Five Ways to Hack Your Video Game Controllers Into Something Awesome
By Kevin Lee
Games sure have changed since the days of simply shooing pixels upwards at descending “invading” pixels. Today we’ve got 3D graphics, asymmetrical co-op games, progressive multiplayer games, leaderboards, achievements, procedural level generation, and a whole mess of gameplay features.
In all that time, though, game controllers have remained largely unchanged. Sure, newer consoles now support touch controls, motion tracking, and body sensing, but the traditional-style game controller isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If you’ve got a few dusty controllers hanging around, here are just a few things you can do to repurpose them into new tech.
One Controller to Rule Them All
OK, I’ll admit that this controller doesn’t not look very impressive at first glance, but it can control over 20 retro consoles once you hook it up to Bacteria’s Project Unity. This no simple PC emulation machine–the system comes loaded with the original console boards for several classic consoles, so you’ll be playing with the original hardware and game cartridges.
But the controller is the real star because it can assume every controller button layout on the fly by swapping out controller compatibility packs, which happen to be made out of modded NES game cartridges.
When Life Gives You Buttons, You Add More Buttons
What’s a gamer to do when they want to play some intense shooting or platforming on the go, but all they have are touchscreen buttons? Most of us would probably just go along with blindly jumping to out doom while smudging our touchscreens.
Modders like Rich Degenhardt, however, thought it would be a better idea to just hack an SNES controller to work with Android contraptions. This way, Rich could use a tactile button while being able to see the entire game screen. This mod also give the controller some much-needed upgrades like an Arduino board, a wireless Bluetooth interface, and an internal power supply.
Kinect Mods Galore
Out of all the controllers in gaming history, there has never been anything as multipurpose as a Kinect. The Kinect has inspired modders to create non-game interfaces instead of interactive entertainment experiences to the point that Microsoft built a version designed to work with Windows.
The key to the Kinect’s success is that it reacts directly to what you do. There isn’t any kind of surface or button-based controller to come between you and your game or app.
Speaking of giant control interfaces, modder Charles Lushear made a coffee table-sized version of the classic Nintendo controller that actually works with the original system. Unlike the regular, plastic version you used as a kid, this controller is made out of wood and is 42 inches wide.
Plus, if you have trouble hitting the “A” button 16-times in a single second, maybe you’ll have better luck using your whole fist or palm.
Make a Console Into a Portable
The GeneBoy by Downing is a portable gaming hack that turns the Sega Genesis into a GameBoy lookalike from an alternate universe. It works just like a Sega Game Gear with a Genesis cart adapter, except it probably costs significantly less and you won’t need an extra 50 power packs to play it on the go.
Downing built the GeneBoy out of vacuum-formed plastic and a number of salvaged parts. The screen comes from an old digital camera, the D-pad from of a PlayStation controller, and the buttons from an old Sega Genesis controller.
Have your own controller mods or mod ideas? Leave a comment or tip us off.