Building Your Own Game Controller

As much as gaming has evolved over the years, changes in controllers have been somewhat erratic. Early console gamepads got the job done, but in relatively simple ways (and with less-than-durable construction). An occasional outlier like the famously odd Nintendo 64 controller attempts to revolutionize the concept. And for the time being we seem to have settled on something at least relatively standardized across console, PC, and now phone attachment controllers — though plenty of gaming enthusiasts will still argue that no two options are really alike.

Now that we’re easing further into an era of more customizable, specialized gaming experiences though, it may also start to become more common for people to try to design their own controllers. In other words, if you’re going to use something like Google Stadia to access all of the games you want on the device of your choice, why not try to create the exact controller you want as well? That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the Stadia controller. In fact, it’s pretty awesome. Nevertheless, particularly if you tend to take an interest in these things, why not try?

Building your own gaming console is not necessarily the simplest project. But a growing number of available examples and some increasingly available technologies are making it more feasible. So below we’re providing some ideas that might help get you started.

Review What You Want

Before you set about with a specific plan for your own video game controller, it’s a good idea to take some time to really think about what you want. You can think back on your favorite controllers from the past, and even read about the evolution of controllers over time. This process doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll land on a perfect design, but you may come to a fuller realization of what you personally value in a game controller. That, in turn, can influence the rest of your process moving forward.

Familiarize Yourself With Arduino & PCB Design

When creating a game controller, you’ll need to create a printed circuit board and/or engineer an Arduino board in order to make the device functional. The Arduino option is popular among people engineering their own gaming devices, and modern PCB design now offers more options than ever for customizing these boards’ functionality. Essentially, you can now include an Arduino custom library in your PCB design process, such that you can direct its functions via software. This is easier said than done if it’s your first attempt, but it can be learned, and it will ultimately set the controller up to perform all of the necessary functions, such as button and joystick response.

Learn 3D Printing

3D printing is an optional part of the process. If you’re merely looking to create a gamepad that works, you can do so by way of something as simple as a small strip of wood or plastic with some electrical components attached to it. However, if you want to focus on a custom-built physical design that will be most comfortable for you, it may be worth your while to learn how to render designs for 3D printing. This, today, is likely to be your best means of producing the physical pad of your game controller. And keep in mind, you may also be able to find some existing gamepad designs available for download online.

Follow Examples

Finally, it’s also a good idea to seek out examples. You’ll find people online explaining how to design game controllers, and while you don’t necessarily have to follow their direction exactly, you may learn a thing or two about the process that will enable you to do a better job with your own design.

So that’s that! It’s no easy feat to create a nice gaming controller on your own, and again, there’s nothing wrong with the Google Stadia option. But if, like so many gamers, you’ve always felt like you’re in search of a more perfect option, now might be the time to try to build it yourself.

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