SpecialEffect is a charity that believes it’s everyone’s turn to play.
It transforms the lives of people with physical challenges through the innovative use of technology. At the core of the team’s mission is their work to optimise inclusion, enjoyment and quality of life by helping individuals to control video games to the best of their abilities. This not only brings families and friends together but has a profoundly positive impact on confidence too.
I’ve been involved with SpecialEffect since meeting the team at the EGX expo in September 2013. As well as volunteering on their stand at events across the country, Pete and I have taken part in their annual GameBlast marathon since it began the following year. It’s the perfect way to do what we love as gamers and have a beneficial impact on others at the same time.
You can find out more in my last update but here’s a quick reminder. This event sees hundreds of gamers all over the UK come together on Twitch to take part in extended gaming sessions to raise funds and awareness for the charity. Over £150,000 was donated during GameBlast23 in February, helping bring the joy of video games and technology into the lives of many more people.
It’s never too early to start planning and we usually begin organising ourselves around this time each year. As announced last month, our Pixels to Pavements format will see us taking part in two marathons for GameBlast24: a 24-hour stream on Saturday, 24 February 2024 followed by the London Marathon on Sunday, 21 April 2024. Training for the latter is going well but we need to start thinking about the schedule for the former! To give us some inspiration, here’s a round-up of what we’ve done for previous GameBlast events.
I participated in the first event with friends-of-the-blog Ben and Phil. None of us had ever attempted 24-hours of gaming before and so we went into it naïve about just how much of a physical challenge it would be, but I remember having a lot of fun. We decided to complete dares each time we hit a fundraising target, including the lads wearing red lipstick on stream and me dressing up as a sheep. I think there may still be a video online somewhere of us doing a lycra-clad workout too… but let’s keep that quiet.
Sadly, a family emergency at the beginning of the year meant I was unable to participate in February 2015. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t cancelled my involvement completely and had instead taken part in a marathon a few months after the official weekend. This is the only GameBlast I haven’t participated in and it would be nice to say I’ve been there for all of them. But you do what’s necessary during challenging times like this, and I still feel proud when I look back over all the events we’ve completed for SpecialEffect.
This was Pete’s first ever GameBlast and the biggest one for me in terms of team size. Bloggers and friends joined together to form an eight-person group and complete a 48-hour marathon in six-hour shifts. The hardest part was coordinating everyone and making sure the stream stayed up continuously for the entire period. I’m glad we’d been prepared enough to make sure each streamer had a backup watching them, because one person actually fell asleep on air during the early hours and somebody else had to jump in.
This was the biggest GameBlast in terms of length: a 72-hour marathon with the help of Kevin from The Lawful Geek and friend-of-the-blog Nathan. Challenges made a return this year, and it was great seeing Kevin play Octodad with only one-hand expertly 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, which really messed with me sleeping pattern and made me feel like a zombie.
We toned things down for the 2018 event with a shorter 24-hour marathon. But this time, Ben and Nathan came over and spent the weekend with me and Pete. This led to one of my favourite GameBlast moments during a game of That’s You! in the early hours of the morning when we were all hysterical from 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 lovely having the team together in the same room.
We stuck to 24-hours again this year and thought it would be a much smaller affair as it was only Pete and I taking part. But on the day, Tim from Timlah’s Techs and his partner Jake decided to complete an impromptu marathon alongside us – and ended up playing The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) for the entire period. We quickly set up a new OBS scene which meant we could drop in on them and see how they were doing while streaming ourselves. Being able to cheer each other one in this way helped us all reach the end together.
We did something totally new for this year after coming up with an idea which was great – or completely insane if you ask Pete. We played video games every day for at least an hour for a 50-day period and, as if that wasn’t enough, topped the whole thing off with a 24-hour marathon. To be honest, I’m still surprised we managed to pull it of because we were totally shattered by the end. We had our awesome mods to thank for pulling us through, Ellen from Strength in Sarcasm and friend-of-the-blog Phil.
There was only one way we were going to be able to go bigger for GameBlast now: stream for even longer. Following a 24-hour marathon show on the official weekend, our #DaysForDonations scheme was due to have us streaming every day for the next 100 days thanks to everyone’s generous sponsorship. Unfortunately, we had to cut this period short after a disagreement between viewers occurred. It wasn’t a decision we took lightly, but we didn’t want to the focus to be taken away from SpecialEffect and so it was the right thing to do.
After the previous year’s situation, we wanted to keep our participation in GameBlast as a smaller affair this time around. So instead of completing an extended streaming session, Pete, Ellen, Phil and I decided to celebrate the Monkey Island series by playing one of the instalments each day over a period of four days. It was great being able to introduce my friends to some of my favourite games and meet people in Twitch chat who were also fans – while being able to maintain a normal eating and sleeping schedule.
There was only one thing that felt appropriate for GameBlast’s tenth anniversary: streaming a video game from each year of the past decade over a period of ten days. It was good being able to stick to a normal sleep schedule but both Pete and I had to admit that these longer durations are still pretty tough. Even though he was adamant that he’d kept his singing to a minimum, SpecialEffect managed to capture one of his songs and include it in their Best of GameBlast 2023! video.
Planning for our participation in the next GameBlast event is now underway. Despite declaring several years ago that we were getting too old for them, it would be silly to miss the opportunity to do a 24-hour stream for GameBlast24 on Saturday, 24 February 2024. We need to start thinking about the video games for the schedule but I can already guarantee it will include more of Pete’s singing, the obligatory Kit Kats and plenty of coffee. Please do get in touch if you have any game suggestions because we’d love to hear them.
I’ll share another update on our progress towards GameBlast24 at the end of November. And to get us back into the habit of streaming, we’re trying to go live on Twitch at least once a week so come on over and hang out if you’re available. If GameBlast sounds like something you’d like to take part in yourself, keep an eye on the official website for registration. There’s also plenty of useful information on the SpecialEffect website including details about other events you can get involved in. It’s time to help everybody get back in the game.