The $100 Xbox Adaptive Controller lets you plug in the gadgets you need. It’s all about accessibility. Mike Luckett is a lifelong gamer. He started at the age of 5 […]
The $100 Xbox Adaptive Controller lets you plug in the gadgets you need. It’s all about accessibility.
Mike Luckett is a lifelong gamer.
He started at the age of 5 nearly three decades ago, joining his older brother who was playing the original Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Within a few years, he was playing games like Id Software’s 1992 Nazi prison break shooter, Wolfenstein 3D, and the followup sci-fi hit Doom.
Over the years, Luckett collected lots of consoles , including 1988’s Sega Genesis, 1994’s Sony PlayStation, 2005’s Xbox 360 and 2017’s Xbox One X . One of his favorite games was Vectorman, a shoot-’em-up adventure in which you’re a robot in the future protecting Earth from an uprising of evil robots.
But that all changed after the accident.
Luckett had been deployed overseas and working ordnance logistics for the Army in Iraq from 2010 through March 2011, when he came home. A few months later, in August, he was driving a motorcycle when things went wrong. The accident severed his C6 spinal cord, leaving him unable to use his legs. While he can move his hands, he lost control of his fingers.
And he could no longer use a computer. “I couldn’t even function, using the keys or using a trackpad or any of that,” Luckett said.
But he got really frustrated when he realized that while he was eager to try Activision Blizzard’s 2016 team-based shooter Overwatch, it required him to use a controller he couldn’t physically get his hands around. Luckett said that’s when he nearly decided to quit gaming .
He wasn’t the first gamer facing physical challenges. Since nearly the beginning of the industry, video games have been built with a few basic assumptions about the players: They can hear, they can see and they have two fully functioning hands. The first video game controllers, from the likes of Atari and Nintendo, were designed with joysticks and buttons.
To help them play on their own terms, some people in the disabilities communityby breaking apart the controllers and attaching buttons, switches and other gizmos — changes that allowed them to send signals to the game using their feet or elbows, by bopping their head against a button or even by blowing into a tube. But building specialized controllers is onerous, expensive and time-consuming. Worse, the setup process doesn’t always work.
Enter the Xbox Adaptive Controller
Now there’s something that can help Luckett and others like him truly get back into the game.
It’s the Xbox Adaptive Controller from Microsoft . The $100 device, to go on sale later this year, is designed to help gamers of all shapes, sizes and abilities play games however they can, on either an Xbox One or a PC powered by . It offers ports into which players can plug switches, buttons, pressure-sensitive tubes and other gear in order to control any function a standard controller can do. Microsoft unveiled it in May, ahead of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, when the design and development communities focus their efforts on learning and sharing ideas around building products with the disabilities community in mind.
“We’re coming up on 2 billion people playing video games on this planet,” Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox team, said in an interview. “As an industry, when you start to hit that kind of impact act in terms of the broad base of people that interact with your art form, I do think we have a social responsibility.”
Sitting in his wheelchair in an accessibility lab Microsoft built in itsbuilding at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington, Luckett showed me what that effort’s done for him. Since he doesn’t have use of his fingers, the soft-spoken 32-year-old needs both hands just to hold a controller. If he wants to hit a button or tap the joystick, he has to rest the controller against something and then bring a hand up top to do the work. If the controller needs him to use three or four fingers at once, there’s just no way.
I watched as he powered up Fortnite, the hit battle-royale shooter from Epic Games. As soon as it starts, he’s playing like any other person on the screen. You’d never be able to tell he was using one controller with two big buttons near his wrist in addition to a separate controller. He’s still able to move quickly and take out opponents better than I ever would.
“It’s a really cool escape,” he said. “You get to immerse yourself into a world that you don’t normally involve yourself in.”
He doesn’t hide his disability though. His gamer name is MikeTheQuad.