Gary: Oh, well why didn't you just come out and say that in the first place?
Randy: I thought I did. Where were you?
Gary: Never mind you Idiot! Show me the new toy!
Randy: Check it out. Macally's cool "mid-air" stick. It's a full-featured joystick without the bulky and restricting base.
No, it's not a Taser Gun.
It's the Macally's Airstick!
Gary: You got ripped off dude. Ask them to send you the other half of that thing.
Randy: You don't need it. This coolieo USB gaming device has a gyro chip built right into it. You just tilt the joystick and it senses your moves.
Gary: Now that is coolieo! Does it really work?
Randy: Like a champion. I tried it out on just about every Input Sprockets compatible flight sim I could lay hands on and it performed better that I expected. The gyro doo-dad read my movements perfectly allowing me precise control over my flying machines. It even detects very slight shifts in pitch and roll in the Airstick so you get pinpoint accuracy.
Gary: Leave it to Macally. Those guys come up with killer gaming peripherals. I have been digging the iShock 2 gamepad with Force Feedback for the Mac. But that's a device for another column.
Randy: When I first heard about the Airstick, I was dubious about how accurate it would be. I have played with other movement sensing peripherals and found them to be sluggish in their response to my movements. But the Airstick is dead on.
Gary: I like the idea but doesn't it feel weird waving that thing around in front of you when you are using it in a flight game. I would think you'd feel lost with some sort of base to anchor your hand to.
Randy: Yes and no. At first it felt very strange. I had a hard time getting my bearings unless I positioned the Airstick on my leg or centered it in my lap, but after a few runs through Starfleet Academy I found that the sensitivity of the Airstick really didn't require wild hand movements. In fact, I just sort of hold it in front of me and bend and twist my body a little bit to get the stick to respond.
Gary: I'll bet that's pretty amusing to watch.
Randy: Well, for a few moments my wife thought I had taken up yoga. But I have to say it added a real fun twist, if you will, to playing computer games. My entire body became involved in controlling my character or vehicle, not just my fingers. It performed great in games like Bullseye Software's Flying Circus and Sky Fighters 1945, two excellent internet connected combat flight sims. And it was equally awesome whipping around at 200 mph in Lucas Arts' Star Wars Episode I Racer.
Gary: Okay I like the sound of that, but besides the extra cool "mid-air" feature, how does the Airstick stack up as far as buttons and configureability. Man cannot game by gyro chip alone.
Randy: Believe it or not the Airstick packs a whopping 13 buttons and a POV hat switch onto this little joystick.
Gary: Holy cow, Batman! 13 buttons?! Where is there room for your hand?
Randy: Macally is nothing if they are not thorough. They have a button on almost every square inch of this device. While this is great in most cases, there are a few buttons that are a little hard to access because of their position.
Along the top of the Airstick are three small buttons in a row. I found these useful for menu and reset settings. There is the traditional trigger button under the handle and then three more buttons that lie directly beneath where your middle, ring and pinky finger rest. These buttons I found hard to use because if I set them up for anything I kept hitting them unintentionally. On the left side of the handle are two more buttons that I setup for throttle up and down functions. On the flat top part of the stick are four buttons on the typical game pad diamond configuration. And lastly there is a very handy thumb joystick on the top of the stick that is great for targeting or changing your cockpit view direction. And it too is a button if you press down on it directly.
Gary: Wow! It's sounds like there's enough buttons to leave your keyboard behind for most games. But how is the software. Can you customize all of those buttons?
Randy: You bet'cha. Macally really puts out great drivers for their devices and the Airstick is no exception. Every button is custom configurable for your particular game. The only stipulation is that your game needs to be Input Sprockets aware.
Gary: Awesome! So your only beef with the Airstick is that a few of the buttons are hard to reach. I think with 13 configurable buttons to choose from I can work around that. Let me give it a try.
Randy: Well, that is the only other con about the Airstick. It is made for right handed gaming only. Sorry Gary, there's no lefty version available, ya' Southpaw freak.
Gary: No problem, I am ambidextrous. So I can use the Airstick to game with my right hand and still have my good hand free for punching you in the brain.
Randy: If you can find it, you can punch it.
Gary: Yeah, if you had a brain wait you can't short change me like that by stealing my insult. You know it's really no fun to pick on you if you are going to agree with me.
Randy: It's called reverse psychology Gary. A brilliant guy like yourself should know about that stuff.
Gary: Not when you're as stupid as I am... Doh!!
Randy: You are so easy. See you next time folks.
Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.
The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.
You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .