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PlayStation samaritan builds custom controller to help gamer with cerebral palsy

Touchpad troubles disappear after Sony employee mods up a new one

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

When a New Jersey gamer wrote Sony to complain that the PlayStation 4's DualShock 4 touchpad was interfering with his gaming experience, his email wasn't thrown in the trash or given a form-letter reply. A PlayStation employee responded the next day with a promise to build a custom one. And he did.

That's because the gamer, Peter Byrne of South Amboy, N.J., has cerebral palsy, a set of neurological disorders that severely restrict and alter one's movement, especially the precise motions gamers make in using a twin analog controller. In this interview with News 12 New Jersey, Byrne showed how the manner in which he held his DualShock 4 to play Tom Clancy's The Division resulted in a lot of inadvertent presses on the touchpad, which brings up the map and pauses the game.

Byrne said he was contacted by a Sony employee named Alex Nawabi, who did not comment or appear on camera for News 12 New Jersey's story. But, Byrne said, Nawabi put in about 10 hours of work on a custom controller that arrived earlier this week. It wasn't just a matter of deactivating the touchpad, as that still has a critical function. Nawabi put in a second button that was out of the way where Byrne grasps the controller and rerouted the touchpad's functions to it. Now Byrne can play and enjoy his games fully and without interruptions.

Sony has not commented formally, but Byrne posted the letter Nawabi sent him on his Facebook page. In it, Byrne describes his work, which took three different controllers and about 10 hours of work ("and a few moments of frustration") to bring to life. It was worth it, Nawabi wrote, because "the email you sent definitely struck a chord within. ... It killed me to hear how something you used to enjoy thoroughly was being ruined because of our new controller design."

Nawabi asked for feedback on how this controller performed for Byrne, and said he was making a second controller for him in case the first breaks.

"He did more than what I could ever expect," Byrne told News 12 New Jersey.

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