While Nintendo cashed in on the idea of using cheap cardboard peripherals with the Nintendo Labo for their Switch console, other console manufacturers and third-party companies depend on good old plastic and traditional manufacturing when it comes to expanding video game interfaces for a variety of gameplay styles.
One of these interface peripherals that gamers have come to love over the years is driving controllers. Made specifically for, you guessed it, driving games, these plastic steering wheels, pedals, and seats give players the rush of driving in an actual car in a way no typical hand controller can. Unfortunately, it can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to set up a decent virtual driving cockpit—so unless one is fully committed to Gran Tourismo gameplay, the barrier of entry is a little eyewatering.
Thankfully, YouTube maker/inventor The Q has come up with a Nintendo Labo-like cardboard driving interface made from pieces of cardboard and PVC pipes that just about anyone on a minimum budget can create.
The Q starts the build by cutting various lengths of PVC pipe. These pipes serve as a skeletal framework for the build, and he connects them to form a rough outline of the driving controller.
Using a compass, ruler, and blade, he starts on the most essential part of the driving controller: the steering wheel. He crafts this by gluing several quarter-cut circles together before adding the middle part last. He then sketches a couple of decals onto the steering wheel to make it look a little more professional before finally driving a metal rod through the center and covering it up with a Mercedes Benz logo.
With the steering wheel finished, he drills a hole into the PVC pipe body for the metal rod to fit through. After fitting in the steering wheel, he attaches a popsicle stick to the other end of the rod to make connecting it to the controller easier before working on the gas and brake pedals.
By gluing a bunch of circular cardboard nubs onto square pieces of cardboard, The Q efficiently replicates the appearance of the pedals. What he can’t seem to replicate, however, is the appearance of sturdiness when connecting these pedals onto the cardboard floor with nothing but a couple of sticks. Nevertheless, he goes through with this design decision and adds a couple of springs, so the pedals go back to their original position every time he compresses them. He then finishes with a pedal floor.
While conventional driving controllers have built-in electronics, The Q’s driving controller relies on the old method of popsicle sticks and string to connect the buttons to their respective peripherals. The gas and brake buttons (which are the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons on the PlayStation controller) are linked to their pedals using popsicle sticks, while the left analog stick (which allows you to steer the car) is connected to the steering wheel via—yes, another piece of string.
After carefully making sure all the strings work, and the buttons can be pressed, The Q pulls them all through a dock explicitly built to house the controller. He places the dock onto the body and glues the strings to the pedals and the steering wheel’s popsicle stick. To cover everything up, he sets a customized cardboard body with a slot for a flatscreen television and a slit for the game console’s cables to run through. It wouldn’t feel right or comfortable to make the racing chair out of cardboard, so he buys a regular old leather chair and fits it onto the driving controller.
He adds a few more peripherals off-screen, such as a dashboard and cup holder, to give the driving controller a little more detail and pizazz.
As advertised, the driving controller works just like its store-bought counterparts; only with fewer electronics and more strings attached. You may notice he doesn’t step too hard on the pedals or jerk the steering wheel too much, and that’s because the whole thing is connected with some pretty delicate materials. Nevertheless, The Q’s creation works like a charm and is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a real driving controller.
You can find more of The Q’s ingenious DIY creations over on his YouTube channel.