Alternative Controllers: Tom and Jerry in “Ping Pong”

The Trigger:

A sense of play exist from birth in every creature. Opportunities to play even as adults are always welcomed, however it is not always achievable. Standardised game input do not allow for individual’s uniqueness or needs. Removing this unnecessary constraint will free play for all again.

The Quest:

This project was inspired by my interest in game accessibility and further encouraged by the popularity of Xbox Adaptive Controller that was released only three months ago. There are various version of buttons, switches and triggers that had been adapted to suit individual with disabilities’ needs. However, aside from eye glaze, I feel that there are not many alternative to physical strength requirement that these inputs needed. This influenced me to use this opportunity to experiment with various sensors (such as pressure, light, temperature, rotation and so on) to see if a move away from the typical button-based game controllers could be viable.

The Heroine:

Though the focus of the project is to create alternative controllers, they cannot function independently in a vacuum from from digital games. Therefore this project is be paired with a Ping Pong clone that I created to be used as a platform to see, and to use, the controllers in action.

As the project developed, this had evolved from the original concept of utilitarian plug-in controllers similar to Xbox controller into an integrated performative piece. The aesthetic of Ping Pong became the key that tie whole project together making it a theatrical based design.

After experimenting with various type of sensors, photocell and potentiometer sensors were chosen as they are different from each other thus demonstrating more than one approach that could act as controller. For one of paddles, a pair of photocell sensors are used. One for each direction that paddle can move to, up and down. Players can indicate which direction by casting in shadow a light sensor. For the another paddle, a directional knob placed on top of a potentiometer act similar to a lever, the player rotate the knob in the direction they wish paddle to move in.

The Wisdom:

I feel that this project succeed in demonstrating the potential of using sensors other than buttons as game controllers. However, it is clear that this project require further development and fine-tuning to showcase the potential of using alternative sensors with high mechanics complex games.