The unwieldy GameCube pad is ubiquitous in Super Smash Bros. competition. Smash players have long been improving the controller through mods, the latest of which is an internal hand-warming mechanism that gets fingers nice and toasty after periods of inactivity.
The hand-warming GameCube controller is the invention of Morne, a Super Smash Bros. Melee player from Southern California. He told Kotaku that he’s been “obsessed” with the idea since a fellow competitor at a local tournament saw Morne with an electric hand warmer and mentioned how cool it would be if the pads they used to play functioned the same way. “I froze and my jaw dropped,” Morne explained via email. “I told him he was a genius.”
A year later, Morne has a working prototype, which he demonstrated in a video uploaded last week. It’s exactly like a GameCube controller except for some internal heating mechanics, which disperse throughout the controller thanks to polymer clay. There are several ways to charge the device, including an external battery and a micro USB port. As to be expected from an early version, it’s a little rough at the moment, but Morne has plans to refine the design, with a focus on maintaining the classic form of the GameCube controller as to keep the shape players are used to competing with and maintain even warmth.
It’s exactly like a GameCube controller except for some internal heating mechanics, which disperse warmth throughout the device thanks to polymer clay. There are several ways to charge the device, including an external battery and a micro USB port. As to be expected from an early version, it’s a little rough at the moment, but Morne has plans to refine the design, with a focus on maintaining the classic form of the GameCube controller to keep the shape players are used to competing with while maintaining even warmth.
“Warming up” is an important concept in the Smash community. It means both playing casually for a bit to get ready for an important tournament match and physically warming up fingers and thumbs to make them more pliable. The former is easy enough—just grab an open setup and start practicing—but the latter can be difficult, since competition venues are kept as cool as possible to account for the large amount of people and electronics upping the ambient temperature. Experienced players will often show up to these events with an electric hand warmer, but the possibility of having a controller that handles that for you as you play would be a big deal for the competitive community.
The GameCube controller’s design and the high execution necessary for serious Smash competition can destroy players’ hands and aggravate other injuries. Morne himself has tendinitis, so he hopes this warming controller will help him continue to play the game he loves with less pain. As the project is still in its early stages, there hasn’t been any wide-scale testing in the community, but Morne plans to take a couple prototypes to the major Smash tournament Genesis early next year so that more folks can check it out for themselves and provide feedback.
“I haven’t had the chance to have top players test it because I only just finished the alpha version,” Morne said. “I plan on asking [Michael “Mike Haze” Pulido] and possibly other top players to try it out when it’s at a more stable state. BlueBuddy from San Diego tried out the warming function and said he loved it.”
After sharing his progress last week, Morne has been in contact with other modders about the possibility of working together on the project, and he’s already producing revisions. These include a more heavy-duty cord and upgrades to the battery. When asked about there being any danger to the internal components of the controller, Morne said insulation should keep everything safe, and the external power source means there isn’t any additional drain on the GameCube itself. He also feels his work could be applied to the competitive scene’s controversial box controllers, but his focus remains on the traditional pad for now.
“There’s always ways to improve,” Morne said. “I am constantly grinding to make things more efficient, more reliable, more compact. Currently changing the design so rumble packs can be used. I plan to collaborate and make a controller that is worthy of Super Smash Bros. Melee fiends and people with hand conditions like me.”