London’s Victoria & Albert Museum isn’t the first place you’d look for video game history. But in 2018, the museum’s Rapid Response Collecting programme acquired a surprising new object – the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Designed the same year, the device has 150% larger buttons than standard controllers, and can be connected to foot pedals or joysticks – meaning users can customise it depending on their needs. It’s the first mass-market piece of hardware for disabled people and, according to principal designer Chris Kujawski, it required a lot of research to get the design right.
“We can throw a stone from campus and hit a hundred Xbox gamers, and it’s really easy to have them come in on a Tuesday afternoon and give feedback,” he told CR of the process. “It’s much more difficult to find gamers with disabilities, and it’s more difficult a lot of the time for them to come to campus.”
The controller wasn’t just a one-off project however. Xbox has continued its commitment to a broader audience with a succession of creative campaigns, including a project with sight impaired gamer Steve Saylor – which turned his game-fuelled dreams into a 3D audio story – and its Beyond Generations initiative, which showed how gaming can bring different age groups together.