Concepts that redefine a game controller for the disabled

I wrote a piece a little over a month ago about the importance of making video game controllers accessible for gamers with disabilities, and how there were some best practices and support groups that cater to these gamers. Today, I want to share what I believe, are some design concepts that redefine a game controller for the disabled.

It’s very interesting how a these designs combine technology and innovation in order to cater to people with disabilities – through research and keen observation of gamer trends and habits, these controller designs have been created with considerations for the disabled gamer. Doing this significantly levels the playing field for these gamers not just in terms of competing, but more importantly in achieving a fun and meaningful gaming experience.

(Author’s Note: While not necessarily considered an accessibility product, trigger-extending adaptors like the Avenger Reflex is helpful to gamers with limited range of motion in their hands or number of fingers. You can check out the review here).

One-handed Gaming pads


game-controller-for-the-disabled-xbox-one-elite
One concept that seems to do the job is a controller that’s suited for a single hand. The idea behind this is to position triggers/buttons in such a way that they are within reach of the gamer’s curled finger around the controller. What I personally like about this design is that a gamer can use the full range of motion from each finger joint to interact with the buttons on the pad.

game-controller-for-the-disabled-sfsa-controller-rearGaming keypads for the PC have been common examples for this kind of controller design, with a variety of programmable buttons and ergonomically-positioned scroll wheel and analog stick emulates the keyboard-and-mouse configuration for shooters, real-time strategies and online battle arenas. And while it can be argued that a programmable mouse can do similar, there are plenty more liberties in the gaming keypad that can be suited to different disabilities.

The Xbox line of consoles has also been fortunate to carry game-controller-for-the-disabled-razer-sabertooththe same considerations in both the current and previous generations. With the 360, products like the Razer Sabertooth or the SCUF controllers include removable triggers that are positioned behind the controller. These triggers can be removed or added depending on preference, and can be combined with profiling of settings like key-mapping and sensitivity to cater to different game types. And recently at E3 2015, Microsoft announced the release of the Xbox One Elite Controller, which not only has the additional triggers at the back of the pad, but also includes interchangeable d-pads and analog sticks to better suit the game of choice.

The “stickless” arcade stick


game-controller-for-the-disabled-hitbox-stickless-arcade-stickWho said you needed to follow the convention for arcade joysticks? In fact, the concept of the stickless arcade stick has continued make its rounds over the past two years. This design concept is essentially a “two birds with one stone” idea – an innovation that uses four additional buttons positioned in a way that matches the hand position on a keyboard – this allows a more natural transition for PC gamers to the consoles (particularly fighting games) without compromising the dexterity that can be found in using a standard-design stick.

Furthermore, the button layout is more compact compared to other arcade sticks, giving full coverage for both hands across all buttons that are needed. In fact, button proximity is so well-placed that a gamer with a big wingspan on their hand would be able to operate it with one hand.. not to mention, makes it less challenging compared to playing Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat with one hand.

With this concept, Hitbox certainly leads the way. This stick comes available in single or multi-platform, and has great support with maintenance and modding. And while they have rightful dibs behind the design, modding fans of arcade sticks use the Hitbox’s layout as reference to their own versions of the stickless arcade stick, thus catering to other people’s needs, including gamers with physical disability. I’ve had a chance to play against gamers who use this kind of arcade stick, and while they themselves have no disabilities, they have adapted very well to this control method, which is intuitive and easy to pick up.

Switching it up in more ways that one


The last sample I’d like to mention is based on a switchboard system. This game-controller-for-the-disabled-single-switch-controller concept is based on the premise that a switch-based box with built-in functions allow different kinds of control switches to be configured and used depending on the disability. Large buttons, sip and puffs, trackballs or analog sticks can be used individually or combined to emulate the same controller mapping that a gamepad would have.

A perfect example of this is the Adroit Switchblade 2, which was created by Evil Controllers in conjunction with The AbleGamers Foundation, a non-profit public charity that empowers people with disabilities through gaming. The product has programmable and individual jacks that are compatible with switches that make use of 3.5mm male jacks. The switchboard itself has the features such as remapping a button layout to what’s suitable or needed, toggling a button to simulate a held-button, and a turbo function to simulate rapid button presses. It also comes with rumble boxes that can be re-positioned to complement the gaming experience.

There’s so much to talk about with the Adroit Switchblade 2, so come check it out here!

 

game-controller-for-the-disabled-sip-and-puff-switchThis product has so many possibilities, it can make any gamer (with or without disability) take notice and feel good knowing that they can make their controller cater to them instead of the other way around. For me, if game controllers were a utility item, this design would be a Swiss-army knife as it’s got something that is most likely suited for everyone.

 

 

 

Got any controller concepts that you feel are noteworthy in terms of assistive technology  or caters to disabilities? Let me know in the comments section as I’d gladly feature them here on Gaming Controllers for You.com!

