Nintendo as a company is no stranger to cardboard being placed in, around, or near its flagship Switch system. They turned heads in recent years with the announcement of Labo, a bizarre experiment which saw gamers folding, cutting and constructing their own pseudo-origami creations to be used with the system in handheld mode. The included minigames allowed you to play the piano with cardboard, go fishing with a cardboard pole, or even strap numerous cardboard… things to your person, stomping about the living room as a robot and frankly looking like a bit of a wally (or WALL-E, I guess).
But beyond this initial range of experiences, the concept seems to have fallen out of favour a bit. We’ve had very little on the Labo front lately aside from a VR pack compatible with a handful of games.
What I doubt the creative forces behind Labo ever expected, though, is that Nintendo fans would use cardboard in a wholly different way: to fix one of the Switch’s most persistent technical faults. Because of course they have done. As a community, we’re nothing if not environmentally friendly.
To the ever-shrinking minority of Switch users who haven’t run into the issue, Joy-Con drift refers to a problem whereby the controller’s sticks register directional inputs when none have been given. Think of a Smash character letting off a move you didn’t want them to, or Mario wandering off a cliff of his own volition, and you’ve a decent idea of how mind-numbingly aggravating this seemingly benign design hiccup can become.
Tech experts are undecided on exactly what causes the drift, but most signs point to an issue with the sticks’ interior wearing away, with all the bits of dust and grit that entails causing the internal sensors to go a tad haywire. And no, before you all ask, this isn’t fixed on the Switch Lite either, even though that technically doesn’t have Joy-Cons. Come on, lads; you had time to sort this out!
So, as ever, up steps what I can only describe as an endlessly patient, talented group of console wizards to save the day. Voiding their warranties in the process, YouTubers such as VK’s Channel have begun inserting tiny little strips of cardboard, or “anything thin that can be cut to fit the area shown during the video,” into their controllers. Which video, you shout? Why, the one right below:
Kotaku has the scoop on this find. Users on Reddit and elsewhere on the ‘net seem to be split into two camps: folks for whom this has worked and saved them a whole console generation’s worth of agony, and an unlucky few who remain plagued by the Drift. Sort of sounds like a disease of some kind when you capitalise it. The report notes that “Joy-Con drift is caused by a variety of different factors, meaning that there’s no catch-all solution,” which is par for the course with these DIY fixes.
As for the science behind why this (possibly) works, it appears that a contributing factor to the Drift is a lack of external pressure on the Joy-Con’s casing, causing the stick to detach from the sensors and allowing all manner of grime to waft in unopposed. Dirt, cat hair, Wotsit dust, you name it – it’ll mess up your controller but good. Placing a small wedge in this gap, then, can prevent the intrusion of such nasties, stopping the issue. Alternatively, you can just constantly press down on the casing, but that isn’t super convenient and you’ll probably end up with carpal tunnel.
All we can do now is hope that the Switch OLED will have finally nipped this problem in the bud. Is what I would say, but A: we all know it won’t, and B: by now it’s less a bud than a full, blooming rafflesia of suck.
Will you be trying this quick fix? Have you been lucky enough to avoid the Drift? Let us know below!