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A Father’s Quest for an Accessible Game Controller

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in June, 8BitDo, known for creating third-party controllers and adapters, has announced their latest controllers for Nintendo Switch and Android devices. Created in collaboration with father and son team Andreas and Oskar Karlsson, the Lite SE is designed for physically disabled players with limited strength and mobility. The launch of this controller not only marks the culmination of years of hard work by Andreas in finding an affordable and easy-to-use controller for his son, but it also expands the market for accessible gaming technology.

At a young age, Oscar was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type II, a neuromuscular disease that weakens muscles over time. Although he’s been gaming his entire life, his father often tweaks the standard controller to suit his son’s needs. As he grew and his disability developed, so did the complexity of adaptive design.

“The GameCube controller was the first controller we adapted,” says Andreas. “We put screws on the joystick and buttons and added deformation around the screws. By doing this, we can increase the length of the joystick, making it easier to grip, and increasing the length of the joystick reduces the amount of time it takes to manipulate it. required force – but at the cost of range of motion. Higher joystick means longer motion – but at that point it worked because Mario Kart was a bit easier to control – not like, say, like fighting game street fighter. The screw and deformation on the button means adding weight to the button, making it easier for him to press or even hold. “

As the game grew, without proper accessibility features and options, Karlsson struggled to find tools that would allow his son to play normally. From adapters to eye-tracking devices, every piece of adaptive equipment failed to function fully and cost Karlsson hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Additionally, the replacement never matched the design of the standard controller, amplifying the sense of difference that can accompany the game as a disabled player, making the young Oscar not want to play the game at all.

“That’s when we stepped up and started modifying existing controllers or even building our own,” Karlsson said. “Honestly, I don’t know how much I’ve spent on things that might be useful, from low-force joysticks for electric wheelchairs to Xbox adaptive controllers. All of these are better than previous options, so the Oscars for gaming Interest is starting to return. Of course, what we modify and build only works to a certain extent, and Oscar still needs the help of his personal assistant to push certain buttons. As he gets older, we are faced with a new Problem. There was a time when he wanted to use the original controllers, although couldn’t use them fully and could only play for a short time due to fatigue. Using a different controller that didn’t look like everyone else was a factor we never considered … But for Oscar, it’s important.”

Even the Xbox Adaptive Controller, designed for gamers with physical disabilities, couldn’t meet Oskar’s needs. As Karlsson points out, the size and spacing of the controllers and the different switches and buttons meant Oskar needed to apply more energy to simply move his arms and hands in order to be able to reach the necessary buttons. But size isn’t the only issue. Because adaptive devices can be a gamble for disabled players, each purchase can result in expensive pieces of plastic that don’t meet specific individual needs.

“Like the Xbox Adaptive Controller, it’s a great thing, but it has a lot of flaws,” he said. “First of all, it’s very expensive, which is crazy because many disabled people don’t have that kind of income. It’s not just an adaptive controller: it’s a very expensive accessory. As for Oscar, he needs two “low force joysticks” from Hori “To use it, it costs over $400 each. So those three things alone will cost over $900. Then you need, say, 18 buttons.”

Karlsson couldn’t find a meaningful solution that not only works with the Oskar, but looks like a standard game controller. However, after designing several devices and seeking outside help from charities and organizations, Karlsson finally found help through 8BitDo.



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