Modder turns an old pair of iPods into Steam Deck controllers — for Skyrim, though support in other games is possible

Screenshot of u/nekomichi's Skyrim Steam Deck iPod controls demo video.
Screenshot of u/nekomichi's Skyrim Steam Deck iPod controls demo video. (Image credit: u/nekomichi on Reddit)

Adding to the seemingly non-ending list of ways to play Skyrim, Reddit user u/nekomichi recently posted a video of him playing Skyrim with a pair of iPods off a Steam Deck [h/t PCGamesN]. It's about as impractical as it sounds— if not more so, due to some specific limitations of the method used to turn two separate iPods into input methods for the Steam Deck.

Before we proceed with a deeper breakdown, it's important to clarify that despite the recent surge of this topic since Nekomichi posted the update to Reddit, the project has actually existed for quite some time. Way back in late 2022, Nekomichi uploaded a long YouTube video to his channel detailing how he set up the iPods for use with a laptop PC for playing Skyrim. The same setup is what's being used to play on the Steam Deck, but it isn't exclusive to the Deck or anything.

We've embedded this original YouTube video below for those who want a thorough and complete run through of how this was done. We'll focus on the current Steam Deck experience and discuss some of the most relevant details, including how the controls work and how they were used for this purpose.

Let's start with the controller setup. The left-hand iPod is an iPod Mini and the right is 4th Gen iPod. The left iPod manages mouse inputs with its four directional keys and the select button acting as a Mouse 1 click. The right iPod is solely for a scrolling motion: clockwise to walk forward, and counterclockwise to walk backward.

The only effective "buttons" you have with this setup are: Look Up, Look Down, Look Left, Look Right, Mouse 1, W, and S. In a way, that's all you really need to play most first-person games...kind of. The gameplay footage available in the old YouTube video and the newer Reddit thread both show the experience to be surprisingly playable, thanks to Skyrim's first-person POV and relatively simple control scheme. Dealing with the inventory and such is another matter. Many modern games likely wouldn't be viable with a setup like this.

This unconventional control setup was achieved with software called RockBox, which allows you to replace the firmware of many classic digital music players. This is what made the modded control setup possible, though limitations of RockBox mean that mouse directions can't be held down without eventually causing severe mouse acceleration. Thus, Nekomichi needed to tone down the turning speed to compensate.

While that sounds pretty tedious, the truth is it's fairly impressive that this works at all, despite how silly it is. It's right up there with all the different ways to play Doom, and the monsters who bring the likes of accordions, steering wheels and such to fighting game tournaments— though you'd be surprised just how often those same monsters still manage to win.