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GameBlast20: interview with Becky from SpecialEffect

Here’s the latest update on our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20, an event starting on Sunday, 05 January 2020 which aims to raise funds and awareness for SpecialEffect. This amazing charity puts fun and inclusion back into the lives of those with physical disabilities by helping everyone play video games. Find out more on their website or take a look at these posts.


Planning for the 50-day challenge is now well underway. Since our last update in August, several very lovely people have got in touch to let us know they’d be interested in helping out and we’re very grateful for their support! We’ll be sharing more about the dream-team very soon but there’s still time to participate: if you fancy joining us for a game, holding your own stream on the Later Levels’ Twitch channel or giving us a hand with promotion, please do let us know.

In the meantime, we have something very special lined up for you today: an interview with the awesome Becky Frost from SpecialEffect. Find out more about the charity, GameBlast20 and what Becky’s life would be like as a video game in her answers below. We’ll be back again with another update on our 50-day challenge at the beginning of October, during which we’ll hopefully be able to bring you more news about official sign-ups for the event.

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Tell us a bit about yourself! What do you do at SpecialEffect and how did you become involved?

I’m Becky, Events Admin here at SpecialEffect. I’ve been working for them for over two years now, but started out as a volunteer about seven years ago working at expo events talking to people about the charity and showing off demos. Now I head up a team of amazing volunteers who help us spread the word about the charity’s work and assist with the fundraising team with events like GameBlast.

Are you a gamer? If so, do you have any favourite video games and what are you playing at the moment?

Yep! The games I love playing are casual, usually single-player story-driven games. I love the Ace Attorney series and am currently re-playing games 1 to 3 on the Switch. I’m also a self-made Animal Crossing billionaire.

For those who haven’t yet heard about SpecialEffect, tell us about its work and the people it helps.

SpecialEffect are a UK-based charity who help people with severe physical disabilities to enjoy video games and other tech using adapted hardware and software. We help gamers of all ages to access whatever games they want to play, on whatever platform they want to play them. Sometimes this can mean a simple modification to an existing controller (like changing the positions of the buttons on a standard PlayStation 4 controller so the user can reach all the buttons comfortably) and sometimes it takes more complicated approaches and input methods; we use eye-tracking, voice-control, chin-control, basically we’ll do whatever it takes to get someone enjoying the games they want to enjoy.

The charity completes assessments, maintains a Games Room and does home visits too – you’re a very busy and dedicated team! Can you describe a typical day?

Short answer: no. There is no typical day here at SpecialEffect! A typical day for me will be completely different to someone in the Service Delivery team, too.

For example, just today I’ve been in planning meetings for GameBlast20, I’ve emailed my team of volunteers helping out at Insomnia65 with all the information they’ll need for their day volunteering for us, and I’ve spent some time on the games industry Slack channel telling people about the upcoming sports challenge events they might be interested in.

My colleague Jacob Holden, an Occupational Therapist in the Service Delivery team, says: “As one of the SpecialEffect occupational therapists, a typical day can involve creating bespoke gaming setups to gamers with a wide range of physical disabilities including cerebral palsy and Duchenne’s muscular atrophy. They could either come to our base or we can travel the UK to see them in their own home. When we’re not travelling, we’re always on the lookout for equipment and games that could benefit the people we see, so knowing these inside out is useful. A tough day in the office is researching the latest game for its controls and accessibility options (I swear it’s work).”

And Harry Nelson from the Research and Development team added: “Research & Development is a broad term which include all sorts. A typical day might include testing games and giving feedback to their developers on how to make them more accessible, at the developer’s request. Trying out new software or writing scripts and programs of our own such as voice controls. A lot of time is spent simply researching the latest tech, ideas, and solutions from around the world and trying to work out how we could best utilise them. Personally I am involved with our BubbleBusters project, which has me spending a lot of time with robots and their developers, in the hopes of making cancer a less isolating place for young children. Essentially it is my role to make sure that the tech we use operates at the highest possible standard. Each and every day we strive to push that standard higher and higher all in the name of empowering people to enjoy the games and gadgets they love. Also: a lot of the time, people will give us a near impossible technical challenge and tell us to figure it out… that is always fun. Love me a good puzzle!”

