GameBlast23: video games changing lives

How does playing video games for 24-hours straight sound to you?

It takes a whole lot of stamina to make it through to the end of such a lengthy period. And trust me, the older you get, the longer it takes to recover during the week afterwards. But it can be fun and doing it with friends to support an amazing cause can make the experience even better.

This is what the GameBlast marathon is all about: it’s the perfect way to do what we love and have a positive effect on the lives of others at the same time. On a dedicated weekend in February every year, hundreds of gamers from all across the UK come together online to take part in extended gaming sessions to raise funds and awareness for the wonderful SpecialEffect.

This organisation believes it’s everyone’s turn to play. They put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to get involved, using a range of technology such as modified controllers and eye-controlled 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.

I’ve been involved with SpecialEffect since 2013 after meeting the team at the EGX expo. I’ve helped on their stand at events across London, hosted 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 understand that video games can be more than simply entertainment and can do a lot of good.

Video games can connect people, and everybody deserves to be a part of that experience regardless of their physical ability.

There are plenty of wonderful stories on the charity’s website. For example, Stewart couldn’t move his arms and hands after an accident, and is now able to reconnect with family and friends online following the introduction of a computer he could control by moving his head and chin. And Becky, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and mainly uses eye-gaze technology to communicate, said: “I can’t do much by myself, but I can play games, which gives me a great sense of independence and achievement.”

Positive outcomes like this are why I support SpecialEffect. Video games can connect people, and everybody deserves to be a part of that experience. At the heart of their work is their mission to maximise fun and quality of life by helping people play – but that’s just the start. Their BubbleBlasters project tackles long-term medical isolation through the use of home-controlled desktop robots, while the StarGaze service provides the introduction, support and loan of eye-gaze technology in intensive care situations.

Volunteering has also been extremely beneficial for me on a personal level. I can become quite anxious in social situations when I’m in a group of more than a few people, and social media is a minefield I frequently prefer not to navigate. Representing SpecialEffect at events encourages me to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Being able to help on their stand, meet attendees and talk to them about the charity’s work is something I’ve been able to achieve by being inspired by all the positive things they do.

There are six months to go before the GameBlast23 marathon and it’s around this time that we usually start planning. We’ve done all kinds of challenges for past events – 24-hour and more streams, played video games every day for 50 days, embarrassed ourselves on Twitch with dares and even dressed up as Pokémon – and we’re now looking for ideas for next year. If you have any suggestions for what we can do during the official weekend of 24 to 26 February 2023, we’d love to hear them.

SpecialEffect, charity, Becky, girl, smile, video games, controller
SpecialEffect, charity, controller, joypad, buttons

From now until then, I’ll bring you a monthly update on how our road to GameBlast23 is going. Although we don’t know what we’ll be doing for the event yet, you can expect video games, KFC and coffee, and more of Pete’s signing. Keep your eyes peeled for a round-up of our past marathons at the end of September.

If GameBlast sounds like something you’d like to take part in yourself, you can sign up via JustGiving or Tiltify and receive regular updates by following the official Twitter account. There’s also plenty of useful information on the SpecialEffect website. It’s time to help everybody get back in the game.

About Author /

Spreadsheet lover, video gamer and SpecialEffect volunteer. Goes by the name 'kissingthepixel' online. Lifelong fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

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