Of X's And O's: The PS3 Controller Conundrum

I’ve been sitting on this subject and I’m writing this soapbox only now because one game drove me over the edge. We need to get it right or countless game lives will be lost.

This is about the X and Circle face buttons on your PlayStation controller. Yeah, the ones you use for grabbing enemies, holding to sprint, passing the ball, etc. But the X and Circle buttons are more important than just those reasons. They are used in your PlayStation 3’s XMB to confirm and cancel.

But which buttons?

Reading the basic PS3 operations manual on the PlayStation website has instructions rather different from each other when reading it in English, and in Traditional Chinese and Japanese (Asian and American PlayStation Users are redirected to the same English instructions from the respective English PS3 Support pages).

If you got your PS3 in Asia and Japan, it is likely the instructions on the left apply to your console, even if your PS3 is in English: Circle for Confirm, X for Cancel. If yours was born in the US, then you’ll adopt the instructions on the right side, flipped.

Most of our beloved PS3 titles are usually published in the US and abide with the US PS3 control schemes, swapping the X and Circle buttons for Confirm and Cancel, even when playing on an Asian PS3. It’s not as bad when the on-screen instructions accurately display the right buttons, but the trouble comes when the game switches the buttons without the accurate on-screen instructions.

Playing the game Sleeping Dogs on an Asian PS3 has brought frustration to a lot of gamers.

Over and over, I found myself hanging out of my car for an action hijack when I needed to hit the E. Brake in Sleeping Dogs, because the game dazed me with its confusingly mislabeled cues. The problem with mislabeled instructions is also seen elsewhere in other games, ranging from menu commands and during quick-timed events.

The Sony Playstation brand is of Japanese origin, and the choices for the controller’s face buttons is the work of Teiyu Goto who joined the company in 1977, designing the how every PlayStation has looked since the original PS. His explanation for his face button choices were simple. Triangle for ‘viewpoint’, Square for ‘piece of paper/map’ and, on the subject of this article, Circle for ‘Yes’ and X for ‘No’.

That logic goes beyond the PlayStation. The X and O symbols are synonymous in Japanese culture as being false/wrong and true/correct in tests and exams. These symbols are also seen in Japanese videogames, such as the BishiBashiChamp series. The X is also the pretty straightforward symbol for “Wrong” in Western culture.

Maybe I’m making a big fuss out of nothing. You’ll be asking me to calm down and get used to it. I will, and probably already have. The developers at Sleeping Dogs has announced a fix for the mislabelling, with no confirmation date as of yet. This problem won’t end here. I’m sure I’ll be seeing more games on the PS3 with this problem.

What say you, gamers? Do you like your X wrong or your Circle incorrect? How have you gotten used to it? Fill us in with your comments below.