SpecialEffect is a wonderful UK-based charity that believes it’s everyone’s turn to play. The team puts fun and inclusion back into the lives of those with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games, through modified equipment and eye-control software.
I’ve been a volunteer since first finding out about their work at the EGX expo in 2013 and have participated in their annual gaming marathon since it began the following year. GameBlast takes place over three days every February and sees people across the country come together to raise funds and awareness for the charity. A total of over £950,000 has been donated through these weekends over the past seven years, helping to change the lives of thousands of people with disabilities who could previously only watch everyone else have all the fun.
GameBlast21 is scheduled for 26-28 February 2021 and, even though registration doesn’t happen for another month or so, I start planning for the event in September. We normally have a good idea for the format for our next gaming marathon by late August but this time around, I’m afraid to say we’re stumped. Perhaps looking back over what we’ve lined up for previous GameBlasts will give us the inspiration we need to dream up something spectacular for next year…
I participated in my first GameBlast
with friends-of-the-blog Ben
. None of us had ever attempted 24-hours of gaming before and so we went into it a little naïve of just how much a challenge it would be, but I remember having an awful lot of fun. We decided to complete a number of challenges each time we hit a fundraising target, including the boys wearing lipstick on stream and me dressing up as a sheep. I think there may also still be a video of us floating around online somewhere, clad in shiny lycra and doing a workout routine.
Sadly, a death in the family at the beginning of the year meant I couldn’t participate in 2015 and this is the only event I haven’t been a part of so far in its history. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t cancelled my involvement completely for 2015 and had instead completed a marathon a few months later so I could now say I’ve been there for every GameBlast
. You do what you need to do at the time during such difficult situations though, and it’s still an achievement to know I’ve been there for every marathon except one.
This was my other-half’s first ever GameBlast
and the biggest one for me in terms of team-size: bloggers and friends kindly joined me to form a eight-person team called ‘Gamely Giving’ and complete a 48-hour marathon in six-hour shifts. The hardest part was coordinating everyone and making sure the stream stayed up continuously during the entire period. I’m glad I’d been prepared enough to make sure every streamer had a backup watching them, because one person fell asleep on air and another had to jump in!
In 2017 came the biggest GameBlast
in terms of length, a 72-hour marathon
with the help of Kevin
from The Lawful Geek
and Nathan from Hurricane thought process
. Challenges made a comeback for this year and it was great seeing Kevin
expertly with one hand and Nathan get a Crash Bandicoot
tattoo after we’d hit our fundraising target. The worst part though was the shifts: I took the session from 04:00 to 10:00 each day and found that this really messed with my sleeping patterns so I felt like a bit of a zombie.
We toned things down for GameBlast18
with a shorter 24-hour marathon
but this time, Ben
and Nathan spent the weekend with Pete
and I at our house. This led to one of my favourite GameBlast moments
during a game of That’s You!
in the early hours of the morning where we were all a bit hysterical with laughter and lack of sleep. Trying to look after everyone while checking on social media and playing video games may have been extremely tiring, but it was great having the team in the same room and this was definitely the year with the best vibe.
We stuck to 24-hours for GameBlast19
and thought it was going to be a much a smaller affair as only Pete
and I were taking part this year. But on the day, Tim
from Timlah’s Texts & Unity3D Tech
decided to complete an impromptu marathon themselves and played The Elder Scrolls Online
for the entire period! We quickly set up a new scene in OBS which meant we could drop in on them to see how they were doing while were streaming ourselves, and being able to cheer each other on in this way helped us all reach the end.
this year, I came up with a new idea that was completely awesome or stupid depending on how you looked at it: 50-days of gaming
thought I was crazy when I said we’d be playing video games for at least an hour every day during this period, and then told me I’d completely lost it when I mentioned rounding the whole thing off with a 24-hour marathon. Looking back on it now, it’s hard to believe that we actually managed to do it; but how on earth are we going to top this for future GameBlast
I’m due to start the planning for GameBlast21 next month but Pete and I are struggling to come up with a format for our next marathon. Do we stick to 24-hours, try another 50 days because it was such an achievement, or attempt something completely new? Do we do it as part of a team or just the two of us? We’d love to hear your ideas.