For Pride Month 2022, Xbox targeted the LGBTQIA+ community of gamers with the release of its new "Pride" controller in the Xbox Design Lab, allowing those players to proudly express their identities even through the controller they use to play. I picked up one of these new controllers to see whether it's a thoughtful representation of the LGBTQIA+ community, and it quickly became my daily driver controller, relegating my Forza Horizon 5 Limited Edition controller to "2nd player" duties.
An Xbox Design Lab offering
This Pride controller is one of a myriad of new options offered through the second-generation Xbox Design Lab program, which lets players personalize an official, custom-built Xbox Wireless Controller directly from Microsoft. I'll have a review on the Xbox Design Lab service in the near future, and I'll discuss in detail its redesigned website, its new customization options, and whether or not it's worth paying the premium over a standard Xbox controller.
For today, though, I want to focus specifically on the new "Pride" faceplate on offer in Xbox Design Lab, which players can now use to customize their very own LGBTQIA+-themed controller. It's common practice for corporations to don rainbow profile pictures and release vague, supportive statements at the start of Pride Month each year, and even for those same companies to release LGBTQIA+ merch and accessories during the month-long celebration of queer pride, but does this controller fit in the same category?
The "Pride" customization option doesn't feel like an afterthought — the colors are deep and vibrant, the nearly soft-touch texture of the plastic feels nicer in the hands than a standard controller, and the faceplate doesn't feel like it'll be prone to significant wear and tear in the future. The overall durability of Xbox Design Lab, at least in my controller, feels exemplary, with no creaks or concerning gaps to be found. Of course, it's also the updated design that debuted with Xbox Series X and Series S, with improved ergonomics, quality, and features.
This is all joined by dozens of other customization options, all of which actively encourage players to express themselves in wholly unique ways, including emulating the colors and themes of games, teams and organizations, and popular media. I adorned the rest of my controller with the non-binary colors (yellow, white, purple, and black), and engraved my pronouns of choice. Every time I look at this controller, it fills me with a gentle sense of pride and joy. If I'm going to be using it for the months and years to come, why shouldn't it?
As for the design of the faceplate itself, I think it looks great. Pictures don't quite do the beautiful colors justice and, while the overlapping patterns and symbols do appear chaotic, I believe it blends together wonderfully. Thirty-four different identities in the LGBTQIA+ community are represented in this controller, showcasing an impressive commitment to inclusion from Microsoft, rather than simply sticking with the standard rainbow.
Overall, I feel the Xbox "Pride" controller is a respectful showing by the company during Pride Month 2022. It's impossible to avoid the conversations of corporate intention for releasing Pride-themed products during this time of the year, but Microsoft also stepped up in other places by donating to LGBTQIA+ non-profit organizations, allowing Microsoft users to donate using Microsoft Reward points, elevating LGBTQIA+ voices on official channels, and highlighting games and media featuring LGBTQIA+ themes.
You can check out a few more images of the Xbox "Pride" controller below, although I was surprised to find I genuinely enjoyed the design and colors more when I first unboxed the controller, versus any pictures and renders I saw before.
A glimmer of light in darkness
Video games are often used to escape the current realities of our lives, or the universe as a whole. They can allow us to experience stories that otherwise never would've been possible; they can be simply and purely fun. Perhaps most importantly, video games are also a powerful medium through which players can be unapologetically themselves, and express their truest selves through the characters they play and the stories they create.
This power extends beyond simply playing video games as well since players spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars customizing their gaming PCs or embellishing their gaming setups with decorations and furnishings that, in part, reflect their identities. Video games and the surrounding ecosystem matter a lot to millions of players, regardless of how or what you play or what you gain from those experiences.
Pride Month 2022 has been a tumultuous event for numerous reasons, and it followed an equally chaotic opening salvo to 2022. Things are appearing even more precarious moving forward for marginalized groups like women and the LGBTQIA+ community, and many are stepping up to fight for their rights. Wrapping a gaming controller in colorful flags and symbols isn't going to fix any of that and will certainly not change the world. Only people can do that, not accessories sold by multi-trillion-dollar corporations.
That being said, when I need a break from the world and its bleak events, however brief, it does give me a shred of contentedness to do so with a controller that reflects my identity — that makes me feel seen. Representation does matter, and regardless of the monetary incentive behind the decision, it does feel good to be able to find that representation through a large platform like Xbox and Microsoft. The Xbox "Pride" controller from Xbox Design Lab doesn't feel like it was thrown together in an afternoon, either; this controller feels high-quality and premium, and it's certain to be my go-to controller for years to come.
Here to stay for a while
Apart from the in-depth customization options, and a handful of upgrades if you pay the premium, this controller is identical to the standard Xbox Wireless Controller. Of course, that controller is an excellent choice across Xbox, PC, and Bluetooth-enabled devices, ensuring that the Xbox "Pride" controller can be immediately considered among the best Xbox controllers for any player.
Fortunately, the "Pride" option in Xbox Design Lab is here to stay. Xbox isn't making this a limited-time option for Pride Month, and instead is committing to offering it for at least the next year (I've seen differing reports that it's staying "for a year" and "indefinitely"). You can customize a controller with this faceplate and any number of other options and additions right now through Xbox Design Lab.
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