The Guinness World Record for the largest videogame controller on the planet has been broken! British electrical engineering student Ben Allen along with co-creators Stephen van 't Hof and Michel Verhulst put together a gigantic 12ft x 5ft 3 in x 1ft 8 in, 18 stone NES controller to take the title, a joypad so big it needs two people to operate!
"The idea basically came from a brainstorm," said Allen.
"We were sitting around between lectures having a chat and a coffee, someone came up with the NES idea and we ran with it. From the conception to the completion of the controller took about six months, and after spending a lot of time planning, the actual build took about four weeks. There were lots of late nights, and lots of not sleeping! In fact, I even fell asleep on the controller for about half an hour one night!"
Showcasing the achievement at London's Liverpool Street Station, Tech Digest got some hands-on time with the daddy of all retro controllers. Though it takes some getting used to, the oversize buttons responded really well, pushing back against our hands with a satisfyingly spongy feel. Tech Digest, alongside Shiny Shiny's Becca, managed a respectable 67 lines on the NES version of Tetris, a potential record in itself on the unique controller.
But construction wasn't simply a matter of scaling up components found in a regular NES joypad. After a few nights spent stress-testing the unit in a rowdy local pub, Allen's team quickly realised the original iconic design couldn't withstand the repeated button presses made when playing scaled up to the new size.
"In the original controller there's just a bit of padding on the back of each button and a mesh on the circuit board," explained Allen.
"When you press the pad there it short circuits the mesh and pulls the signal low. Here we do it slightly differently. The mechanical switches in our prototype broke, so we went with a light-based system with a sensor. When you press a button, the light beam hitting the sensor is broken, the sensor filters that information and pushes it to the same electronics as used in the original NES controller, which then in turn registers your intended inputs."
So, could anyone make a working version similar to the record breaking kit on show? Allen, who studies at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, believes so:
"If you wanted to do it at home I reckon you could. Perhaps using a wooden frame rather than the stress-tested steel frame we've built, without the car wheel ball bearings too. Though it's not a cheap thing to do, if you had three guys, working four full-time weeks, you could probably do this, and some more."
The event was held in order to promote the release of the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2012, which also features other quirky gaming records like "Longest Gaming Session in Free-Fall" and "Largest Competitive Pokémon Videogame Family". We can't begin to imagine what the conversation around that family dinner table must be like!
"We've been burning the midnight oil like ninjas for the 2012 Gamer's Edition: witnessing record attempts, talking to developers and playing as many videogames as we could handle." said Guinness World Records Gaming Editor, Gaz Deaves.
"Gamers all over the world can finally get their hands on the result of our hard labour, and this year's book packed with all the amazing records, facts and feats that they have a right to expect from Guinness World Records."
Out on Thursday 19th January, the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2012 will be available from all good bookstores. And some rubbish ones too!