Designing Your Own Game Controller — What Skills Do You Need?

Gaming is becoming a more personalized activity of late, particularly among true enthusiasts. Within games, there is simply more to do than ever before, such that people will go to great lengths to build characters, maintain alliances, or whatever other in-depth action a given title calls for. And beyond the games, people will do all sorts of things to make gaming itself a better experience: customizing controls however possible, investing in high-end headsets, finding awesome gaming chairs and tricking them out, and so on.

Some gamers will go even further, however, and actually start building their own equipment. Specifically, you’ll read now and then about a gamer creating a controller or a keyboard with which to play games on a PC, tablet, or even smartphone. It’s a tough project to pull off, but for those who are curious, the following are some of the skills involved.

Tool’s Required to Design your own Gaming Controller

Soldering

If you’re going to truly design your own game controller (or keyboard), you’ll be connecting electrical components at some point. And that generally means knowing how to solder (which, for those unfamiliar with the term, basically means melting metal to forge connections). A soldering iron can be a fairly cheap pickup, and you can learn how to solder through a few simple write-ups and tutorials. But know that this skill will come in handy when it comes time to build the actual electrical connections within the device. You don’t need to be a full-fledged expert, but you do need to know what you’re doing (and how to be safe with the iron).

Circuit Board Design

Some guides you’ll find to game controller design will lead you to existing Arduino boards you can purchase. One of these will serve as the electrical brain of your controller. However, to build a controller in its entirety, you can also learn your way around printed circuit board design, which is essentially a matter of navigating the relevant software and coding in functions. You’ll start with learning the various parts of a circuit board, which include pin layouts, schematic symbols, and more. From there you’ll learn how to manage and customize these components in a design program, ultimately leading to the creation of a PCB that can make your controller work.

3D Printing

Here, too, you have a purchasing option. But the idea is that you would learn how to do some 3D printing so as to be able to create your own physical controller, and potentially even the individual buttons that will go in it. You can find controller models for sale, as well as some extremely simple, makeshift design suggestions (more or less the Google Cardboard of game controllers). However, by taking the time to learn modeling programs for 3D printing you can make your controller more unique, literally crafting its physical structure to your exact preferences.

Tool Use & Intricate Handling

This ties into the idea of soldering to some extent. And some may not consider “intricate handling” to be a skill. However, we have to point out that the process of piecing a game controller together is likely to mean handling tiny wires, threading them into small spaces, drilling little holes to fit screws into, and so on. You’ll want to be familiar with basic tool use, and confident using your fingers.

Aesthetic Design

By no means is aesthetic design skill a necessity. But if you’re interested in making the controller look unique as well — once all the technical design and construction is done — you may want to give this some thought. You can find some terrific custom controller designs around the internet that might get you thinking, either about how generally to go about designing something or about specific ideas. Whatever you decide though regarding the specific look of the controller, honing those sketching, painting, or graphic design skills is a good idea.

You’ll still need specific plans to get the job done. But these are the skills that you’ll need to create a one-of-a-kind game controller or yourself.

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Richard is a 27-year-old Tech enthusiast working as a Editor-in-Chief for LookGadgets. He is passionate about new Technology and a die-hard fan of Microsoft Surface.

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