With the Steam Summer Sale sneaking up on us like silent lightning, I’m frantically flying through my bursting backlog of games I haven’t touched from the Holiday Sale six months ago. Last night, for instance, I fell in love with the beautiful and brilliant Bastion…but not until I switched from mouse and keyboard controls to a gamepad. Isometric makes for a certain special and nostalgic aesthetic, sure, but let’s face it: the game plays like hell with movement mapped to WASD. I had a similar experience earlier this year with Psychonauts. Some games, it seems, like 3D action adventures and platformers in particular, simply don’t do well when precise motion is mandatory.
Before you scurry about to Amazon to scan the collection of PC controllers for the best investment, be advised that you likely have a worthy gamepad within your grasp (perhaps literally, if your console is as close to your desk as mine is). In fact, both the Xbox 360 and PS3 controllers can be used with most modern PC games. As the Xbox 360 option is a little more easy and automatic (in addition to the fact that I don’t have one), I’m here to teach you how to use your PlayStation 3′s DualShock 3 or Sixaxis controller as a PC gamepad.
Step 1: Download/Install MotioninJoy Software (Free)
For starters, you’re going to need some software. In this case, that software comes with the sketchiest homebrew name, look, and feel imaginable. Still, MotioninJoy works wonders, turning your PS3 controller into a true gamepad. Plus, it’s free, so no complaining.
Depending on your Windows version, there are two separate downloads to choose from:
Do the usual unpacking and installing of that .zip file. Four seconds later, installation should be complete with a prompt to “Run DS3_tool” as you finish Setup. Keep that box checked, and click “Finish.”
Step 2: Driver
I severely hope the terrifying terms like “unpack” and “driver” haven’t scared off the console-exclusive gamers yet. Really, this is an easy-peasy process (how about that MotioninJoy, huh?). Once the puke-green window is up on your screen, plug in that favorite PS3 controller of yours via the same USB cable you use to charge it. Windows will fake you out for a bit, pretending to recognize and install the controller’s drivers automatically. Like Teddy from Memento, don’t believe its lies. Instead, wait for that Windows business to sort itself out, then click the leftmost button reading “Load Driver.”
[If you don't see "Load Driver" anywhere, click on "Driver Manager" along the top of the tool window.]
Windows might ask for you to let this process go down here, so be sure to allow MotioninJoy to have its heyday. When it reads that the load driver is completed, you’re done!
Step 3: Using Your Controller
The rest is more-or-less experimentation and the ideal configuration will vary from game to game, but I’ll at least get you started. When connected, your controller should be recognized and displayed on the “Profiles” page. To adjust to your preferred playstyle, select “Playstation 3″ and open the options to alter the input of any button as you see fit. If you’re unsure whether everything is registering, open the “Game Controller Panel” and select “Properties” to check the controller test. When perfected to your liking, don’t forget to click the pink “Enable” button under “Profiles” to apply and save the settings.
One final note: While the “Playstation 3″ option works well enough, the application of z-axis motion controls can completely throw of some control schemes and ruin gameplay (worthless as they are, it’s still quite cool that they’re recognized at all). If you’re having frustrating troubles, try the “Xbox 360 Controller Emulator” instead. Many games even have automatic settings in place, with the buttons automatically mapped for a 360 controller which translate almost directly to your Sixaxis or DualShock. Again, experimentation is key, and get used to spending the first five minutes of any PC game alt-tabbing out and fiddling with button configurations until everything feels right.
You might find all of this fuss to be confusing at first, but believe me, dear gamer, it’s so worth it. Happy gaming!