How to connect game controllers to your Mac

If you have a gaming controller lying around, chances are you can use it with your Mac.

While the Mac platform has not been noted for catering to hard-core gamers, there are still many popular gaming titles and gaming accessories available for the Mac OS. If you own a Mac and have a few games you would like to try, then you might also be interested in getting a gaming controller or two up and running with your system. While the Mac's keyboard and mouse ought to be enough for most purposes, having a dedicated gaming controller can give you the feel of playing with a gaming console.

Of the game controllers available for home computers, only a few are officially supported on the Mac, but you can often get others, like those for the PS3, Wii, or Xbox, working just fine. To use any of these controllers with your system, you will first need to connect it to your system physically, and then install a driver package to make use of the controller's inputs.

For factory-supported devices like the Logitech F310 Gamepad and the Belkin Nostromo SpeedPad, drivers are available from their manufacturers; however, for unsupported devices like Wii Remote, PS3, and Xbox controllers, you will have to use a third-party driver package.

The easiest of these unsupported remotes to configure is likely the Xbox controller, which can be (physically) connected directly via USB or with a relatively cheap receiver for wireless Xbox controllers. If you have a PS3 controller, you'll need to follow a quick procedure to establish a connection to your Mac. First, connect the controller to your Mac, and then open the Bluetooth system preferences and make sure Bluetooth is both on and discoverable. Next, hold the PS button on the controller for a few seconds, then unplug the USB cable, and the controller should appear in the Bluetooth system preferences and be available for use in a number of games and programs. A Wii Remote can also be connected via Bluetooth.

Once the gaming controller is connected, you can use one of several software driver packages to configure its inputs. The first is Joystick Mapper, with which you should be able to configure most gaming controllers. The second is the Tattiebogle driver for Xbox controllers, which should work for both wired and wireless (using the receiver noted above) controllers.

For Wii users, the program DarwiinRemote and the Wjoy driver should allow you to crudely connect and configure the motion-sensitive Wii Remote, but if you have trouble establishing a connection using these drivers in OS X 10.8, then you can try a test build of DarwiinRemote that should work in the latest version of OS X.

A final couple of driver options for these controllers are GamePad Companion, which is available in the Apple App Store, and USB Overdrive, which has been a long-standing option for configuring USB input devices on the Mac platform. These last tools are useful especially if you have a controller that only has driver support for Windows. When connected to the Mac, the button inputs will be registered, and universal drivers like USB Overdrive should be able to recognize them and allow you to assign global or application-specific settings to them.



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About the author

    Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.

     

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