Every couple of years I like to stop by The Controller Shop and design work of gamepad art. During my most recent visit I found myself overwhelmed by available options, so I turned design duties over to my son, Seamus. He’s really into red right now.
The Controller Shop is an online store where customers create their own personalized Xbox One, Playstation 4 or Xbox 360 gamepad designs (there are pre-made customs for sale as well).
Once the design is finished, the customer can save it via the website’s Design Lab before spending days, weeks or months deciding whether or not they want to spend several hundred dollars on making their design a reality.
Custom gamepads from The Controller Shop can run anywhere from $79.99 for a basic etched Xbox One controller, to upwards of $400 with custom parts, paint finishes, extra buttons on the back and the company’s custom foot pedals.
A bit pricey, but in my experience you generally get what you pay for. The Xbox One controller I designed in 2014 is still going strong. The paint hasn’t chipped or cracked, the SureGrip back hasn’t worn and that silly rabbit is still as bright as it was on the day it arrived. And while that unit had a couple of paint issues, those issues haven’t grown, and I barely notice them anymore.
I still use the Xbox 360 controller I had done in 2012 for PC purposes. It’s still so ugly.
Since I went ugly Xbox for my previous creations, this time around I wanted to do something pretty in PlayStation. I spent days in the editor, trying to come up with a theme or a design that actually reflected something important instead of hideous.
It was not going well.
So I turned to my five-year-old.
Technically Seamus is four, but he’s an E3 baby and will hit the big 5.0 in a few days, so close enough. I sat him on my lap, brought up the Design Lab and started going through the options.
Shell color? Red. Sticks? Red. Shoulder buttons and d-pad? Red. Seamus tends to pick a color and stick with it. I managed to get him to compromise on glow-in-the-dark red for the d-pad and shoulders. For the face buttons I may have prompted him towards the bullet style buttons with red LEDs, but the choice of gold was all his.
Then we came to the graphics. He wanted a cityscape along the bottom, but he wanted it in red. It’s totally there, I’m sure. He asked for his name on the controller, in red. I managed to convince him that perhaps another color would work better, so he switched to his backup—blue. One blue Seamus and a matching blue owl later, and we had this:
A few weeks later, we had this:
Despite the heavy reliance on a single hue, it really is a thing of beauty. It’s got the sort of sparkly red paint job I wanted on a bicycle as a kid. The name font Seamus picked and the owl give it a strange, vintage Led Zeppelin sort of feel, which I am sure is exactly what he was going for.
The bullet buttons give it that high-tech gangster edge.
The controller works perfectly, of course. They wouldn’t send out a broken one. It’s a bit weightier than the standard Dual Shock 3 controller, but I like a substantial piece of hardware in my hands while I play.
Seamus is very pleased with the end result. He likes the red, he likes having his name on things, and deep down inside he knows he’s much better at controller design than his father.
I’m pleased too. The controller is pretty, solid, comfortable and almost completely unique.
The only person not pleased will be Seamus’ twin, Archer, when he realizes his name is not on either of these. It’s okay, he’s more of an Xbox fan anyway.