for turning your car in a racing game, rotating through guns in a shooter, or perhaps equipping new items in an RPG of sorts. A design not even exactly like, but perhaps remotely similar to the click wheel could mean a boost in creativity when it comes to your games, and it allows for a lot more freedom with the controller in my eyes.