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 and Phil. 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 play Octodad 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 and Jake 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.


For GameBlast20 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. Pete 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 events?

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.

Gaming for good: my GameBlast history

5 thoughts on “Gaming for good: my GameBlast history

  1. A lack of sleep just sounds like self-torture, personally. Seems counterproductive to promoting the idea that gaming is fun and enjoyable. One random idea might be to go with something similar to the 50 day regular schedule, but do handovers and trade off between yourselves or another team. Make the hand-over of the game part of the challenge, similar to what Naithin from Time to Loot organized with the Civilization succession game, while lowering the overall amount of time any one person needs to be online.

    Find a game where a player can impact the game world in some way, and when the new player(s) takes over, they’re looking at and have to adapt to a changed world. Say, a Don’t Starve, Terraria or Minecraft type of game where player A or team A plays for a period of time, a day or three days. Then pass it to player B or team B to play for another period of time. So you could create helpful solutions, extended bases or creative works of art for the other group to admire or progress more easily… and perhaps at some point, a mischievous prank might turn into a sequence of practical jokes or mazes or platforming challenges or what not for the other player/team.

    If strategic challenges are OK, then perhaps look for games like Civilization or X:COM where there’s an extended campaign and wins/losses impact what you can bring for the next encounter, map or levels. So whatever the prior player(s) did would affect strategy moving forward.

    If competition is OK and won’t end any relationships, take turns playing a short game that has a scoreboard or a timer. Try to beat each other’s score. Repeat until one side yields, then find a new game. Preferably the choice of the loser so they get an advantage on the next game. Could be arcade games, roguelikes, tower defence, or even something narrative like 80 Days, where the end point is circumnavigating the world successfully, in as short a time as possible.

    Final random idea – playing games ‘wrong’ or finding mini-games within games. Apparently, trying to go to a six star alert level in GtA and survive as long as possible is a thing. Play an optimization game and attempt to be as inefficient as possible while still getting it to work… eventually. Play a story game with dialogue options or a choice-based game and pick the weirder options that wouldn’t be your first or usual pick. Play a game you wouldn’t usually be caught dead playing and play it long enough to say one or two good things about it, before surrendering.


    • I love that final idea there! 😄

      My other-half and I are well known for the kind of games we’re like and have completely different tastes when it comes to genre. It could be kind of funny to see him play something more narrative and pick the options that are the most destructive; or watch me play an FPS with such bad coordination. This idea is going onto the list, thank you!


    • I’ve done hardly any exercise throughout the lockdown… so I’d be surprised if I could walk 21 metres right now, let alone 21 miles. 😆

      Saying that though, there’s a guy who takes part in GameBlast and he walks a marathon on a treadmill while playing games for 24-hours. It’s impressive; I know I’d fall off, if it were me.

      Liked by 1 person

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