Intimate Controllers
A platform where video games are played by couples touching each other.

Project by JennyLC Chowdhury
With flash development by Sinan Ascioglu


'Intimate Controllers' is a platform where video games are played by couples touching each other.  The platform consists of two controllers, a bra for the female player and boxer shorts for the male player.  Each controller is embedded with 6 sensors placed with varying degrees of intimacy in relation to the body part with which they correspond. Players must pass game levels together and in doing so, game play results in increasingly intimate positioning. The goal of this project was to research and create objects that challenge the traditional notions and orientation of video game play.

Statement of Purpose
With the introduction of games and entire consoles using novel controllers like the Nintendo Wii, Guitar Hero, and Dance Dance Revolution, I’ve become interested in how game interfaces can change the way players interact with one another off the screen.  The aforementioned interfaces create a highly social atmosphere, especially as compared with traditional game controllers, not only for the players but for those spectating as well.

The possibility of video games creating social situations, rather than inhibiting them was at the forefront of my mind when I was assigned a design exercise that required me to build a Pong controller.  Pong is a simple game where players move a paddle right and left in order to hit a ball.  As such, the only constraints of the assignment were that my controller send right and left values to a central pong server.  Other than that, I was given the freedom to create any type of controller interface I desired.  Immediately after hearing about the assignment, I looked at my hands, as is natural when talking about right and left sides.  But in looking down at myself, I realized that there was a whole body of right and left real estate from which to choose.  It was then that I decided to make a pong controller from a bra (and yes i know the game shown in the video is not pong!). The mapping for the controller would be simple: touching the left breast made the pong paddle go left and the right breast made the paddle go right. 

Demo Video:

Thesis presentation of project:
1st prototype: pong controller
After originally intending the bra to be controlled by the wearer, I thought it might be interesting if someone else was in control of the wearer’s body. I figured that experiencing intimacy and game play simultaneously would produce a unique dynamic between the wearer and the person playing the game. And I found it interesting enough that I decided to make a male controller so that the exchange was more equal.

Shortly after making the pong controller, I found out about a phenomenon called Gamer Widowhood where men essentially abandon their wives to play video games night and day. After a quick search, I found 5 separate sites/ forums that were filled with women airing their grievances about their neglectful husbands, offering each other support and ideas on how to quell the problem. While not a gamer widow myself, the most compelling article I found during my survey of the gamer widow terrain was a piece written by Fran Hortop called ‘Confessions of a Video Game Widow.’  The most illustrative part of the piece is the following paragraph:

“After a flurry of Xmas games releases, you find yourself in the most curious predicament. You and your partner are strangers inhabiting different worlds who meet only at the save point (bed) and at the refueling station (the kitchen). While he indulges himself from cock’s crow till the small hours, you have faded into the background, a disappointingly corporeal intrusion into his paradise of virtual reality where one moment he’s an urban gangsta and an interstellar warrior the next.”

Hortop paints quite a dismal picture of the life of gamer widow where woman becomes a distraction from the top priority of game play. This portrait pushed my developing thoughts on making game controllers that were activated by intimate touch.  I wondered what would happen if a couple were actually brought together physically during game play.

Thus, I designed controllers where sensors were embedded in garments with varying degrees of intimacy in relation to the body part with which they corresponded. Each controller had 3 sets of Right and Left Sensors. 

For the Woman the first set of sensor is on the upper back, the second set on the top of the chest/breasts and the third on the inside of the breast.  For the Male the first set is on the front of the legs, the second set on the side of the legs and the third on the buttocks.  The couple would start out using the first set of sensors and move on to increasingly intimate positioning if they passed the levels together.

While “Intimate Controllers” is not meant to solve the problem of video game widowhood, it combined with my interest in game controllers was the launching point for the project. It has been an interesting and unique experiment and I look forward to exploring how games and controllers will continue to alter the way we play and socialize with one another.

The audience is people in relationships who want to experiment with a combination of game play and intimacy.

The project is made from FSRs, Atmel chips, Xbee Radios, a bra, boxers, a flash game programmed by Sinan Ascioglu and hours of hard work.

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Documentation Photos
The rest of the photos from this set, including those of the construction of Intimate Controllers, can be found here

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Photos from Siggraph Unravel 07 Siggraph Unravel set here
More photos from Siggraph Unravel 07 here

Great thanks to:

Sinan Ascioglu
Tim McNerney
Jeff Gray
Tom Igoe
Candida Aguilar
My thesis class

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