Gigantic Joystick

Ok so I’m a bit jealous of all the arcade boxes @wcs39204 is cranking out. As fun toy for the neighborhood kids I was thinking about setting up a gigantic MAME machine in my front yard for a few days. I’ve got an old 6000 lumen projector that I was going to project onto the house using RetroPi for the computer. Now I just need to build a controller(s) to run the thing.

I want to go big… like a 3ft joystick made of 3" PVC pipe. I’m thinking using an Arduino as an HID (simulated keyboard) so that piece should be pretty simple. But I’m not sure the best way to build something big and rugged enough to withstand the hoodlums… I mean rugrats, I mean sweet darlings. and cheap enough that I won’t be too upset if it walks.

Its a mighty big lever so typical touch pads probably wouldn’t hold up. My first instinct is to epoxy a plunger (centering mechanism) to the bottom of a cabinet cover it with a PVC pipe and build some kind of optical sensor to detect which of 8 quadrants the stick is pushed in. I’d probably also need some kind of limiting plate at the to of the box to limit the range of motion.

Basically this but on a $50 budget. Any thoughts?


Sounds like a fun project! Non-contact options like the optical sensors are great for rough use cases like this. You could also use a hall sensor which could be cheaper than an optical one depending on your selection.

My first thought was a 2-DOF gimbal design with potentiometers and centering springs on each axis. But I’m not sure how the potentiometers would hold up. You could swap them out with analog hall sensors.

Another option would be to go with some large 8 direction buttons that way you don’t have to worry about the kids snapping the joystick. Downside is that it won’t look as cool and probably won’t be as fun to play/watch.

Looking forward to see what you come up with.

For something that big, no need to go that fancy.

Put a lag bolt into the bottom of the shaft. Ground it. Put 4 (or 8, if you really need the diagonals, but most 8 way joysticks only use 4.) metal plates in a square around that lag bolt, and put each to an input. Use cheap 470 ohm 1/4 watt resistors tu pull up the inputs, and voila. An 8 way joystick.

Buttons don’t have to be any more complicated. A ground plate and a screw or bolt. It either makes contact, or does not. No need for fancy microswitches or anything too precise, an extra woodscrew or 2 and some wire will do the job and be durable as well as cheap.


I don’t have any suggestions, I only have one thing to say. NICEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Oh, and “GO BIG OR GO HOME!”

Now that’s gonna be a hell of an arcade! Subbed

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This reminds me of the giant NES controller that used to be at sparkfun:

It looks like they use sponges and loose bolts to make the mechanics work and they soldered wires to springs with touch plates with a small gap.


I’ve seen the controller before but thanks for the build info link i never would have thought about sponges.looks more straight forward to build a controller than a joystick at this scale.


I actually think a controller would be an easier solution for sure. Just seems easier, and also more durable at that size you’re planning. You’re definitely going to be the highlight of the neighborhood with this project!

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I’d like to have one for fighting games :smiley: Call me when you make one, I’ll definetelly take one! :rofl:

I would agree with a simple D-pad concept and 8 direction buttons, using a controller.
For sure, you need some USB/HDMI interfaces.
Make it as simple as possible. Think of the games that it can be applied for. I recon, the simplest ones (which are good for collaborating kids and bringing adults to nostalgia).

Try to make it $25:)