I'm a Floridian web engineer who planted his roots in Paris. Some of my favorite past-times are analyzing and optimizing development processes, building solid APIs, mentoring junior devs, and long walks on the beach.

A Controller for Disabled Gamers

A while back I went to my home city and played some Xbox with a friend. He has one arm and while he was very interested in playing an FPS with me it was heart crushing to see how impossible it was for him. I decided to try to modify an Xbox controller and I started to look into how I could make modifications to it.

Here is my initial plan:

New Xbox controller

The idea was to lay out all of the buttons so that he could use them with the controller sitting down. After taking apart an old Xbox controller, de-soldering all of the buttons and playing around with some alternatives, I decided to trash the idea.

A friend at Le Petit Fablab had recommended Makey Makey as a possible solution, but since it wasn't made for Xbox I didn't want anything to do with it. Later on I decided that the system didn't matter and ended up taking the Makey Makey route after all.

Board Construction

I decided to base the board out of plexiglass, with 6 smaller squares of plexiglass fixed onto it for the buttons. The decision to go with plexiglass was because other materials are a little more harsh.

  • Metal wasn't great since the base board needed to be an insulator and it's harder to work with.
  • Wood wasn't great because over time it might break down or get splintery.

Here is a shot of what I created:

Sorry for the potato quality

I covered the squares with metal tape to make them conductive and attached Makey Makey's alligator clips to the buttons. After everything was assembled, I covered it in as much duct tape as I could get my hands on. Now it really has that prototype feel. :)

The board can then be controlled with your bare feet. While it was a little awkward for me at the start, it was possible to use it to take the place of my other hand. This setup gives you the directional buttons and then two miscelleneous buttons. Makey Makey comes with certain connectors hardwired for certain buttons. WASD, F, G, space, and mouse click being the presets. You can extend what they give you but for my purposes it is just easier to override the buttons in a game.

It is funny that when I started the project, I had thought that my biggest problems would be technical ones. In retrospect, it ended up being more questions of ergonomics and materials.