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An apparatus for controlling the movements of an avatar in a virtual environment includes a user input means, such as a gamepad with a plurality of joystick-controlled and button-controlled outputs, a tracker, and optional sliding foot pedals; a processor for running virtual environment (VE) software that includes an avatar moving through the VE; and a control mapping algorithm. The algorithm maps the gamepad, tracker, and optional sliding foot pedal outputs to the avatar's course, heading, displacement, and view, with the joysticks mapped to provide open loop directional control over the course and heading of the avatar, the tracker providing open loop control over the view, and the optional sliding foot pedals providing open loop control over displacement. The operator-controlled movement of the avatar in the virtual environment is displayed to the operator on a computer desktop display or a head mounted display.