Big Steel Battalion Box

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Title: Big Steel Battalion Box
Creator: David Shuff
Date(s): 2014
Medium: Interactive art
Fandom: Steel Battalion
External Links: Official website
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The Big Steel Battalion Box, commonly abbreviated as BSBB or BSBB Mk. II, is an fanwork and interactive art piece created by David Shuff, based off of the mecha video game Steel Battalion. Described by Shuff as an immersion cockpit, the core of the piece consists of a large box that a player sits inside to play the game, similar to sitdown light gun, racing and flight arcade games. The box is designed to isolate the player inside and is equipped with environmental stimuli to aid immersion. The Big Steel Battalion Box is also built to facilitate a metagame based around Steel Battalion, with the player inside the box and an outside observer with a instruction manual relaying information to each other.

Built over a period of two years, Shuff first debuted the Big Steel Battalion Box to the public on November 15th, 2014 at his home in Brooklyn, New York City. It was subsequently featured at Bay Area Maker Faire 2015 and Game Developer Conference 2019. The piece was met with positive reception and became the subject of many articles by video game news publications, blogs and websites. Since its debut, the Big Steel Battalion Box has become part of The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment's permanent collection in Oakland, California, where it is playable to museum visitors.


The Big Steel Battalion Box is made up of two primary components: a large box that a player sits inside to play Steel Battalion, and an external terminal (referred to as the coaching station) for an outside observer to monitor the player inside and communicate with them. The box is designed to increase player immersion by isolating the player from outside stimuli and utilizing environmental components, many of which respond to in-game situations. The components in the interior of the box include:

  • the Steel Battalion controller, including pedals, with a rumble motor attached to the pedals
  • a seat equipped with rumble motors and a 4-point harness
  • a fire strobe, which activates when the player's mech is on fire
  • a emergency beacon, which activates when the player's mech about to detonate
  • a telephone, which is able to receive calls from a dedicated phone number
  • a fire extinguisher
  • a military-grade headset, allowing communication with the observer at the external terminal
  • cameras, allowing the observer at the external terminal to watch the player and their operation of the controls
  • ventilation and internal lightning

The coaching station primarily consists of televisions that display the box's camera feeds, a headset to communicate with the player inside the box, and a instruction manual. Secondary components include an oscilloscope, a box containing logic boards, and a second controller that can override the box's controls.

Both Steel Battalion controllers used in the piece are modified, with zoom controls mapped to a trigger added to the left joystick, and different button colors taken from multiple controllers. The controllers also have additional wiring connecting them to logic boards, allowing other components to react to player input and in-game situations.

Artist's statement

The “Big Steel Battalion Box” project pushes the boundaries of game immersion and explores notions of bonding and shared discovery.

The game Steel Battalion (Xbox, 2002) originally came packaged with a dedicated controller featuring twin joysticks, ~40 buttons, and 3 pedals. The developers sought to create a simulation game that deepened the player’s sense of immersion by living as much in the somatic world as in the television screen.

The B.S.B.B. project started as an attempt to expand upon that vision by isolating the player in a dark environment, integrating additional stimuli such as lights and vibrations, and enhancing thematic details.

The addition of an external monitoring station and communication headsets began as a simple convenience to guide players unfamiliar with the game. However it rapidly developed into a core conceptual component of the project. By having the “pilot” player guided from their position of isolation by a real-life “coach” player, emotional sensations of reliance, trust, and bonding were created at a level rarely experienced in gaming.

What’s more, it was found that when the player in the “coach” role is an individual unfamiliar with the game—given only a simplified manual as reference—an additional level of satisfaction in collaboration and shared discovery develops.

In summary, this big box makes blowing crap up so damn fun for everyone.

David Shuff[1]

Construction process

Construction of The Big Steel Battalion Box began in 2012. Shuff gained inspiration for the project during a play session of Steel Battalion with his friend, with Shuff's friend playing the game with no knowledge of the controls, and Shuff relaying information from the game's instruction manual.

The box was initially built out of a refrigerator box (referred to the as the Mk. I) but was scrapped, with Shuff choosing to use foam core instead.


See also

  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes