ATLAS Colloquium welcomes Patrick LeMieux and Stephanie Boluk

Hands Free: A History of Accessible Alt Ctrls

VR headsets, dual thumbsticks, mice and keyboards, smartphone screens—standard interfaces structure the way we design games and the way we play games, from the earliest project pitches to a product’s advertising platforms. But what if instead of “universal” designs targeting generic technologies and normative players, games were made for specific people with specific bodies and specific ways of playing? This presentation begins with a brisk survey of the history of hands-free videogame interfaces—from Reg Maling’s POSSUM in 1961 to Ken Yankelevitz’s QuadStick in 1981 to Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller in 2018—before comparing and contrasting two devices that articulate two different design philosophies: the NES Hands Free and the Octopad. Rather than thinking about accessibility as a single-player problem, these controllers engage the social, political, and environmental aspects of videogames to change the way we play. 

Patrick LeMieux is a media artist, game designer, and associate professor in the Cinema and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Davis. His research and teaching engage game studies, media theory, and art practice to explore the material practices and community histories of play, from speedrunning and esports to installation art and alternative control. Alongside writing, his art and games have been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, from the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and MoMA PS1 to Babycastles and BarSK. He is the producer of Every Game in This City, a podcast on the Idle Thumbs Network, and is currently developing a series of small metagames like Triforce, a topological transformation of The Legend of Zelda, and the Octopad, an eight-player controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System. For more information visit

Stephanie Boluk is an associate professor who plays, makes, and writes about games in the English Department and Cinema and Digital Media Department at University of California, Davis. Her work incorporates game studies, media theory, and political economy to explore the relationship between leisure and labor in the post-2008 global economy. She is the co-author of Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames (2017) with Patrick LeMieux and co-editor of The Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 3 (2016). She has published articles in numerous venues ranging from Digital Humanities Quarterly, ROMChip and Leonardo Electronic Almanac to Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies and Extrapolation. For more information see ;

Tuesday, October 24, 2023 at 11:30am to 12:30pm

Roser ATLAS Center, 208
1125 18th Street, Boulder, CO 80309

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