In June, 8BitDoknown for creating third-party controllers and adapters, announced their latest controller for Nintendo Switch and Android devices. Lite SE, created through a collaboration with father and son team Andreas and Oskar Karlsson, is designed specifically for physically disabled players with limited strength and mobility. The launch of this controller not only marks the culmination of many years of hard work from Andreas to search for an affordable and accessible controller for his son, but it also expands the market for available gaming technology.
At a young age, Oskar was diagnosed spinal muscular atrophy type II, a neuromuscular disorder that gradually weakens muscles over time. Despite playing games throughout his life, his father regularly adapted standard controllers to meet his son’s needs. As he grew and his disability developed, so did the complexity of adaptive designs.
“The GameCube controller was the first controller we adapted,” says Andreas. “We mounted screws in joysticks and buttons and added polymorph around the screws. By doing so, we were able to increase the length of the joysticks so that it was easier to grip, and the increased length of the joysticks reduced the force required to maneuver it. – but at the expense of the range of motion.Higher joystick means longer motion – but at the time it seemed because Mario Kart was a bit easy to control – as opposed to, say, a fighting game such as. Street Fighter. The screws and the polymorph on the buttons meant increased weight on the buttons, making them easier for him to press down or even hold down. “
As games evolved without proper accessibility features and options, Karlsson struggled to find tools that would allow his son to play properly. From adapters to eye-tracking devices, every piece of adaptive equipment did not work fully and cost Karlsson hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Furthermore, the replacements never matched the design of standard controllers, which reinforces the sense of difference that can accompany games as the handicapped player, leaving a young Oskar not wanting to play at all.
“That was when we geared up a bit and started modifying existing controllers and even built our own,” says Karlsson. “I honestly have no idea how much money I’d spent on potential things that could have worked, from low – power joysticks to electric wheelchairs to the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Everyone was better than the previous options, so Oskars interest in games began to return.Of course, the things we modified and built only worked to some degree, and Oskar still needed help to press certain buttons of his personal assistant.As he got older, we stood over for a new problem.At a certain point he wanted to use the original controllers despite the fact that he could not use them to their full extent, just as he could only play for a very short time due to fatigue.Using another controller “that did not look like everyone else’s was a factor we never thought about. But for Oskar it meant something.”
Even the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device specifically designed for physically disabled gamers, could not meet Oscar’s needs. As Karlsson notes, the size and distance between the controller and its varying switches and buttons meant that Oskar needed 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 game for disabled players, every purchase can result in nothing less than expensive pieces of plastic that cannot help the specific person’s needs.
“As an Xbox Adaptive Controller, it’s a wonderful thing, but it has so many flaws,” he says. “Firstly, it is very expensive, which is completely wild, as many disabled people do not have that kind of income. And it’s not just the Adaptive Controller: the accessories for it are insanely expensive. As for Oskar, he would use two of the ‘low force joysticks’ from Hori to use it, and they cost over $ 400 each. So just these three things would cost over $ 900. And then you need 18 buttons. “
Karlsson could not find meaningful solutions that not only worked for Oskar but also resembled standard gaming controllers. But after designing several devices while seeking external assistance from charities and organizations, Karlsson finally found help through 8BitDo.