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Alternative Controller Game Design: From Game Design to Controller Design

Tatiana Vilela dos Santos  (Playful Experience Designer, MechBird)

Location: Room 2014, West Hall

Date: Wednesday, March 22

Time: 5:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass

Topic: Design

Format: Lecture

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

The past decade has seen the advent of a new movement in video game creation. At the confluence of the indie game movement and maker culture, some developers are building custom DIY controllers, using electronics and hijacking technologies, to create unique game experiences. These odd peripherals are referred to as alternative controllers, a.k.a "alt.ctrl."

Game design and controller design have always been interdependent, one constantly adapting to the other: From the advent of the D-pad to the emergence of the twin-stick gamepad, the video game history is full of examples of this mutual influence. But alt.ctrl games offer an incredible opportunity to research this influence and explore new ways to exploit it. But how?

This talk addresses four ways to design game experiences apprehending the controller—not just as a mean to experience the game, but as a game element in itself. This includes: controllers as part of the game system providing unique game mechanics, controllers as part of the game feel providing unique sensory experiences, controllers as part of the game narrative providing unique forms of storytelling, and controllers as part of the game space redefining the magic circle and the borders between the physical and digital worlds.


Attendees will gain a better understanding of the interdependency of game design and controller design, learning useful tools and methods to design games using tangible interfaces to provide unique game mechanics, game feel, narrative and mixed reality experiences. They will leave with resources to start experimenting with these methods.

Intended Audience

This talk is for any designer curious to learn more about the interdependency of game design and controller design. It is especially interesting for designers looking for new ways to play and for experimental design approaches. There is no prerequisite knowledge required for this talk.