Ghost in the Machine–Artist Deconstructs Broken Game Controllers; Captures Our Electronics End-of-Life


Xbox circa. 2001, ©Brandon Allen

Xbox circa. 2001, ©Brandon Allen

Brandon Allen dissects old gaming controllers and photographs their innards arrayed artistically on a table in his two-part Deconstructed series. He’s collected these end-of-life controllers from gamers who’ve used them until the controller’s functionality was nil.

Game Over

Some of these controllers were run into the ground by their owners—their life punched away by eager fingers. They fulfilled their purpose and are at the end of their time. Others were broken in an attempt to fix them, to resuscitate them to conquer Gears of War once more.

According to Allen, “The controller is a pivotal tool used in gaming; each console comes with its own controller, designed to maximize the experience of the system. As we game, these controllers become an extension of our own movements. They transform the way we game and our actions and conduct. They are extensions of ourselves, and as we use them we grow attached to their touch. They are used to break language barriers and travel across continents. As we use them, they take on our characteristics, as much as we take on theirs.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System, circa. 1991, ©Brandon Allen

Super Nintendo Entertainment System, circa. 1991, ©Brandon Allen

What’s In It for Me?

People tend to take for granted what’s really in our controllers. There are years of research and millions of dollars in development. Not to mention the hours of end-user gameplay, frustration, tension-release and heartbreak, resulting in a connection to something bigger and deeply personal. Lastly, there are the toxic compounds hidden in the electronics.

But what we tend to do with our end-of-life and broken electronics, including these controllers, is unceremoniously toss them in the garbage to end up in landfills. Once there, they leech their toxic innards into the environment.

Show a Little Respect

As gamers, we should have as much respect for our dead controllers as we do for a friend who’s passed away. We wouldn’t throw away our pal in a garbage bag. We’d make sure we disposed of them in accordance to the law of the land, we’d say a few words, remember the good times and bury them with the honors they deserve.

If our controllers are an extension of ourselves, don’t they and our other electronic devices deserve the same? Don’t we deserve to be protected from the lead, mercury and cadmium our electronics contain? The e-Stewards Initiative thinks so, and created a standard that allows people to safely, responsibly and ethically recycle their electronics.

Bury It With Honors–Use a Certified e-Stewards Recycler

The e-Stewards Standard is the highest standard in electronics recycling. When you bring your electronic waste, aka, e-waste, to a certified e-Stewards recycler, you’re ensuring the safe disposition of your old pals, as well as the safety of the environment. And yourself.

So enjoy your electronic devices. Have fun with your games. Use those controllers to conquer foes and rack up achievements. And when the fun ends, take a moment to reflect on the good times you shared and just what it took for that controller to be made and get into your hands in the first place. Then give it the burial your electronics deserves by finding a certified e-Stewards recycler.