Editor's note: We've noticed that this post, published in March, is once again getting some interest. We image it's because of the developing controversy between Ocean Marketing, a PR firm tied to Avenger, and the fine folks at Penny Arcade. You can read about it here.
N-Control's Avenger might look like an Xbox 360 controller mated with Dr. Octopus, but the real story isn't merely how this pop-on shell can vastly improve your gaming skills, but the origins of its conception.
At PAX East 2011, we caught up with David Kotkin, inventor of the Avenger, to squeeze out info on why he made such a wacky looking peripheral. It turns out Kotkin wasn't fueled by the dream of making millions, but by the desire to help a student with a genetic birth defect in his hand use a modern day controller.
Giving The Gift of Gaming
The Avenger was born when, Kotkin, a former teacher met a student who was born with deformed hands — ones that left the kid with no index fingers to access all the left and right buttons triggers on a console controller. Inspired to give the child a fair chance to game, Kotkin set to work on making a prototype controller that would allow a player's thumbs to stay on the analog sticks but use the middle, ring and pinky fingers to access L/R triggers as well as the front face buttons. Knuckles can be used too!
Birth of a Monster
Before there was the Avenger, there was the "Monster" — a horrifically modified Xbox 360 controller built from a toothpicks, rubber bands, lollipop sticks, and wood pieces glued together. The Monster is not sightly by any means, but to see the dedication and hard work behind the Avenger makes you truly understand the motivation for such a invention.
The Precision Advantage is Not Cheating
Although invented for a disadvantaged gamer, the Avenger is as hardcore as a peripheral can get for an Xbox 360 controller. We were blown away by the sheer sensitivity and responsiveness of every little tap (light taps) and button press — mere touches, not even full button presses. Its rubber straps, latches, and bendable arms provide such precision that the slightest (and we do mean slightest as in almost a mere touch) of a rubber strap to pull the trigger button in a first-person shooting game almost felt like cheating.
But that's not how Kotkin sees the Avenger. "It's not cheating. It's giving the gamers the precision and advantage they want." Indeed, it's not really cheating, "it's nothing you can't already do with your hands." Kotkin compared it to an Internet connection. Those who have a faster connection will face less lag and thus have an advantage. Is having an faster connection cheating? Not at all.
To distill the cheating advantage, you can think of it like Mario Kart: Wii gamers. Some people race using the Wii remote's tilting controls, some use the Wii remote + Nunchuk combo and some plug in a GameCube pad. Everyone's playing together using different controllers, but it's not considered cheating. It's just another option.
Because of the adjustable torque that the Avenger allows, gaming endlessly is not an issue. Where you would normally feel button burn after mashing your controller in fighting games, or constantly accelerating or shooting in a racing or FPS game, the little finger movement that the Avenger requires actually decreases the amount of fatigue your fingers will get — a very welcome feature.
N-Control sells the Avenger controller add-on for $60, but for a limited time, the price is knocked down to $40. The Avenger won't ship until April 5, but for the amount of fluid control and skill leveling advantage it provides, we'd say the Avenger is a pretty neat accessory, if not kooky device that isn't just trying to be weird for the sake of attention. The Avenger is form and function — and it works well.
Feel free to flip through the gallery for more shots of the Monster. It's quite a frankenstein!