Push to Increase Accessibility of Digital Games; A Retrospective Analysis and Rework of the Game Controller

Hazrati, Orkhan, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
McBurney, Paul, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Feng, Lu, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

Video games are a medium with a long and storied history, and an equally long list of benefits. However, there are many arthritis patients who are unable to form connections with others due to a lack of ability to play video games, which is what inspired research into creating an ideal video game controller for the arthritic as the technical topic. Alongside the technical research accomplishment, there have also been great strides toward creating improved standard controllers. Although both experiments cater to different groups of people, both are still connected by the same goal. Information beneficial to one controller can be useful for the other, tightly coupling the research projects due to both focusing on improving video game controllers.
Arthritis plagues over 50 million people in America alone. It is a condition that targets certain areas of the body, like the shoulders, fingers, and knees, and causes multiple sores and bouts of searing pain whenever said joints are bent in a strenuous fashion. In order to bypass the muscle pain, it is necessary to analyze which body parts are most susceptible to arthritis, and then determine which current technological innovations can be used to make games playable regardless. Afterwards, the components can be put together in a cohesive fashion to produce the ideal controller. Inspiration was taken from designs such as the Quadstick controller for paraplegics, and the Xbox Adaptive controller for people paralyzed from the waist down.
Upon analyzing the data, the conclusion was that the ideal arthritis controller would be one focused on foot pedals and sliding hand pads. The new design would reduce the need to bend the limbs, one of the main causes of arthritic pain, while also targeting areas that were less susceptible to arthritis affliction. With the success of the template blueprint, there is now a solid foundation to construct a physical prototype and test the design on existing arthritic patients. A successful test would allow the technology to be implemented elsewhere, increasing accessibility for other devices as well.
Another important aspect of controller design is how the controllers can appeal to the total non-impaired spectrum. By analyzing all prior controllers up to 2021, ranking comparable features among them, and then placing the best features in a proper orientation on the standard controller template, it is feasible to make a better controller design. When analyzing the standard controller, a combination of the Social Construction of Technology framework by Pinch and Bijker and the Diffusion of Innovation theory by Rogers was necessary. The former allows for a better understanding of the widespread influence of video games, and the latter is useful in showing the natural progression of the controller and its acceptance in society, which helps contextualize the theme of passing a torch from gamers to non-gamers that the controller offers.
The data gathered showed that elements like the positioning of the start and slect buttons in the PS2 controller and the touch screen of the Wii U gamepad were all highly regarded on their own merits. By placing the elements in the ideal locations, the new controller could be constructed. Levels of gaming enthusiasm by former non-gamers will steadily increase when the physical prototype is available, and the benefits of higher social intelligence and entertainment levels will become available to a higher quantity of people.
With the development of the two new controllers, gaming will find new footing in formerly unfamiliar markets. While there will likely be some who still choose to denounce gaming due to its supposed lack of value, those inspired to give the medium a chance via either word of mouth or direct interest will be amazed by the inherent quality and convenience the controller boasts. Over 150 million people can benefit from playing video games in America alone, so the reach the projects can potentially attain is staggering.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
video games, controller, evolution, arthritis

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Paul McBurney
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: N/A

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