SpecialEffect is an amazing UK-based charity which puts the fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by assisting them to play video games. By using technology ranging from modified joypads to eye-control software, they’re finding a way to help everyone play to the best of their abilities and having a profoundly positive impact on therapy, confidence and rehabilitation.
Later Levels (@LaterLevels) May 24, 2019
I’ve been volunteering for the organisation for around six years now, after coming across their stand at the EGX event in September 2013. In that time I’ve had the opportunity to do all sorts of things for them: complete 10K runs through London, host video-game-themed pub quizzes, play FIFA against professional footballers, and looks after raffles at Twitch meetups. Next month I’ll be doing a presentation about the charity before the planning soon starts for the next GameBlast event (more about that later).
I volunteer for SpecialEffect for several reasons. Over the years I’ve been able to meet some of the people they’ve supported and hearing about the impact of their work first-hand is simply inspiring. Video games aren’t just about entertainment; they can connect people, and everybody deserves to be a part of that experience. On a more personal note, I can become quite anxious in social situations and volunteering is a great way of reminding me that I can manage it. And finally: it’s so much fun.
Last Friday I attended MCM Comic Con and spent the day at the ExCeL Centre helping on the charity’s stand. This time around we were showing off Trials Rising, a racing game that’s hard when it’s played in the usual manner – but even more so when it’s played with your chin, in a set-up that may be suitable for individuals with spinal injuries for example. I played a few rounds with Mark Saville, SpecialEffect’s Communications Officer, and we managed to reduce our time from 12 minutes to just under four by the end of the event.
On the other side of the stand was ProtoCorgi, a horizontal shoot-em-up featuring – yes, you guessed it – a corgi protagonist. The controller had been replaced with large buttons and an oversized joystick to show attendees a set-up for someone who may not have fine motor skills in their hands. The title is pretty challenging and only fellow volunteer Erik was able to make it to the end of the level, but it proved to be a popular attraction and several people came back for multiple tries throughout the day.
SpecialEffect #MCMLondon S1618 (@SpecialEffect) May 24, 2019
One of the best things about volunteering at Comic Con is that you get to see everyone in some fantastic cosplay. We took the chance to get as many photographs as we could with people holding a sign to promote One Special Day, where companies from the gaming industry are invited to donate a day’s revenue from one of their releases. My favourite was the family who came dressed as Fred, Velma and Scooby-Doo, and the young daughter just looked so adorable in her costume.
After the summer I’ll start preparing for next year’s GameBlast, the UK’s biggest charity gaming weekend. Hundreds of gamers across the country will be taking part in a marathon video game session while raising funds and awareness for SpecialEffect. Over £800,000 has been raised through these events since 2014, and this amount has enabled the charity to continue their fantastic work and help change the lives of many more people with physical disabilities.
GameBlast20 is due to take place from 21-23 February 2020 and more details will be announced soon. If you fancy taking part or even signing up as a volunteer yourself, get in touch with the awesome Becky Frost using the contact details on the organisation’s website. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a commitment of time and effort, but trust me: it really is a lot of fun and gives the greatest sense of fulfilment. You’ll be walking around for the next week feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.