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ALT.CTRL.GameCraft Workshop @ Beta Festival Write-up

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Thanks to everyone who came along to our very first ALT.CTRL.GameCraft hosted by Beta Festival at The Digitial Hubon Saturday November 4. And we were grateful the rain eased off and even had some Beta Festival visitors popping their heads in to see what we were doing.

It was nice to see familiar faces from past GameCraft game jams, some folks from PyLadies Dublin as well as new faces all under one roof with the curiosity and excitement of what everyone will be doing in the workshop.

thank you

A very big thank you to Aishling Murray for inviting us to run this experimental creative tech event, and was something I wanted to run for awhile, a fringe event that gets people curious about electronics and games.

A shout out to ShipItCon for keeping us fed with nice sambos from Lovin’ Catering, and DIGIT Game Studios for their support, and coming along to our event.

And of course a big round of applause for Mick who designed the board, he did most of the electronics, and coding (I jumped in with the soldering while not being overwhelmed with the flux fumes πŸ˜†) plus the support on the day.

workshop controller kit

Each participant was provided with a pre-soldered kit which included:-

  • 1 x Raspberry Pi Pico
  • 2 x Custom PCB designed by Mick with 4 soldered buttons
  • 1 x USB cable
  • 5 x jumper cables
  • A zine on the overview of the workshop
  • Printout of the pinouts [7].

References on where to buy components at the end of this writeup.

The workshop

Here are the slides from the workshop:

ALT.CTRL.GameCraft Workshop @ Beta Festival 2023 - Speaker Deck

πŸ—“οΈ Sat Nov 4, 2023 (12-5PM) πŸ“iD8, The Gatelodge, The Digital Hub, Roe Ln, Usher's Island, Dublin 8, D08 EY05 ℹ️ Ever thought game controllers were too boring? Buttons too predictable or where you expect them to be? Here’s your chance to build your own take on what a controller should be. Build an alternative controller for a game you love or make a game harder with hard to master controls! Write your own game and build a controller to match! This workshop will help you build a custom game controller with some basic crafting and a tiny dash of electronics.


🀯 As I went through the slides sharing my journey where my mind was blown from so many ways how we can perceive games and different ways to interact and/or make games to examples of ALT.CTRL games on what they are, and ideas (and of course it’s always fun to see what people come up with and how players interact with these ALT.CTRL games).

The workshop kit

Mick and Vicky soldering buttons and headers to custon PCBs

Mick designed the PCB board, both Mick and Vicky soldered the headers and buttons for each of the boards, 60 altogether!

ℹ️ Source code and info about the board

GitHub logo micktwomey / alt-controller-jam

Custom controller hardware for ALT.CTRL.GameCraft 2023

CTRL.ALT GameCraft 2023

Repo holding the hardware and code behind the controller components used in


Button pad hardware render

A Raspberry Pi Pico running CircuitPython acts as a HID keyboard device.

Two (or more) button pads are connected to the Pico using jumper cables. Each button pad has 4 buttons.

You can position these anywhere you want on an alternative controller. Embed them in cardboard, stick onto things, etc.

KiCad is used to design the boards. You can even see me following the tutorial in kicad-tutorial!

JLCPCB was used to print the boards. Elbow grease and lots of solder was used to assemble the boards.

The schematics can be found in dpad.


The Pico runs CircuitPython and uses Adafruit's HID library to emulate a keyboard. It's also possible to emulate a mouse and a gamepad (there are some experiments for gamepad emulation in experiments).

Code execution order:


We asked participants to come up and pick out the components and to connect their 2 custom boards with buttons to their Raspberry Pi Picos with the jumper cables.

We were delighted and surprised that we have some people went straight for the CircuitPython code and some other folks gravitated to designing and start crafting their custom game controllers.

Top table with pi-top3s for play-testing, components and handouts for the workshop participants, print your own adventure demo

I brought along my print your own adventure game WIP project as an alternative controller demo:

  • Mini-thermal printer
  • 3 x arcade buttons
  • case and button holder was 3D printed
  • zine with overview of the project
  • Pi-Top4 (Raspberry Pi 4 with Raspbian install)

Read more about it here:

For those who didn’t have a laptop to play-test their games, we had Pico-8 installed on two of our Pi-Top3 (Raspberry Pi 3 with Raspbian installed)

Tom, Ryan and Julia were the first to complete their controllers and play-tested it! πŸ‘

Jeffrey made his own controller for you guess how long it takes to complete the circle of lights. I think I drank too much coffee and was way off the mark. Can’t wait to see the next iteration at the TOG’s next outing, e.g. Dublin Maker. πŸ˜‰

I really like how Colum used online tools that existed already, countdown time, and character count for playtesting with his barista coffee game for 2 people.

  • Timer is set to 30 seconds - a tab in a browser/
  • Switch tab to character counter.
  • Each player taps their cup as fast as they can.
  • When time is up, count the most characters to see if A or B player wins.

barista coffee game controller

We had another controller that is made of lolly sticks that was very mechanical where depending on the pressure of the lollies, it presses on the buttons. I’d love to see how this one evolves and what kind of game will be going with it.

ALT.CTRL.GameCraft 2023 @ Beta Festival

And more controllers ready for play-testing! πŸ’–

ALT.CTRL.GameCraft 2023 @ Beta Festival

ALT.CTRL.GameCraft 2023 @ Beta Festival

🌈 Note: We hope folks share their alternative controller updates via - Thank you! πŸ’–

We have learnt a lot from everyone, from code that needs to be refactored that will make it easier for folks to use to ideas on what we can do with another ALT.CTRL.GameCraft. Wearables was of interest as well, we have materials from past workshops, e.g. conductive thread, wearable LEDs, etc.

So it will be interesting to see how these extra ways of can give more different ideas of making an alternative interactive controller.

You can follow our updates via:


If you have videos to share with us, or photos, you can share either via Youtube or our Flickr group.

And don’t forget that the Beta Festival exhibition is on till November 19th, and it’s free entry.

Please help with feedback on the exhibition and events you have attended:

Other references plus additional ones since the workshop

BTW I created zine to give an overview of the workshop.
You can download the PDF, print it out and fold it yourself as well.

  1. Download from
  2. Print
  3. Fold - if you need help check the following video to guide you.
  4. Enjoy your zine and go ahead and create your own zine!

If you want to create your own zine, you don't have to digitally design, you can grabe a piece of paper and some pens and create your own.

Some tips if you are using Electric Zine Maker, the files are stored in a folder called "Zines" on your Desktop.

For my own zines, I have so much fun using Electric Zine Maker.

electric zine maker - tips

  • I used Canva (but you can use any graphics programme) to create each page and named it as shown in the screenshot in its own project folder under Zines.
  • Open Electric Zine Maker
  • Click on 8-page folded zine (classic)
  • Make it smaller (see red circle on screenshot) - or mouse over the icons at the top, it's the one beside the "X",
    electric zine maker - tips

  • Drop the project folder under "Zines" on to the app (or load the folder).

  • All the images will be in the correct order automagically.

More info: Here's a great how-to from Babycastles: (yip the same Babycastles that was mentioned in my intro slides during the workshop).

Resources and references

Alternative games and controllers



If you want to collaborate, send us pics of your creations, questions about any of our events, you can email

We hope to see you next time.

/// Vicky and Mick, GameCraft

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