StrideQuest: I would run 100-miles

The end of February saw hundreds of gamers all over the UK take part in the annual GameBlast event. Thanks to their dedication, hard work and marathon streaming sessions, a grand total of £228,300 raised for SpecialEffect.

This amazing amount will help the charity continue their work free of charge. The aim is to put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games, and they use a range of technology including modified hardware 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.

Our 24-hour stream for the official GameBlast21 weekend may have finished over a month ago – but that doesn’t mean we’re stopping any time soon. To say thank you to everyone who helped us raise £4,579 and raise awareness for the charity, we’re streaming for at least an hour every day right up to Saturday, 29 May 2021. There are also a few surprises coming up: Pete will be making another appearance in his Pokémon onesie and Phil and I are warming up our vocal chords for an evening of karaoke.

Streaming isn’t the only way we show our continued support for SpecialEffect though. I’ve regularly volunteered for the charity by helping out on their stand during expos such as EGX and Comic Con since finding out about their work in 2013, and can’t wait to get back to it once such events are allowed again. I’ve also taken part in the ASICS London 10K a few times and am hoping to finally cross the finish line in under an hour at this year’s event on Sunday, 25 July 2021.

One of the biggest ways in which the lockdown has affected me is a drain of motivation, but I’ve tried to keep running regularly since a long-service award from my employer meant I was able to buy myself a treadmill in November. I might not feel like it some days but forcing myself to leave my laptop at lunch-time for a run means I get a much-needed break away from the ‘office’ while working from home. Plus it stops me from feeling too guilty when I treat myself to a Creme Egg in the evenings.

The hardest part of running for me personally isn’t so much the physical exertion: it’s the mental endurance needed to continue for longer distances. On the particularly tough days I find myself constantly watching the clock and counting down the minutes until I can stop. It’s a blessing when friends are streaming in the afternoon as listening to them talk provides a pleasant distraction (shout-outs to Darkshoxx and Nathan from Gaming Omnivore); but on the days when they’re not available, staying on track can be difficult.

This explains why I signed up immediately when SpecialEffect announced a new event a couple of weeks ago. In collaboration with game illustrator and writers RPG Toons and R-N-W, the charity has created an RPG-inspired virtual fitness challenge that transforms your usual run into a quest through mountains, forests and epic landscapes. It’s up to you to find a travel beyond the small village of Loftwood to find a cure for the glum and listless feeling which has infected its inhabitants in StrideQuest.

This distance-based adventure can be experienced as part of your normal daily routine and sounds as if it’s going to make any walk, jog or run that little bit more exciting. As miles are covered, successive segments of a unique fictional map that unlock the next chapter of the story will be emailed to everyone taking part. You can choose to make your journey either 50- or 100-miles and by the end of it, you’ll have travelled through new and wonderous lands as well as finding the remedy for the mysterious illness.

All you need to do is sign up via Eventbrite, complete the miles for your chosen challenge between 01 April and 31 May 2021, and record your distance using a fitness app such as Strava or a smartwatch. Alternatively, you can email the team a photograph or screenshot and they’ll update your progress for you. If you’re thinking of getting back out there now that it’s spring and milder days are coming, perhaps StrideQuest is just what you need to give you that little bit extra incentive.

There’s no obligation to fundraise but there are some great incentives if you choose to do so. After registering, simply set up a JustGiving page linked to the charity’s StrideQuest campaign and raise £25 to get your hands on a limited-edition print of the full quest-map or aim £50 to be eligible for a themed t-shirt. I’ve created a fundraising page myself but I’m aware of just how much the community has supported our GameBlast21 efforts already, so I’ll be making a donation myself once I complete the 100-mile challenge.

If you decide to register to take part in StrideQuest yourself, please do let me know as it would be great to form a little support group to cheer each other on! I’ll give regular updates on my progress during our daily streams on Twitch and will let you know how I’m getting on in my round-up post at the end of April. Good luck!

GameBlast21: lessons learnt

GameBlast21 has officially been completed. Last weekend, hundreds of dedicated gamers all over the UK streamed themselves playing video games for 24-hours and managed to raise over £200,000 for the amazing SpecialEffect.

I’ve participated in the GameBlast events since they started back in 2014 and every marathon has taught me something new: tips about streaming in general, ideas for creating content and understanding how supportive our friends within the community are. I like to share a round-up of the lessons learnt each time so we can keep track of our experiences and benefit from them every year so, in normal Later Levels’ style, here’s an overview of what happened during GameBlast21.

Lesson one: accept that something will always go wrong

One of the lessons we’ve discovered in previous years is that something will always go wrong during a marathon stream. But it’s not so much being prepared to fix it that matters; what’s more important is that you accept it’s going to happen and are able to roll with it when it does. The regular streams we’ve been doing over the past year have given us a lot of experience with our streaming software and hardware so for the first time during GameBlast history, there was no stress in the Later Levels’ household.

