For Ben Heck, it all started as kindness. He was an engineer who made great things and a veteran reached out to see if he could make him an Xbox console that would allow him to play video games with one hand. Twenty years later, he’s still making consoles for people with differences in their limbs. But he is not the only one.
In the past two decades since Heck began modifying Xbox consoles for accessibility purposes, a community of console makers has emerged. The challenge with making devices accessible is that everyone has different needs, and those needs often conflict with each other. Someone might need a joystick that is super sensitive while another might need a joystick that responds to the most intense input. It is almost impossible to modify a controller to meet these two needs simultaneously.
Therefore, some mods may modify the controllers to do the former while others do the latter. There’s a whole community of mods tweaking existing controls to make them more usable for people with a variety of needs — thanks to people like Heck, who has posted his own tweaks on his website, Twitter, and on his popular YouTube channels. Show, in minute detail, what was possible with a factory new Xbox console.
But things changed in 2018. Then Microsoft introduced the Adaptive Console, a highly customizable controller that aims to consider the widest variety of input needs as possible. Since then, some other console makers have made their own attempts at building accessible products. Logitech has created a range of accessories for the adaptive consoleAnd Hori has created a third-party accessible console for the transformer. It’s a huge step in the right direction for an industry that can struggle with inclusivity.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with creators who’ve built entire communities around great tools that big tech companies have either overlooked or left to languish. I talked to Mechanical keyboard lovers Who want to see mechanical keyboard go into the mainstream and Open source tool enthusiasts Who want everyone to participate in the hardware revolution. In this final episode, I wanted to explore the community that big business has already caught on, and instead of challenging creators in space, I actually worked with them. So I naturally spoke with Heck about the game console mod community. Then I spoke with Bryce Johnson, one of the inventors of the Adaptive Controller from Microsoft.
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