Although playing video games can be difficult for those with limited mobility, some people go above and beyond to find a solution. Rory Steel, the head of Jersey Digital Academy, tweeted his progress over the weekend in creating a custom controller for his daughter that would allow her to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The project began when Rory saw that his daughter, Ava, enjoyed watching him play the game on the Nintendo Switch but could not adequately operate the default controller, which requires a constant grip with both hands and constant, coordinated use of both thumbs, index, and sometimes middle fingers to play optimally. Rory then began work using the Microsoft Adaptive Controller and a range of parts purchased from eBay to create the custom controller.
Although the brand is Microsoft, the controller itself can be modified to work on most platforms with ease, which forms a core part of the product’s design philosophy with Microsoft describing it as, “a unified hub for devices that helps make gaming more accessible.” One can then add virtually any kind of input device, including switches, buttons, mounts, joysticks, and more that allow for the broadest range of control in a game.
Over the weekend, Rory posted progress pictures on Twitter showcasing the project from its concept through to completion. He states that soon he will be posting plans online for others to create their own similar controllers.
A quick glance at the video shows that the Microsoft Adaptive Controller has had the Nintendo Switch inputs mapped into a larger plastic case that resembles modified housing for an arcade fighting stick with both analog sticks placed in the center for ease of access and the other buttons laid out around the housing perimeter.
Following the reveal of the finished controller, Phil Spencer, the vice president of Gaming at Microsoft, tweeted his response in admiration.
Speaking to Channel 103, Rory explains how since the reveal, both Microsoft and Logitech approached him to express their desire to collaborate in developing the project further with the goal of providing greater access to other users with mobility impairments. Rory responded by saying:
“While I'm going to take them up on their offers to create some higher-class tech, the project was always supposed to be something that anyone across the world could use. What I still want to do is a low-tech version, so people at home can have a go - but there's pressure on me now with these companies behind me to try it make it look a bit better - and who knows where that will lead.”
The building of the custom controller is not only heartwarming, it is also a great step in the direction for providing accessibility to games in creative ways and encouraging others to create their own. The entire project stems from Microsoft’s decision to provide hardware that is designed to work on all the major gaming platforms in the market, whereas they could have easily restricted its mapping inputs to their own console.
It will be fascinating to see what comes next, both from Rory and also from Microsoft. Hopefully too these kinds of stories will prompt both Nintendo and Sony to provide something of their own to further allow for greater accessibility to their games.
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