Some of you may already know that in my spare time I build custom game controllers for people who have physical disabilities.
Typically this involves little mechanical tweaks such as plastic extensions glued onto buttons for better access. Sometimes it is a little bit more involved. Since I’ve been doing this, I have had many people ask me about the process — “When do I find time?” or “How do I design parts?” I decided to document a fairly involved build from beginning to end in order to help educate people on the process.
Before we begin, I’d like to share two warnings. These are the same warnings that I give anyone as I begin their project:
- I’m slow. I build these in my spare time. I balance this hobby with being a father, working my day job (here at Make:), and my own hobbies. It can take me weeks to get a single controller done.
- My mods aren’t pretty. Frankly I don’t have the time to worry about making everything pretty. I already take forever, you don’t want me worrying about aesthetics.
Here you get the gist of how I manage to have time for this stuff. Typically I’m working in the early hours of the morning on the weekends, or I squeeze in a little bit of work in the evening between homework with my kids and bedtime.
In this episode I establish what my goals are. Mainly, I need to make foot controls to replace the left analog stick and left d-pad. I plan to design these in a way that they are “pods” that could theoretically be used in many ways in the future, not just feet.
The sunrise has nothing to do with the controller — it’s just pretty. I spent some time modeling the thumbstick pod and then brainstorming how I’d put an optional thumbstick on a pistol grip.
In this episode I’m finishing up these external control pods. You can see that my lack of planning keeps biting me as I overlook simple design issues and have to retrace my work.
There’s a reason I model and 3D print parts. In this episode I explain why I even bother, when I could just slap something together with moldable plastic. In short, the idea is that I can reproduce it much more quickly if I have a 3D model.
I do not enjoy soldering inside the controllers themselves. I’ve got really shaky hands and a big dumb soldering iron.
It is done! I didn’t film all the little bits in between. Frankly I realized it was making me take even longer to finish because I would spend time working on the camera and editing as well. I also ultimately decided just to go with the idea of using moldable plastic to make the optional pistol grip. After creating it, I realize two main things. Moldable plastic is ugly, and I can mold it faster than I can print a new one.
So there you have it. A complete controller build from beginning to end.
Invariably, when I post about these controllers, I get emails asking for me to make one. I wish I could help everyone, but I simply can’t. If you need a controller, I can put you on my waiting list, or I’ll gladly give you a list of other places where you can get one made.
If you’re interested in helping make controllers, you are awesome and should contact me immediately!