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The Cetra

a gaming experience for everyone.

The Cetra

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THESIS PROJECT

The Cetra is a concept for an adaptive controller created for the Nintendo Switch for users with motor impairments and/or physical hand injuries. The controller can be physically remapped as well as by a mobile app to ensure the user can experience maximum comfort and ease playing video games.

 

THE PROBLEM

Gaming is a worldwide interest amongst all people; however, those with disabilities have limited opportunities to enjoy it. Gaming companies have begun to start creating more accessible games, but the resources are few. While fixes can be made into the code for those with vision or hearing impairments, companies have yet to step up and implement these into more of their mainstream games rather than creating new games for disabled users entirely. There is also little that settings can do for those users with motor disabilities, one hand, or no hands at all, and the use of specialized alternative input devices does not see widespread adoption, possibly due to the difficulty in accessing them.

The Nintendo Switch, while having a selection of best-selling titles, ranks on the top of the “do not play” category (according to a study by Able Gamers), due to the increasing motion-specific games, lack of accessible settings, and perhaps the lack of universal controllers. It is this reason that my project focuses on an adaptive controller for the Nintendo Switch, and specifically for users with motor impairments.


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The breadth of academic research on accessibility in gaming has been sparse since their efforts are mainly focused on creating new, specialized games designed specifically for disabled people, spurring the assumption that games are positioned as a means to an end for rehabilitation. This neglects the growing number of users with disabilities who play mainstream games like their able-bodied peers. 

The use of specialized alternative input devices does not see widespread adoption, possibly due to the difficulty in accessing them. Many of these devices are created by third-party companies and are therefore costly. It still stands that the suitability of devices can vary from person to person, as can their availability to those who need to access them.


RESEARCH

I wrote a paper gathering research by reviewing the need for accessibility, the current state of the gaming industry, and proposed ideas to how the industry can be more accessible in the future.

Personal research included a heuristic evaluation of mainstream games to see how playable they are for disabled users.

  • Findings show that mainstream titles still have certain easy fixes that could be implemented within the games, such as control remapping even for games that seem to be basic with the jump/run sequences.

A second heuristic evaluation was conducted examining the various kinds of controllers commercially available and organized in terms of how accessible they are in comparison to the cost.

  • Findings show that alternative input devices are usually created by users themselves who need it, rather than large-scale companies creating them. This is why they are so costly. If large corporations took on the task of creating these controllers, the cost would lessen. Take a look at the Microsoft adaptive controller, priced only at 100 USD.


THE CONTROLLER

Inspiration for The Cetra controller was based on three things: The Microsoft Adaptive controller, ‘bad’ controller designs, and Mr. Potato Head.

The Microsoft adaptive controller features two large buttons, a design which I kept for The Cetra. This controller allows for button remapping via the Xbox app. This controller has ports that allows for external devices to be attached and used.

The Microsoft adaptive controller features two large buttons, a design which I kept for The Cetra. This controller allows for button remapping via the Xbox app. This controller has ports that allows for external devices to be attached and used.

This controller design, while with many buttons, is overall poorly designed and difficult to play with.

This controller design, while with many buttons, is overall poorly designed and difficult to play with.

I took inspiration from Mr. Potato Head because his parts are removable and —while not conventional— can be placed in any sort of way the user wishes. This concept is the driving idea for The Cetra.

I took inspiration from Mr. Potato Head because his parts are removable and —while not conventional— can be placed in any sort of way the user wishes. This concept is the driving idea for The Cetra.

 

Taking all of these into consideration, I created the Cetra to be a table top controller, and to have the two core buttons on the Microsoft adaptive controller but instead allowing for four physically interchangeable buttons. The buttons on the top row have eight ports with seven possible button options. the X,Y,B buttons are repeated here to allow a user to play with one hand if needed.

Controller concept loosely based on the Microsoft adaptive controller but created with multiple remappable buttons to eliminate the need for external devices (for basic buttons) like the Microsoft adaptive controller.

Controller concept loosely based on the Microsoft adaptive controller but created with multiple remappable buttons to eliminate the need for external devices (for basic buttons) like the Microsoft adaptive controller.

Here is an example of a possible way to physically remap the controller. The Cetra allows the user the ability to play with one hand if needed as well.

Here is an example of a possible way to physically remap the controller. The Cetra allows the user the ability to play with one hand if needed as well.