Quadstick: A Consumer Overview
Author: Justin Hua – HabITec Ambassador and consumer of Quadstick technology and the HabITec team.
Published: 25 November 2021
“I first heard about a fund-raising campaign on Kickstarter for the Quadstick game controller in 2014 from my brother and friends in hospital after becoming paralysed from below my shoulders.”
I was hesitant at first, as it was new at the time and not funded for, but eventually decided to try out the Quadstick on my computer after the adaptive mouse I was using at the time broke.
The Quadstick is a fully customisable game controller created by Embedded Systems Developer Fred Davidson, in collaboration with the late retired Aerospace Engineer Ken Yankelevitz and C1 Quadriplegic Matt Victor.
The Quadstick is directly compatible with PS3, PS4, PC/Mac and Nintendo Switch. Xbox One/360 and Nintendo Wii/WiiU additionally require a USB converter (Brook Super Converter or CronusMax Plus).
It is a joystick with three sip and puff switches, a lip button, a side sip, puff tube and voice control capability. It can program about 30 different buttons just using different combinations of the sip and puff switches on a single profile, with the ability to save multiple additional profiles.
The controls and settings (sip/puff/joystick sensitivity, joystick speed etc) are adjustable via the Quadstick Manager Program (QMP) for Windows, and game profiles are completely customisable through QMP via Excel spreadsheets. The many custom profiles on the Quadstick can be quickly selected for different games with a sip/puff of the side tube.
It has been a very versatile and enabling device in my life to be able to use a computer and play video games (quite adequately) such as: Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, Runescape, Fortnite, Skyrim, Call of Duty MW, Forza, Tomb Raider, Horizon Zero Dawn, Halo, Borderlands 2, Titanfall 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Divinity 2 and Monster Hunter World.
Some issues I faced were:
Not being able to hold combinations of more than 3 buttons at once is a limitation for some games where time is important. For example, first person shooters, like Call of Duty, which require sprinting, jumping, strafing or sliding while aiming, shooting while throwing grenades (or performing melee attacks) nearly all at the same time, isn’t quite possible without stopping one action to start another (although this might be possible with additional buttons, voice controls or a second Quadstick setup).
Some games like Red Dead Redemption have too many different button inputs for different actions – requiring multiple programmed profiles, which I found tedious to set up, as well as being difficult to remember which sip or puff did what.
I had to adjust to different playstyles than before my accident, including learning to be more observant and cautious, rather than rushing in and mashing inputs hoping for the best. It could be frustrating compared to what I expected in the past, but frustration turned into satisfaction when I finally figured it out. Sometimes it takes hours of practice, but don’t get disheartened, get good!
Recommendations and advice
Try to have the Quadstick mounted in a way that is self-adjustable (if physically able to do so) yet secure enough that it doesn’t move when you are using it. I have it mounted on a weighted block of wood sitting atop my overbed table with a zip tie that I can bite and use to reposition the Quadstick – as my body moves around due to spasms and my pressure care mattress.
It’s also good to have a screen that is big enough and far enough away that it doesn’t strain the eyes too much, I used to look at a laptop or read from my phone right in front of my face which started to cause nearsightedness as well as blurry and double vision.
Don’t be put off by all the different Quadstick control options/settings/preferences – have a think about what works best for you, start off simple and don’t be afraid to change settings if they aren’t quite right.
You can label and print out the profile Excel spreadsheet to remind yourself, and then add more specific profiles as you’d like.
Like most things – in the beginning I was reluctant to try, but after time spent practising and adapting, it got a lot better, and the Quadstick now provides me hours of enjoyment.
“Like most things – in the beginning I was reluctant to try, but after time spent practising and adapting, it got a lot better, and the Quadstick now provides me hours of enjoyment.”
Questions from Dr David Painter
What has it meant for you to be able to play these games?
To be able to play these games has been really great – it feels good to know that I can properly enjoy something that I used to before the accident, and also when things aren’t going so well (in regard to external stresses I can’t control) being able to occupy myself with something challenging and entertaining prevents me from getting too far down in the dumps.
What were your best achievements? e.g. high scores, highest level?
My memory is not so great, but I usually finish the main storylines on normal or hard difficulty and move on.
What were your most memorable adventures?
I remember Titanfall 2 and Horizon Zero Dawn being extra enjoyable, and I also had a few pretty fun moments in COD:MW with my friend Damo (C5 quad).
I enjoyed gaming before my accident, so it wasn’t a huge leap to get back into it. I think games are something that can be enjoyable, even with a disability, as there isn’t as much focus on physical capabilities as other hobbies, but rather more to do with using your brain to overcome challenges.
It’s also not a huge investment or hard to set up compared to other activities. If you can find the right type of games that you’re into, it can be very rewarding. Gaming also teaches us to think outside the box (things aren’t always as they seem) and can teach us resilience – because even though some parts are really challenging, they are still able to be overcome with enough knowledge, the right setups, techniques and knowledge just like in everyday life.
Download a PDF version of this article here.
The Hopkins Centre
Menzies Health Institute QLD
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