|You lack more than just an understanding of joysticks.|
"the driver i downloaded from driverguide i think said yes to xp. I always check those things"
What do you mean you "think"? If you "always check those things" you should know if it's for XP or not. It really doesn't matter because you probably don't need a special driver anyway. Windows already has drivers for joysticks & gamepads, you just have to pick the right one. I'm sure your joystick is a 2-axis (that means axis 1 = forward/reverse, axis 2 = left/right) but I have no idea how many buttons it has. All you have to do is count the buttons then select the correct generic driver from the list.
But all this is pointless if the gameport isn't enabled & the gameport driver isn't installed! Is your gameport built into the motherboard or is it part of the souncard? Did you check Device Manager under 'Sound, video & game controllers' to see if the gameport is listed?
Take a look at the following Device Manager screenshot. Notice what's listed under 'Sound, video & game controllers'. This person has an 'Aureal Vortex 8330' soundcard & there's also an 'Aureal Vortex Game Port' listed. That means the gameport is enabled & the driver is installed.
Device Manager Screenshot
If you don't have some sort of gameport listed under 'Sound, video & game controllers' on your computer, you need to enable it. If it is listed but with an exclamation point, you need to install the gameport driver. And until you get the gameport working, there's no way to use the joystick.