Continuing the Gaming For Good feature Tim began with Extra Life, I would like to discuss a charity that strikes a chord with me. At the age of thirteen months, I contracted mumps and lost all hearing in my left ear. As I grew up, I was always worried about what would happen if I went completely deaf. Being unable to enjoy my favourite music, movies and games would be devatating. Nowadays, when I start to feel too forlorn, I give myself a deserved kick up the arse and remember that there are many who are in far worse condition. What does a young girl suffering spinal muscular atrophy do when she cannot play Wii games with her friends as the controller is too heavy? What does a boy do when he is crippled and muted by muscular dystrophy but still wants to play not only video games but interact with all types of technology?
This is where an organisation like SpecialEffect comes in. Founded by Mick Donegan in 2007, the charity was set up, in Mick’s words, “because it had to!” Originally based in a small office, the charity eventually moved to an office in Charlbury, Oxfordshire. The idea behind SpecialEffect is simple – enable anyone, whatever their disability, to enjoy video games and other forms of leisure technology. This goal not only helps disabled gamers to play the games their friends and siblings do, it also helps them through rehabilitation, helps to build self-esteem and, most importantly, includes them in activities that every person should be able to share. In the words of Johnny Minkley, an award-winning writer and video game critic, “This isn’t just about giving people a blast on Call of Duty or DiRT, it’s about giving them a whole new part of their life.”
How do they do achieve this? Using the money they raise through fundraisers and from the public, SpecialEffect gathers as much gaming equipment as they can, including modified controllers, specially-designed video games and even eye-tracking technology. As there are varying degrees of disability to deal with, a vast amount of equipment is required to cater for any and all who wish to avail of their help.
SpecialEffect organise roadshows that travel to all corners of the United Kingdom – to schools, hospitals and disability organisations – to allow disabled people to come and enjoy themselves in a fun atmosphere. These shows raise awareness of the benefits of accessible gaming and help promote the gaming community’s positive attributes.
Their work is centered on working with individuals. Once their team has found the right setup, and ensure that everything is comfortable and in the right position, they will lend the equipment through their Loan Library. This allows gamers like Ellie below to get on with beating her siblings and friends at Mario Kart, for example.
SpecialEffect also runs GameBase – a website set up specifically for disabled gamers. Hosting articles and reviews on the latest games and equipment, it’s packed with recommendations of games that are accessible using a wide range of controllers – adapted or otherwise. They also advise on how user-friendly and customisable an experience is. Finally, there is a forum for discussing anything and everything that may be of interest to disabled gamers.
Despite their Loan Library being over-extended due to high demand and their roadshows being booked solid for the rest of the year, SpecialEffect continue to support gamers with disabilities through hard work and dedication. Their work helps countless lives and long may it continue. If you are asking yourself how you can help, follow the links below and support a worthy cause: