gambi_abo is a series of do-it-yourself (DIY) cardboard-based game controllers. Each controller has approachable and accessible building instructions for how to create controllers using easy to find interface devices. With gambi_abo, you can make controllers for the games you choose, not the ones a certain company decides are the best for its platforms.
No gatekeeping, no commodification. Bring politics into your games*!
(* Well, politics are already in there). Creating, making and experimenting with the ways we play are free practices which should not be restricted by gatekeepers. When large corporations turn such practices (such as, let’s say, do-it-yourself controllers) into products, their financial and discursive power comes into action. They create and grow closed platforms, they enforce patents and copyright, and limit access to creation. Companies also try to center their own products at the expense of what was once common and shared, associating their brands with idealized and profit-optimized versions of creativity, shaping and influencing what will be created next.
gambi_abo is a project created against this enclosing process. It does not rely on one company or system. It fosters the free and accessible sharing of designs and tries to bring the political aspect of it to the foreground.
Let’s embrace making and playing games as a form of political action: this is the main reason behind the choice of topics and games for the GambiCons. gambi_abo is designed to help bring a critical perspective on the capitalist world we live in. I believe alternative game controllers are great ways to challenge the way we play games and our expectations. While this transformative aspect has been mostly used to create InnovativeFun™, it also has a very political potential. In a way, if we can design controllers to change how we play, why can’t we do so in ways that politically engage with the world? gambi_abo is an invitation to do just that.
GambiCons are cheap, easy to make & modify, and work in different contexts.
If a device is cheap and approachable to make, it can be used by more people. It also means that they are easier and less risky to customize and experiment with. This way, you can more readily adapt the GambiCon designs for your own needs. The designs on gambi_abo were created using very few equipment or materials, mostly cheap and relatively easy to find. The equipment used doesn’t require much previous experience too. Finally, I prepared approachable instructions for each controller.Let me know if you have suggestions or critiques about that..
I believe that accessibility on a design project relates to many different things: our bodies, our economic situation, our previous experiences & skills, the complexity of the project, the legal access to it, the language chosen, and so much more. I could not tackle all of these different axes on gambi_abo (as this is a one person project so far), but accessibility has been a guiding direction for its creation, and I hope to improve it.
Use (and re-use) the keyboards, mice or gamepads that you already play with.
gambi_abo is based on out-of-shelf devices that are easily available for repurposing or to buy, like mouse, keyboard or gamepad. The gambi_abo controllers are designed so that you don’t need to open your electronic devices up or break them to make a GambiCon work. There’s no need to know how to solder, to program or to use a multimeter. You won’t need to buy electronic boards, specialized equipment or a certain game console.
Don’t worry about a big corporation deciding what you can do with cardboard controllers & creations.
The major inspiration for gambi_abo is the concept of gambiarra (or kludge), the Brazilian term for improvised artifacts done cheaply. This is not a negative idea: gambiarra can be seen as a different model for design, one that builds on the limitations of industrial design, production, and circulation (Boufleur, 2006, p. 2). I find it very empowering as it brings attention to the diverse ways folks engage with creation in everyday life.
Here are some other references that inspired this project. They might interest you.
Kenji Kawakami’s book and the 10 tenets of Chindōgu. Chindōgu are “not exactly useful, but somehow not altogether useless”, inventions “that didn’t quite work… but were nonetheless fun” (source). These creations walk a fine line between satire, critique and earnestness while also being very playful objects. Thanks to Andrea Peña for the reference.
Adaptive Design Association, Inc and their educational materials about adaptive design and making objects with cardboard or cardboard carpentry as they call it. They have a very good video series on construction techniques, as well as manuals and a very informative website. I found out about them via Gui Bueno, thanks, Gui!.
Also, another reference is a certain game made by a big game corporation. gambi_abo as a whole is a response to that, so no need to write much more. ;)