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A million views online for a dad’s special game controller

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A TECH-savvy father has become internet-famous after building a special gaming controller in a day to allow his children – who suffer from a rare hereditary condition – to play.

Rory Steel with his two children Ava and Corban. Rory designed a special controller to allow Ava to play a computer game. She suffers from a condition which inhibits her dexterity Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (26938925)

But Rory Steel (41) says he has his five-year-old son, Corban, to thank for the inspiration behind the project.

The St Helier parishioner said Corban caught him playing a Zelda game on the children’s Nintendo Switch console late one night and demanded that his father did something to allow him to play too.

Corban and his sister Ava (9) suffer from hereditary spastic paraplegia – a rare condition which limits their dexterity, meaning that handling a standard games controller is very difficult.

A video of Ava playing the Zelda: Breath of the Wild game has been seen around the world. It has been viewed almost one million times, featured in the US press and led to senior figures within tech giants Microsoft and Logitech to get in touch with the father-of-two.

And even one of the game’s voice actors has offered to video-call the Islander’s children.

The controller was put together using Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller as a bus. Mr Steel then adapted it, using buttons from on old arcade game that he bought off eBay which were then mounted onto an old screw box.

Mr Steel, head of the Digital Jersey Academy and an IT teacher at Beaulieu, said: ‘It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I suppose it shows the power of the internet. The video was re-tweeted by someone from Xbox and it just went from there.’

And while some parents are chuffed when they correctly assemble their child’s Lego set on Christmas morning, Mr Steel says he’s not finished with the controller. ‘I want to make a better one. Some of the buttons are in the wrong place and it could be better. Ava is telling me what needs to change – she is my harshest critic,’ he said.

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Speaking about how the idea came to be, Mr Steel added: ‘We got the Switch because for some games you just move your arms, so that’s great for the children. But I am old-school and wanted to play Zelda, which requires the use of the buttons. But when my son caught me playing it he said he wanted to do it too, so I had to do it from there.’

He added that Microsoft, the computer firm founded by one of world’s richest men, Bill Gates, had been in touch to offer advice. Logitech, an international computer hardware and software firm, had also made contact, he said, to offer an upgrade on some of the parts for the custom controller.

Mr Steel bought most of the required parts on eBay and after a dash to DIY store B&Q at the weekend he put himself to work. ‘I started it on the Saturday and it was finished by Sunday afternoon. I could have done it in a day if I had had all the parts,’ he said.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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