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Gamers of all walks of life express their creativity in different ways. Larry Scialabba turned his hobby into a side job selling custom-made video game controllers. Check out Scialabba’s sometimes horrific, often exotic controller designs below.
How did you get into designing custom controllers? I was searching for a really unique looking steampunk controller. I searched a lot and couldn’t find one I liked, so I decided to see if I could make what I was thinking about…and here we are. Now, I’m addicted.
How do you go about designing a custom controller? For starters, I try to think of a really custom theme. I look at a lot of images and/or take suggestions from clients. Then, I imagine how it would function, look, and feel. Once I have a concept, I go hands-on to determine how it’s going to work.
What materials do you use to construct one and where do you get your supplies? It really depends on the design. It’s been copper, fiberglass, clay, plastic, etc. I am always looking at new concepts to achieve my vision.
What’s your favorite controller to work with? I enjoy them all but, I would have to say Xbox – more space to get creative.
Have you ever considered going back and working with classic controllers?I would love to. If there is a need, I’m open for anything.
What’s the hardest design request you’ve ever received? I just started creating one for Rinawildflower on Instagram who wanted a custom Xbox 360 controller that was baby pink, with pearl buttons and glitter, but with no texture. It sounds simple on the surface, if you’re like one of those “spray and pay” companies. But, I am not. So I decided to use a four-step airbrush process of solid baby pink primer, a base coat of a deeper pink with actual glitter embedded into the flat lacquer, and then added a softer translucent paint that would show through to the glitter. The whole process took some extra thinking to get the coloring right without texture.
How many hours does it take to put one of these controllers together? It depends. On average, 3-5 days once I’ve sorted out what concept I’m going with. Most of my time is spent making sure the controllers are still functional. I need function over features. I play a lot and I have two teenage sons that play more than I do. I personally use the steampunk one. I’ve logged over 370 hours on it in three months. When I design these, I design around play first, and then I figure out how to incorporate the art. At the end of the day, I want to use it, not look at it. Sure they’re cool, but why can’t they be art and work.
Do you have a design that you’re most proud of? I would have to say the ribbed one “a deeper look.” I wanted to create a controller that had functionality, quality, and was visibly different than anything anyone has ever done. I hand carved the ribs, heart, and brain, and managed to keep the curvature within a two-millimeter difference of the original casing.
Do you design your controllers to be viewed more as art pieces? I like to think of these as “Functional Art” they belong in gameplay. If most gamers are like me, it’s about being unique. Having a personalized controller that is on art level and can be used is what it’s all about. I do have a few people that collect them purely as art objects though.
That’s interesting, because some of them don’t look like they would be very comfortable after a few hours. They feel very normal despite the designs. For example, the “Dragon’s Lair” has a lot of texture and could visibly look uncomfortable. However, we're keeping gameplay at the forefront. The texture is less than 1mm high and not rough at all. If you look at the textured designs, you’ll notice the textured area is placed in similar spots. That’s by design. When you grab the controller your hand naturally curves at those points and has the least interaction with the controller.
What is it about a controller that makes you think it could be a piece of art?To me, art is relative to the person doing the perceiving. I enjoy the smallest of details of a design, because one person’s perception is going to be different than another.
You can see more of Scialabba’s designs on his Instagram page, or buy one of his controllers through his Etsy shop. For more Craft Gamer, check out our coverage of Dan Bull’s gaming rap or Dan Rouse’s 8-Bit Mario pillow.
Email the author Ben Reeves, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.