Microsoft – and by extension well known philanthropist and CEO Bill Gates – have made a major step forward in innovating for inclusive gaming with the announcement that they will release the official Adaptive Controller for Xbox One. With a sturdy yet simplistic design, the Xbox Adaptive Controller, or XAC for short, features two very large buttons that are soft and easy to press alongside an over-sized d-pad.
Deborah Bach writes the following for Microsoft’s Story Lab.
“The new Xbox Adaptive Controller, which will be available later this year, can be connected to external buttons, switches, joysticks and mounts, giving gamers with a wide range of physical disabilities the ability to customize their setups.”
The seed of the idea germinated in an internal hackathon conducted by Microsoft staff in 2015, Polygon reports. It was there that a prototype version of an adaptive controller was created, with the express intention that it would be compatible with a laundry list of attachments commonly employed by gamers with disabilities. This design was revised a year later and was accompanied by a statement from the lead on the Xbox brand and Executive President of Gaming at Microsoft, Phil Spencer. The statement, posted to Microsoft’s blog, outlines a vision about improving “gaming for everyone” and elaborated on the philosophy of developing specific controllers for players facing various physical difficulties with existing controllers. Soon enough, organizations like AbleGamers pitched in their ideas and experiences, and these consultations amongst many others bear fruit today and into the future.
The possibilities for the upcoming Xbox Adaptive Controller are truly endless, mentioned attachments including pedals for foot control of both car and characters, and even compatibility with a Quadstick – a mouth-controlled joystick that measures air passing through a tube and relative positioning in order to activate response on the console end.
Combine this massive effort with the Copilot update that was released last year, an update which allowed Xbox players to utilize two controllers at once to coordinate inputs for a single character, and you have the recipe for a revolution in inclusive gaming. Gamers from all walks of life and with all forms of physical ability will be better able to take part in the joy that is a firefight within an online match of Halo 5: Guardians, the pulse-quickening thrum of the engines on a Forza Motorsport track, or square off against the most complete fighters in the world in a savage bout of Mortal Kombat XL.
With all of the infighting that takes place within the gaming subculture (see: the brouhaha surrounding #gamergate), it is truly refreshing to see hard work and resources poured into something so unabashedly and unreservedly positive for the gaming community, and greater society, as a whole.