Could PS5's Access controller put a stop to the gamepad vs mouse + keyboard debate?

 A threeway split showing a mouse and keyboard on the left, the PS5 access controller in the middle, and an Xbox Elite Series 2 Core on the right
A threeway split showing a mouse and keyboard on the left, the PS5 access controller in the middle, and an Xbox Elite Series 2 Core on the right

Sony has finally given us more details about Project Leonardo, an accessibility-based controller it revealed earlier in the year at CES 2023. Now called simply the "Access controller", we know a lot of research and development has gone into making it something that allows gamers of all abilities to enjoy PlayStation's library of titles.

As someone who reviews both controllers and gaming PCs for a living, I'm so happy to see this. Gamepads, maybe more than any other gaming accessory, are really subjective. Everyone's hands are slightly different sizes and shapes, people grip a controller differently, and depending on what you play, there are so many varying factors in what can be right for you.

It's about time that more big manufacturers like Sony and Microsoft put their money where their mouth is and make something like the Access controller that caters to people that, for whatever reasons, can't hold or play with a traditional controller. Microsoft already released the Adaptive controller back in October of 2022.

We've seen things like this before. Inspiring charities like Special Effect make use of its GameAccess assistive technology to bring gaming into a possible space for people with motor-based disabilities. But from my understanding, this technology is difficult and probably very expensive to make, never mind get a hold of. Thanks to Sony making Project Leonardo, there might be a new wave of accessible hardware making its way to the right people. Accessibility options in games themselves are great, but they can only go so far - there are plenty of motor-based disabilities these just can't lower barriers for.

Project Leonardo
Project Leonardo

For me, the Access Controller points to a really bright future for the gaming community. It takes a big step toward welcoming new people of all abilities into the fold, but that could bring with it a newfound acceptance of every gamer's hardware choices.

Be it the number of online competitive games, the industry's deep-rooted love of challenge, or even our loyalties to the platforms we play on, the games industry is rife with judgemental takes about "how" we all play our games. I can't tell you how many fully-abled streamers I've watched play an online game on PC with a mouse and keyboard and when they get an "easy" kill, they decide to mock someone because that person had "controller aim".

We all know about the console war and the PC master race, but in 2023, I'm sick of the entire "controller-will-never-be-as-good-as-mouse-and-keyboard" debate that still rages in many an online community.

For starters, I think it's a woefully out-of-date take. Today's pro gamepads, as seen on our list of best PS5 controllers, have some stunning functionality. Mappable back buttons, trigger stop levels, customizable dead zones - it all adds up to a much greater device that, in a majority of today's games, means a controller is more than capable of keeping up with a mouse and keyboard.

Victrix Pro BFG review image showing the controller leaning against its case
Victrix Pro BFG review image showing the controller leaning against its case

It's not as if the best gaming keyboards are perfect, either, and I feel like a lot of PC players pretend they are. With WASD, you'll never get the same fluidity of 360 movements as you do with an analog stick, and the amount of comfort on offer with a keyboard isn't close to what the best Xbox Series X controllers have. It's for those reasons that amazing hybrid keypads like the Azeron Cyborg exist, and prove very popular indeed.

Whether it's the best gaming mouse or PS5's new Access controller, any hardware you choose to play with is valid, and I think it's well past time we all accept that. Every piece of gaming hardware has its strengths and weaknesses - if it didn't, I'd be out of a job. There are pros and cons to every way of playing. What it comes down to, more often than not, is ability.

I hate to break it to the PC players among us, but at some point or another, you've been killed by a controller player without aim assist - the point being - we all potato from time to time. In the same way, plenty of difficult games have been bested by heroes who have somehow found a way of playing with a gamepad that is not designed with their disabilities in mind.

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But just as it comes down to ability, people need to keep in mind that it comes down to disability as well. Sometimes, the hardware we choose isn't about what's comfortable, or what we have experience with, it's about what we as gamers are mechanically able, or not able to use.

More important than any of the console war's squabbles, is that new people get to appreciate the art form of video games. If we continue to let petty things like our hardware choices create an unwelcoming air of judgment, there are millions of people around the world that will not ever want to be a part of the gaming community.

So next time you think about mocking or jabbing at someone for their "controller aim", please take a second to think about who you might be mocking, and what you might be mocking them for.

Enough about what you use to play, let's talk displays! Here are our picks of the best gaming monitor, the best TV for PS5 and Xbox Series X, and the best gaming TV.