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Newly revealed Xbox Adaptive Controller poised to get disabled players back in the game


A disabled gamer plays a game using the Xbox Adaptive Controller.Microsoft handout

Solomon Stone Romney was an avid gamer as a kid. Though born with a left hand that wasn’t fully formed, he played games at both the arcade and at home as he grew up and considered himself a skillful player. Then one day he found himself unable to beat the final boss of a game he’d invested days playing. He knew what he had to do to win the battle, but with his missing fingers he simply wasn’t able to manipulate the controls in the way the game demanded, despite hours of trying.

“Game technology had outpaced my ability to adapt myself to the controller,” said Romney, a retail learning specialist with Microsoft. “I was physically unable to complete the game.”

He gave up on the boss, boxed up his console and traded it in. It didn’t seem right or fair that though he was a passionate and practiced player he wasn’t able to use the game’s arbitrarily designed controls to do what he needed to do within a virtual, man-made environment.


Solomon is not alone in his frustration. In the U.S. alone, 26,000 people experience loss of upper extremities every year, with an additional 8 million suffering some form of temporary impairment. Some disabled players have tried to work out their own ways to play by, say, holding one controller under their chin and another in one hand, getting someone to do some of the control work for them, or cobbling together various inputs and switches to create something that works for their unique situation. Rather than using a peripheral adapted to their bodies, as most players do, they need to adapt themselves to what’s available.


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