Absolute masochist uses a mismatched pair of old iPods to game on their Steam Deck

Tired of the comfortable Deck controls? Why not try playing with a pair of iPods as controllers instead? Guaranteed to add an extra layer of challenge to your gameplay! from r/SteamDeck

Don't do this. For the love of Gabe, don't grab a couple of janky old iPods out of your tech-hoarder's box of old tat and plumb them into your Steam Deck. And definitely don't use them to play Skyrim in the most awkward, hamfisted way since someone last used a baby-doll-in-a-blender to try and beat Dark Souls.

That's the basic takeaway from watching redditor nekomichi (via SteamDeckHQ) doing just that. But, y'know, I've got to say I'm happy they've taken the hit for each and every one of us, so we at least know now to avoid the temptation to put Apple's old music players to such use. Because we've all had that urge, right?

It really is one of the most fascinating things about the Steam Deck; aside from being the device which brought handheld gaming PCs into the mainstream consciousness—and encouraged the big bois of Asus, MSI, and Lenovo to get involved, too—it's also become the tinkerers' favourite toy. It's an eminently affordable gaming device that has been made almost as open as a standard PC.

And because it comes with a Linux distro already installed, it's just crying out for people to mess around with it. And mess around they have, to the point where someone has now plugged a pair of disparate old iPods into their Deck and used them as a combined USB controller. 

In a way it reminds of the time I bought a left-handed joystick for my Amiga to make Sensible World of Soccer more tricky to play when I got bored of perennially winning, because this mod does nothing at all except make the entire experience of playing literally anything on the Steam Deck an entirely horrible one. Though I guess the satisfaction of actually getting the bizarre controller combo to work—despite the masochistic gaming effect—probably does have a certain appeal to some.

So, if you're interested then nekomichi has detailed how they managed to get the iPods running. But essentially they've installed the Rockbox custom firmware onto both iPods and that is what allows you to use them as USB input devices.

More on the Steam Deck

Steam Deck set up as a PC

(Image credit: Future)

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"The iPod Mini on the left is acting as a mouse cursor controlled by the four directional keys with the centre button acting as a left click (attack)," writes nekomichi, "the iPod 4th generation on the right is acting as a multimedia controller, with fast forward acting as taking a step forward and rewind as taking a step back. Due to limitations in the firmware, it's not possible to send button-hold commands which means in order to continuously walk forwards I have to mash the fast forward button repeatedly."

As well as testing the setup in Skyrim, the redditor has also posted that video of them running it in Sleeping Dogs. Though they have said that it is far more usable in the former than the limited use in the latter.

If you want to know about something useful you can do with an iPod you could always read about how you can upgrade the iPod Classic with a proper M.2 SSD for MEGA STORAGE.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.