A Father’s Quest for an Accessible Game Controller

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In June, 8BitDo, known for creating third-party drivers and adapters, announced its latest driver for Nintendo Switch and Android devices. The Lite SE, created thanks to the collaboration with the father and son team Andreas and Oskar Karlsson, is designed specifically for players with physical disabilities and limited strength and mobility. The launch of this controller not only marks the culmination of years of Andreas ’hard work to find an affordable and accessible driver for their child, but also expands the market for accessible gaming technology.

At a young age Oskar was diagnosed with spinal muscle atrophy type II, a neuromuscular disorder that progressively weakens muscles over time. Despite playing throughout his life, his father regularly adapted standard controllers to meet his son’s needs. As he grew older and his disability progressed, so did the complexity of adaptive designs.

“The GameCube controller was the first controller we adapted,” says Andreas. “We mounted screws on the joysticks and buttons and added polymorphs around the screws. By doing so, we could increase the length of the joysticks to make it easier to grip, and increasing the length of the joysticks reduced the force needed to maneuver it, but at the expense of range of motion.Higher joysticks mean longer movement, but at the time it worked because Mario Kart was a bit easy to control, unlike, say, a fighting game such as street fighter. The screws and polymorph of the buttons meant an increase in the weight of the buttons, which made it easier for them to push or even hold them down.

As games evolved without proper features and accessibility options, Karlsson struggled to discover tools that would allow his child to play properly. From adapters to eye-tracking devices, every piece of adaptive equipment didn’t work out at all and cost Karlsson hundreds if not thousands of dollars. In addition, the substitutes never matched the designs of the standard controllers, amplifying the sense of difference that can accompany the game as a disabled player, which left a young Oskar unwilling to play.

“That’s when we prepared a bit and started modifying existing drivers and even built our own,” Karlsson says. “Honestly, I have no idea how much money I’ve spent on potential things that could have worked, from low power joysticks to electric wheelchairs to the Xbox adaptive controller. They were all better than the previous options, so the Oskar’s interest in games began to return.Of course, the things we modified and built only worked to a certain extent and Oskar still needed help to press certain buttons on his personal assistant. we faced a new problem.At one point he wanted to use the original controllers even though he couldn’t use them to the fullest, in addition to being able to play only for a very short time due to fatigue. different that it didn’t look like everyone else’s was a factor we never thought about. But for Oskar it mattered. “

Even the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device designed specifically for physically disabled gamers, could not meet Oskar’s needs. As Karlsson points out, the size and spacing of the controller and its variable switches and buttons meant that Oskar had to exert even more energy to simply move his arms and hands in order to reach the necessary buttons. But size was not the only problem. Since adaptive equipment can be a gamble for players with disabilities, each purchase can result in no more and no less expensive pieces of plastic that cannot meet the needs of the specific person.

“Like the Xbox Adaptive Controller, it’s a wonderful thing, but it has a lot of flaws,” he says. “First of all, it is very expensive, which is crazy, as many people with disabilities do not have this type of income. And it’s not just the adaptive driver – the accessories for it are incredibly expensive. As for Oskar, he would need two of Hori’s “low-strength joysticks” to use it, and they cost more than $ 400 each. So these three things alone would cost over $ 900. And then you need, like, 18 buttons. “

Karlsson could not find meaningful solutions that not only worked for Oskar, but also looked like standard game controllers. However, after designing several devices while seeking outside help from charities and organizations, Karlsson eventually found help through 8BitDo.

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