How does playing video games for 24-hours straight sound to you? It’s certainly tiring and takes a whole load of stamina to make it through to the end, but it’s also a lot of fun. And doing it to support an amazing cause makes the experience even more memorable.
This is what happens on a dedicated weekend in February every year for the GameBlast gaming marathon – the perfect way to do what we love and change the lives of others at the same time. Hundreds of gamers all over the UK come together to take part in extended gaming sessions to raise funds and awareness for SpecialEffect. Over £950,000 has been generously donated through the events so far and this money goes towards helping the charity continue their fantastic work.
Haven’t heard of them before and aren’t sure what they do? To sum it up: this organisation believes it’s everyone’s turn to play video games. They put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to get involved, and use a range of technology such as modified controllers and eye-control software to find a way for individuals to play to the very best of their abilities. This not only brings families and friends together but has a profoundly positive impact on confidence and quality of life too.
As explained in a post at the end of August, I’ve been involved with SpecialEffect since 2013 after meeting the team at the EGX expo. In the past seven years I’ve volunteered for the charity, helping on their stand at events across London and hosting presentations on their work, and have also taken part in GameBlast every February. Having the opportunity to see the equipment they use and meet some of the people they’ve helped has really made me see that video games are more than simply entertainment and can do a whole lot of good.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Chase several times. His severe cerebral palsy means he couldn’t use a standard controller, but now he’s able to play with his friends thanks to a custom setup created by the charity. His mum Nikki said in an interview: “Particularly for disabled people, I think games are really important because someone who’s able-bodied can go and play golf, they can drive a car, they can do almost anything in real life. Chase isn’t going to have those same opportunities, so being able to play a game creates a level playing field.”
Positive stories like this are the reason why I continue to support SpecialEffect, and why Pete and I decided to attempt our biggest challenge yet for GameBlast20 this year. Forget a straight-forward 24-hour marathon – this time we were going to play video games for at least an hour every day for 50-days and stream it all to the Later Levels’ Twitch channel. A total of 136 hours of gaming, hundreds of cups of coffee and support from the wonderful bloggers here within the community meant we were able to raise an awesome £600 for the charity.
The question is now though: how on earth are we going to top that for GameBlast21 next February? It’s one I’ve been asking myself regularly this month as I usually start planning for the event around this time of year. Completing a 24-hour marathon is always a huge achievement and one we enjoy doing immensely, but we’ve aimed to push ourselves further each time. Can we come up with a new idea and would we even be willing to put ourselves through something as crazy as the 50-day challenge all over again?
The answer is, of course, yes.
Our plan for GameBlast21 is beginning taking shape and although I’m not going to reveal what it is just yet to keep you in suspense, I can promise you that it’s going to be big. You can expect plenty of video games, a dedicated tabletop-RPG, a Pikachu costume, mountains of Wotsits, a special guest and probably a few #KaraokePete songs from my other-half too. All of this will be encapsulated within several streams, along with an extended 24-hour session live on Twitch on the official weekend of 26-28 February 2021.
From now until then, we’ll be bringing you monthly updates on how our road to GameBlast21 is going. Keep your eyes peeled for the end of October when we reveal the format for the next charity event and some of the surprises we’ve got in store for you! If GameBlast sounds like something you’d be interested in taking part in yourself, check out this year’s website for further information; this will be updated when registration opens, usually around the end of September.
Also be sure to follow the official GameBlast account on Twitter for the latest announcements and take a look at the SpecialEffect website to find out more about the work they do. It’s time to help everybody get back in the game.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.