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PSA: The Wii U GamePad is NOT a tablet controller

1:30 PM on 08.12.2012 // Jonathan Holmes

Ever since the existence of the Wii U was leaked just prior to E3 2011, game developers, publishers, those in the gaming press, just about everyone but Nintendo have called the console's new controller "a tablet." Every time someone does this, they drag their collective fingernails across the chalkboard of my soul.

Anyone who has used the Wii U GamePad should be able to tell you that it's not a tablet device. A tablet features multi-touch screen controls, and does not rely on multiple buttons and control sticks/pads. The Wii U GamePad does not feature a multi-touch screen controls, and it does have dedicated buttons and control sticks (and one control pad).

If you are going to call the Wii U GamePad a "tablet," then you're going to have to call the 3DS, the PS Vita, ATM machines, The Real Touch anus simulator, and everything else on the planet with touch controls a "tablet" as well. Personally, I'd prefer for us to use the word for devices that are actually are tablets, and not mindlessly tack it on to every new touch-controlled device that hits the market just so we can sound trendy. It's cool when words mean something, isn't it?

That's not for me to decide though. In the long run, tech and gaming culture will determine what the word "tablet" means as it relates to interfacing with technology. Depend on how the future unfolds, this post may look really dumb in a few years, when everyone calls any old fashioned touch controlled device a "tablet" while the world has moved on to telekinetically controlled cars and jetpacks internet brain implant chips in our hamburgers.

In the meantime, I'll tell those of you who haven't played the Wii U that you should not expect it to deliver an tablet-style gaming experience. The Wii U GamePad is essentially the bottom half of a 3DS XL, but with two analog sticks, some NFC functionality, and a slightly larger screen. It's not that different than using a standard dual analog stick controller. There just happens to be a big touch screen in the middle of the thing which you may or may not end up using. It feels nothing like an iPad or other tablet devices.

I've played a  good amount of Wii U games (Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, Rayman Legends, Assassin's Creed 3, Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition, Project P-100, Panorama View, Pikmin 3, Game and Wario, Trine 2, and many more). Most of them did not require you to use the touch screen, and those that did went about it in a way that was almost exactly like something you'd find in a 3DS game. Take Takamuru's Castle for example. The game is all about flinging throwing stars off the GamePad screen and onto the TV screen. You couldn do that with a 3DS. The only difference is, it wouldn't be as fun to throw a star from one screen to another screen that's less than two inches away. Regardless, it's nothing like playing a game on the iPad. It was more like playing a PS Move/Wii Remote pointer controlled game, except the pointer control also had a touch screen.

In closing, anyone who has led you to think that the Wii U GamePad is anything like an iPad is being a jerk and you should tell them so.

Jonathan Holmes, Bad Joke Uncle
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