What’s been your most memorable moment from your years of working for SpecialEffect so far?

One moment that really sticks out for me is the first ever Comic Con we attended in London. We were showing a demo of an eye-controlled racing game that weekend. A couple approached the stand, a young chap in a wheelchair and his sister / carer, they were curious about SpecialEffect so I told them who we are and what we do. She explained that her brother (the chap in the chair, who was non-verbal and had very limited movement) loved racing games and watched their brother play all the time. I asked if he was able to play at all and she answered for him: no. Then I turned to him and asked if he wanted to try the eye-gaze racing game demo we were showing. His face completely lit up as he realised that I was serious – we could get him playing a game right there. Within a few minutes we’d jerry-rigged the demo laptop onto his wheelchair’s built in table and he was controlling a car around a track in Dirt 3. It was magic. They left with some info on how to get in touch with us and I will genuinely never forget the delight on the guy’s face.

We can’t wait for GameBlast20 next year! Have you ever taken part in the event yourself, and do SpecialEffect have anything special planned?

We don’t run a stream for GameBlastGameBlast weekend is YOUR time to shine and we wouldn’t want to take any of the spotlight off of our amazing supporters that weekend – but we are VERY busy during GB weekend. The whole GameBlast team spend hours dropping in on streams that are live to say hi and join in for a bit (I like to pull an all-nighter and try to visit as many people as I can to keep spirits up in the wee small hours!). In the run up to GameBlast19 we also ran a weekly podcast with hints and tips and interviews on how to make the most of your GameBlast fundraiser and I’m planning on bring that back, bigger and better for 2020!

Pushing yourself through a gaming marathon of any length can take a lot of organisation and stamina. What’s the best piece of advice you can give to GameBlasters?

People took the mickey out of me last GameBlast because I kept telling people to ‘stay hydrated’! Basically, don’t push yourself too hard; look after yourself and plan a stream that will be a fun and enjoyable challenge for yourself / your team, NOT a super gruelling slog!! Check out the GameBlast website closer to the event for resources like SpecialEffect video downloads, ready-made stream overlays, logos and even a quick-reference cheat-sheet of info on the charity – we’ve tried to put together everything you’ll need to run a successful fundraising stream. Follow @GameBlast and @SpecialEffect on Twitter for constant updates. And… STAY HYDRATED!

Are there any other events coming up that people can take part in to show their support for SpecialEffect?

Oh yes! We run sports challenge events throughout the year, and if you have any other fundraising ideas (we’ve had skydivers, bake-sales, art auctions, loads of amazing and creative stuff!) then please get in touch with the lovely Ali at alison@specialeffect.org.uk who’ll be able to help you with resources and advice.

I’ve volunteered for the charity for around six years now and absolutely love it. What can you expect from being a volunteer and how do you sign up?

We’re incredibly lucky here at SpecialEffect to have such a dedicated squad of volunteers to help at events, as I’ve already said, we’re a small team compared to a lot of charities and we honestly couldn’t staff these events without our volunteers. Most of our volunteering gigs are at games industry events in the UK like Insomnia, EGX and Comic Con. Volunteers usually spend the day manning the SpecialEffect stand, talking to show guests about the charity and showing people the accessible gaming demos we have on stand. If that sounds like your kind of thing, you can send me a volunteer form through the website here.

How can people find out more about SpecialEffect and get in touch?

You can visit www.specialeffect.org.uk and click that big ol’ CONTACT button or you can email info@specialeffect.org.uk.

One final question: if a video game based on your life was made, what would its title and genre be?

It’d basically be a clone of Animal Crossing, but in pixel-art with everything in pastel colours, and with about 70% more corgis. There would be no objective, but several vaguely meta mini-games.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

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