the indie resistance that refuses to let crazy controllers die


I miss the time when Nintendo invited us to play with some bongos and Sega with some maracas. But despite timid flickers of big ideas like Nintendo Labo, the era of crazy peripherals seems to be over.

On a commercial level, at least, because behind those fishing rods of Dreamcast or the robot NES, there is still a stream of creators that refuses to abandon the magic of peripherals and alternative controllers. In fact, they even have their own events.

The magic of alt.ctrl.GDC

Created back in 2014 with the Game Developers Conference as an umbrella, the alt.ctrl.GDC is an exhibition belonging to the San Francisco developer fair in which the most original and groundbreaking controllers of the moment are presented, chosen and shown.

No pads with additional triggers or special buttons, we are talking about controllers as strange as a cardboard box that, like Calvin and Hobbes, allows us to imagine that we are inside a spaceship as if we were five years old again.

A box that, as you will see below, allows us to control the movement of the ship by leaning and even shooting at enemies and asteroids by pressing an improvised button placed on the front of our “vehicle“.

With the use of common objects as the main asset to create video games, from hitting a zombie mask to simulate that we are fighting against them, to using a rope that you must stretch to make you climb a wall, there are also other ideas that go beyond , blurring the line between video game and experience with concepts that are close to board games or adventures in an escape room plan.

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The Japanese brother of the alt.ctrl.GDC

With the success of the idea at the GDC, a few years ago the fair ended up also reaching Japanese territory with a second event in which to celebrate alternative controls, the make.ctrl.Japan2 which is held within another major fair, the Game Market Spring.

With some ideas jumping the puddle to be shown there too, here they are not lacking in innovation and surprises either. Making noise with a plastic bag to simulate that you are cooking rice in a wok, rubbing a towel against a washboard, a noisemaker that serves as the tongue of a chameleon… It is absolutely insane.

Approaching that union between video game and toy that unfortunately seems to have fallen into oblivion, alternative controls transport us to a time when that mixture was part of this industry. A market destined to sell us plastic objects that, beyond the commercial component, was also able to deliver great games and fun ideas.

Unfortunately, the video game world has taken other paths, alternative controllers are already a relic of the past with timid exceptions and it does not seem that their return is just around the corner. Luckily, there will always be ideas like these to make us dream of everything beautiful and exciting from that time.

Then we leave you with the presentation video of Pastry Panicthe winner of the last edition of the alt.ctrl.GDC who dueled controllers like a raven guessing cards or a teletext. Undoubtedly one of those examples that, due to its complexity and ambition, dare to go a little further than simply surprising us with something original.


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