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14 Comments

  • wow thats awesome, who knew you could do that to a game controller? I know my friend used to buy some modded one online but nothing like that! Sweet article! Do a lot of people use these that are disabled?

    Matt TheDopestMatrix

    • Raphy says:

      Thanks Matt! What type of controller did your buddy get?

      As for the market of gamers with disabilities, there is a good (not to mention, increasing) number of people who use these as the level of awareness has gone up over recent years because of how data and information need to be more accessible to all kinds of people. And while it’s hard to find an umbrella-like standard to continually create these kinds of controllers on a regular basis, a definite best practice is to cater to a specific need. That’s why some people use simple controller innovations to suit their purpose.

      Awareness has come to mainstream with warm response, however – Evil Controllers has done that, and has gotten a great deal of support because of their collaboration with Able Gamers, not to mention their products getting carried by Best Buy, making their products readily available to the general public. Adding to that, this is why I’m also confident that the Elite Controller’s going to be well accepted by gamers with disabilities because of how the interchangeable parts suit them.

  • Charlie says:

    I am not a huge “Gamer”, but I actually really enjoyed checking out your website. My brother is studying game design and has a few projects that he is working on with some classmates, so I understand and appreciate all that goes in to this type of technology. Your fascination in innovations is something that I also see in my brother. I also enjoyed the layout of your website. It was very easy to scroll through and I never felt lost or confused. Well done and best of luck to you moving forward.

    • Raphy says:

      Hi Charlie, I’m glad you like my website. Good on your brother! It’s definitely good to hear that he went into game design as a career – I myself was unfortunate enough to work in game development for a time and I will honestly say that it was one of the most wonderful moments of my life. 🙂

      It’s truly fascinating to see the how accessibility has innovated the way we play video games – over the past couple of years, publishers/developers have taken great care in ensuring that their titles can cater to all kinds of gamers, taking into consideration things like how the visuals are displayed, gameplay mechanics and controls. It’s also amazing how manufacturers can innovate based on this need as well, such as the awesome work that Evil Controllers and Able Gamers did on a unique and accessible controller – the possibilities are endless and ensures that it will cater to gamers regadless of mobilities in order to enjoy these games.

      All the best to you as well!

      – Raphy

  • Anthony says:

    As a gamer and an active person on YouTube, I have seen tons of disabled kids and grown-ups playing with their feet, etc.

    I have always wondered if companies like Sony or Microsoft would create a controller to benefit them. Glad I ran into this article 🙂

    What a great idea and it would help a lot more people than most people would think. I know a ton of disabled gamers.

    • Raphy says:

      Indeed, I’ve harped about this a lot in this site – Ergonomics in controller design is not a perfect art, even more so if we consider people with cognitive or physical impairments. Bless the heart of these organizations who have consolidated their time and effort to creating amazing products that just make gaming more enjoyable for the impaired.

      I think Microsoft has taken the step in the right direction with the the remapping ability of the Xbox One controller, as well as the remapping ability of the Xbox One controller, something that other manufacturers like Scuf and Razer that also provide similar customization as well, so there are definitely options out there. A perfect example that builds on what is already standard is how the Avenger Reflex Controller makes all buttons accessible through triggers.

      With that, here’s to more design endeavors that can benefit accessible gaming!

  • Paul says:

    Raphy,

    These are some very interesting disabled-accessible controller ideas. Thanks for the great read. Just doing a quick look-up of one-handed gaming pads, I see a lot of great designs for gaming consoles (PS2, PS4, Xbox, etc.) that don’t even resemble the standard controller you’d normally use. I’d imagine a lot of people just want the most effective button layout possible and don’t really care about having it stay true to the look of the original, no?

  • Daniel says:

    This is absolutely fantastic. You’re absolutely right that controllers for disabled people are are must. My friend works in a special needs school and he’ll love this so i’ll pass it on to him. I love the stickless arcade stick, I think it’s a brilliant idea. Great article, very informative and detailed. Well done mate!

    • Raphy says:

      It’s definitely a great feeling to see how manufacturers have been tending to people with special needs by creating peripherals that are especially customized for them. I’m sure there will still be instances where gamers may mod their stock controllers to suit the more specific needs, but it’s definitely good to know that there are products out there that are “umbrella” solutions for accessibility needs.

      The stickless arcade stick is a great concept that translates well for keyboard-based players and those whose physical capabilities hinder them from using a joystick. If you wanna try making one yourself, you can read all about it here!

  • Steve says:

    Your information here about redefining game controllers really spoke to me. I am a hardcore gamer and love to read about all new information in the world of technology. This site shows the best information out there when it comes to game controllers for the disabled. Thanks for this! I really feel like I learned way more than I anticipated.

  • Barb says:

    My son is disabled and can only use his left hand. I’m looking for a stick controller for him for GameCube and Nintendo. Do you sell anything like this. He had a stroke when he was 19 and is now 24. Right side paralyzed.

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