Controllers are typically associated with console gaming, but paddle controllers have recently taken the PC gaming world by storm. As with anything new in the gaming world, there is an ongoing discussion over what is fair and what is not — in this case, controller users and keyboard users are on opposite sides. The most significant difference between the two devices is the speed at which players can trigger actions in the game. While mouse and keyboard players can tap their mouses quickly, it doesn’t compare to what can be done with paddles on a controller. So, how fair is the use of SCUF controllers, Battle Beaver controllers, or other custom controllers on PC? Let’s find out.
To start the conversation, the most crucial topic to discuss is something that is — actually — banned (or at least deeply frowned upon) in competitive gaming. Strike packs are external devices attached to the first-generation controller from any console. Consoles like the PS4 or the Xbox 360 came with standard controllers, but as time went on and the gaming industry grew, standalone companies such as SCUF and Battle Beaver released custom controllers that were amazing but extremely expensive. This is where strike packs come in.
Strike packs range from $13 to $75, the most popular being the Collective Minds strike pack, which users can find at GameStop for $40. However, strike packs were not made with ill intent. They were created as an easy and affordable way to add paddles to original controllers, rather than forcing players to pay an egregious amount of money for a custom SCUF or Battle Beaver controller. The adapter plugs into the charging port of the wireless controller and adds two to four buttons to it. Most commonly, it adds paddles to the underside of the controller that can be pressed with your ring and pinky fingers while still allowing you to use your standard thumb, index and middle finger to press the controller’s original buttons. While players can bind the keys to whatever they want, the traditional key bindings for the paddles are commands to pick up items, jump, crouch or reload. However, because strike packs are external devices, users can load scripts onto the pack that are riddled with cheat codes.
With external scripts and coding, players can use strike packs to rapid-fire weapons intended to be single-fire only, only shooting bullets as quickly as you can press down the button. This rapid-fire cheat turns single-fire weapons into something like this, making them nearly — if not more — as powerful as automatic weapons. As seen in the YouTube comments on that video, controller users seem far from upset about the unfair advantage this gives.
Mouse and keyboard players are understandably upset that players can use strike packs when tampering with them is so easy, making cheating a high possibility.
Competition Rules and Professional Players
While gamers could always report a player who uses a strike pack to gain an unfair advantage, there is never a guarantee that the player will be caught, stopped or reprimanded. As the esports arena has grown over the last few years, there has been strict enforcement of what players can use when competing at a professional level.
One major competition that has enforced the rule was the Apex Legends Global Series (ALGS) Championship, which happened this past July. One new rule introduced in year two of the series banned strike packs. Respawn competition officials released multiple statements about the prohibition of strike packs from the professional arena. The official rules state that players are prohibited from “Using any external software designed to give the competitor an unfair advantage.” This effectively removes any strike pack devices from the competition. While this was a significant decision and improvement for professional gaming, there have been hints that games will soon be able to enforce this rule in regular gameplay as well.
Custom Controllers and Native Paddles
One thing about strike packs is that they were not made for cheating. They were sold as an affordable way for players to add paddles and additional buttons to their controllers without breaking the bank. It is important to note that professional competitions are not banning paddles, as those are controller customizations that add buttons for a player to push, like how a mouse and keyboard player has an entire keyboard and number pad for their games.
Companies such as SCUF, Battle Beaver, and now Microsoft and Sony themselves, offer paddle controllers or additional buttons to the controller. SCUF makes custom controllers in the shape of PlayStation or Xbox controllers. Buyers can include one set, two sets, or no sets of paddles to their controller, among many other customization options.
Scuf controllers, for example, start at around $150 USD and come with customizable options. When creating a custom controller based on the Xbox Series One or PS4, gamers can add paddles that can either be programmed by the company or can be reprogrammed with other key bindings by the player. This means that players have the ability to change what each paddle does. However, the only options for the change come from the in-game key bindings that the players set up and not from external scripts loaded onto the controller.
SCUF also makes controllers based on the new PS5 and Xbox Elite Series controllers. The beauty of these models is that the original controllers come with “native paddles.” Native paddles are paddles included in the original controller design by the manufacturing company. They don’t require the purchase of a wholly customized controller to get the bonus paddle buttons on the underside of the controller. Native paddles are not included in strike pack bans. The same Respawn competition executive stated in this tweet that the Xbox Elite controllers (who have native paddles) are acceptable for competition, definitively making strike pack cheats the enemy, not paddle-playing.
While it’s understandable to be upset about the misuse of strike packs in professional and casual playing environments, there is no need to ban or criticize controllers with paddles. Paddle controllers are not the enemy. Cheaters are.