Quadriplegic ‘Halo’ Fan Builds Custom Controllers for Players With Disabilities
Spencer Allen was always passionate about video games. He got into it because of the social aspect. Halo was a particular favorite.
In 2016, things took a turn for the worse when an accident at a water park in Sauvie Island, Oregon, changed his life. “I ran and dove into the water — the next thing I knew, I was floating upside-down in the water and I couldn’t move, couldn’t turn around,” Allen says in a statement for Xbox, coinciding with a video released Tuesday. “I was drowning.”
Allen was paralyzed from the chest down. He pressed the pause button on gaming.
But while the paralysis in his legs was deemed permanent, Allen would go on to gain some control in his arms and hands through rehabilitation.
When the Xbox Adaptive Controller came out, Allen was inspired by the customizable aspect of the product and started assembling his own rigs with custom buttons in positions ideal for his movements. He developed a U-shape for the controller and used a 3D printer to put the device together, going through numerous iterations until he landed upon a design that felt the most appropriate.
“Many of the roadblocks I encountered had to do with the fact that I couldn’t actually do the building part by myself, and each piece required a lot of testing after it was printed and assembled,” explains Allen. “Putting each piece together would take an entire day; I had to ask for a lot of help.”
Throughout the process, Allen says that “the joy of gaming” kept him going, along with the mentality that “you don’t really fail until you quit.”
With the final product completed, he is now able to play games again with his friend Sean McMahon, whom he’s known since the pair were 3 years old. Allen has also, since his accident, gone back to school to get his degree in civil engineering.
“Creativity is important for me because it’s freedom, it really allows me to think outside the box and create things that people haven’t created before,” says Allen in the Xbox video.
Looking ahead, Allen emphasizes that he would like to see this type of controller available for other people. “Once everyone who wants to game again, can, then I’ll know I’m done,” he says.
Watch the video above and visit Xbox’s Meet Spencer page to learn more.
By Trilby Beresford