Blog Review: Bizarro Game Controllers at Montreal Mini Maker Faire 2012
Concordia PhD student and GRAND HQP Adam van Sertima talks about the Bizarro Game Controller workshop at Montreal's first ever Mini Maker Faire.
Posted by GRAND NCE, September 17, 2012

The Bizarro Game Controller workshop, a demonstration of strange and original game controllers, visited Montreal's first ever Mini Maker Faire August 25-26thThe Mini Maker Faire is a community-driven showcase where tech enthusiasts, artists, engineers, hobbyists and educators get together to share what they have been making while celebrating "maker" culture. The venue was a perfect fit for the Bizarro Game Controller workshop, a series of events that bring together a diverse community of individuals who share a love of design and hacking. 

Concordia PhD student Adam Van Sertima pitched in to help organize the event, and was one of several GRAND HQP to present their own Bizarro Game Controller. Adam shares his experience at the Montreal Mini Maker Faire below. 


"It was great to see so much interest in our games from the visitors, and witnessing what the Montreal maker community is capable of was truly inspiring!" "
- Joachim Despland, Bizarro Game Controller workshop co-organizer

Many of the controllers were first developed at the Bizarro Game Controllers workshop [held at Concordia in October 2011], organized by Dr. Cindy Poremba and Dr. Amanda Williams. With the first Mini Maker Faire in Montreal in August 2012, it seemed like a great place for participants and other colleagues to present the latest iterations of their controllers.   Many of the Bizarro Game Controller crew were GRAND HQP, most working with Lynn Hughes' and Bart Simon's PLAYPR projects. Joachim Despland and Amanda Williams worked together to coordinate the group for MMMF.

Amanda's' "booze pong" controller was based on an alcohol vapor sensor (although for players who   don't want actual liquor on their breath, blowing across a spoonful of hand sanitizer works just as well). This contraption controlled one half of a game of Pong (going up against Adam and Leif's PushMe/pullYou controller).

Adam van Sertima & Leif Penzendorfer (who style themselves "Vansendorfer & Vansendorfer" for their research/Creation collaborations) created their PushMe/PullYou controller to explore intersubjectivity, embodiment and perceptions of mass during play.

Bizarro Fox is a game Joachim made with Graeme Lennon. It uses a two-handed theremin-like motion controller built with a couple of sonars making it possible to control the flight of a space ship through an asteroid field by hovering your hands above the sensors.


Really, there is no winning, there is just choosing to act, good or evil, or doing nothing (which is boring)."
- Stuart Thiel, Game Lab Technician, TAG Research Centre

Joachim also worked with Lindy Wilkins on Face Hugger, a game that uses a microphone as the only input from the player and detects changes in pitch and intensity to control the movement of a character in a stealth-hugging-platformer game. The loud yet carefully controlled screams of players could be heard all day long inside the Maker Faire tent.

No Glove is a game by Stuart Thiel and Lindy Wilkins which explores the impact of a trivial ethical decision, choosing between a good or evil action, showing affection or shooting with a laser, and the futility of it all. Originally designed around the concept of a wired glove with hand gestures mimicking shooting or pinching cheeks, a more durable dance-mat became the preferred method of showing this art-game.

Bronson Zgeb presented his playdough controllers, allowing players to engage in a Dance Dance Revolution-style game by tapping - or thumping - lumps of homemade playdough that served as control surfaces.

The workshop was a great success, bringing together artists, researchers, students, designers and hackers. Carolyn Jong, Research Assistant at the TAG Research Centre, sums it up: "Casual conversations with visitors and other volunteers generated some pretty exciting ideas for future controllers and future Maker Faires, and I expect that many of us will be back in the years to come."

Click here to Learn more about Bizarro Game Controllers workshops.