I never want to go back to a single-unit controller again. Viva la split-handed controllers!
With Joy-Con controllers in hand, I started my Nintendo Switch adventure. First, by navigating through all the available and customizable options in the System Settings. Then by settling in for a long night of gaming with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You know what I learned? I love split-handed controllers. Why in the world would I want to shackle my hands together, holding a single unit, when I can rest my hands wherever I want with the separated Joy-Cons?
The freedom to sit how I want
With traditional grip controllers, you have to keep both of your hands about six inches apart from each other, no matter how you sit. It means you can only game comfortably in a few positions. By using the separate Joy-Con controllers, I can sit, or lay, or twist myself into any position I like and still access every button, every trigger, and every joystick. Everything still works, the controls are just separated, one in each hand.
I've never even thought about a traditional grip controller as feeling awkward or uncomfortable. It's what I've always known. But, after just a few days with the Nintendo Switch, I'm so in love with split-handed controllers that I never want to go back to the ergonomic handcuffs of an Xbox or PS4 controller. Yuck.
The joy of using both sides separately
When I first starting playing TLoZ:BotW with the Joy-Cons separated, it seemed a little awkward. My brain was so used to having to keep my hands right next to each other that I struggled to move, jump, and switch weapons smoothly. But, humans are highly adaptable, and within about 10 minutes, I was hitting the D-pad, tapping the shoulder buttons, and using both sticks at the same time, even with my arms at my side, or even behind my back.
There is something interesting about "unlearning" and starting to play video games with hands in any position, instead of just a few inches apart. It's almost as if I've suddenly become ambidextrous. The funny thing is, I've always been capable of using both my right and left hands equally well to press the buttons on a controller. It's how one plays video games. But, by separating where my hands are in relation to each side of the controller, it becomes a sort of exercise in doing different things with both hands at the same time.
The pains of those tiny rectangles
A lot of people are probably going to comment (read: complain) about the size of the Joy-Cons, and how, when separated they are just too small to play with. I had a friend play TLoZ:BotW with the Joy-Cons separated, and then with the Joy-Con Grip. He said he preferred the Grip for just that reason. Those tiny rectangles aren't comfortable for long-term gameplay.
Speaking from experience of using the split-handed Joy-Cons for many hours at a time, it is very comfortable... for me.
That is to say, someone with larger hands will probably feel some cramping or uncomfortableness using the Joy-Cons without the additional ergonomics of the Grip. If your hands are somewhat small (like, if you prefer the iPhone SE to the iPhone Plus models because of the size of your hands), you're not going to have trouble playing split-handed for many hours.
The way it should be
After discovering how great it feels with my hands-free to rest wherever I like, I've started wondering why console designers haven't been doing this all along.
There is no reason we shouldn't have the option to separate our hands while playing games. Nintendo, smartly, provided multiple ways to play the Switch. I'd like to see this across the gaming industry.
I'd also love to see some third-party accessory makers create split-handed ergonomic handles for the Joy-Con controllers, so that my friends with larger (read: normal sized) hands can enjoy the freedom from shackled, single-unit gaming. Split-handed gaming for everyone!
Have you played the Nintendo Switch with the Joy-Con controllers separated? What do you think? Are they comfortable? Too small? Let's discuss!