Lesson two: an awesome mod makes your life easier

This year was the first time we decided to get ourselves a mod for the marathon stream and we can’t be more grateful to Ellen from Ace Asunder for stepping up to the challenge. She kept her eyes out for bots (thanks to Darkshoxx for giving us a giggle by creating a fake one so she’d have something to ban), posted links in chat when they were needed and welcomed new people to the channel. It meant that some of the ‘admin’ work was taken off our shoulders so we could focus more on the stream itself. Thanks so much, genniz0rz!

Lesson three: FMV comedy games work at 02:00

The section of the stream we’ve always struggled with is from 02:00 to 05:00. It’s incredibly difficult to pick a game to play during this period: you want something which is going to be exciting enough to keep you awake when you’re starting to flag, but not one which requires a great deal of coordination or concentration. It was General Horse and the Package of Doom which stepped up to the challenge. The easy gameplay and crazy humour kept us laughing during the early hours and pushing on through.

Lesson four: Pete doesn’t like Pikachu

At some point before the GameBlast21 event, GD from Gaming Diaries managed to talk Pete into wearing a Pikachu onesie for the whole 24-hours. I think there was a part of him which believed he wasn’t going to have to do it but there was no way our stream-friends were going to let him get out of it. He said afterwards that it was horrible having to wear it for so long because it was far too hot under our key lights – but in my mind it was worth the discomfort, after Fed from Fed’s Life persuaded him to do a Pikachu impression.

Lesson five: stream-friends can work together to break a record

We set up a pun-counter after last year’s marathon and this is something which has featured in our streams since. Mr. Wapojif from Professional Moron bravely said he was going to break the record of 76 puns in one session – and he managed to smash that by reaching 184 with a little help from some stream-friends. We’d like to say a big thank you to the following people for their pun-efforts, staying up for all or most of the 24-hours, helping us when we got stuck during games and just being generally awesome:

Friend Blog Puns contributed Notes
Mr. Wapojif Professional Moron 47 puns The pun champion
the_Ghost_Owl 37 puns The best detective ever
Darkshoxx Darkblox 22 puns General Horse expert
Phil 22 puns Impressive Viking skills
Nathan and Worried Cat Gaming Omnivore 14 puns Kept us awake
Vox_AB 12 puns Provided plenty of jokes
Ellen Ace Asunder 7 puns The most marvellous mod
Gao Li Occasionally Reviews 4 puns Creator of our GameBlast GIFs
Luke Hundstrasse 4 puns Donator of Pop-Tarts
GD Gaming Diaries 3 puns Taker of all the best clips
KiaraHime 1 pun Stayed up for all 24-hours


With your support, we’ve managed to raise an amazing £4,515 for SpecialEffect so far. They’re a wonderful charity which aims to put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games, using technology ranging from modified joypads to eye-control software to find a way for everyone to play to the best of their abilities. Head over to their website or YouTube channel for more information and to see examples of their work.

The fun isn’t stopping just yet though. Your donations unlocked a series of rewards, part of which now involves us streaming to the Later Levels’ Twitch channel every day for at least an hour right up until Saturday, 29 May 2021. Our JustGiving page will remain open until that date in case anyone would like to make a contribution to SpecialEffect and we’ll reveal the games we’re streaming every Monday on social media.

GameBlast21: we’re live!


Hundreds of gamers all over the UK are taking part in GameBlast21 this weekend. This annual gaming marathon is designed to raise funds and awareness for SpecialEffect, an amazing charity which helps people with physical disabilities to play video games.

We’ll be live on Twitch all the way through to 08:00 GMT on Sunday, 28 February 2021 with the schedule below – and then back again for at least an hour each day for 60 days afterwards as part of our #DaysForDonations challenge. All donations received through our JustGiving page go straight to the charity and allow them to continue their wonderful work.

It’s not just about money though: anything you can do to spread the word about SpecialEffect is hugely beneficial too, as it increases the potential for them to reach more people they can help. Tweet about the charity’s work, share our press release, join us in Twitch chat; it’s all valuable and we’re so grateful for your support!

Date Time Genre Game Channel
Saturday,
27 February 2021
08:00 GMT Platformer DuckTales Remastered Later Levels
11:00 GMT Adventure Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars Later Levels
14:00 GMT Other Escape-room-in-a-box Later Levels
17:00 GMT Retro The X-Files: Resist or Serve Later Levels
20:00 GMT Action Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Later Levels
20:00 GMT TTRPG The Last Expedition of Professor Winglow The Lawful Geek
23:00 GMT Horror The 7th Guest: 25th Anniversary Edition Later Levels
Sunday,
28 February 2021
02:00 GMT FMV General Horse and the Package of Doom Later Levels
05:00 GMT MMO The Elder Scrolls Online Later Levels
08:00 GMT Stream end Sleep


We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


GameBlast21: coming this weekend

Video games have the power to do a lot of good. They help us see the world through another person’s eyes and experience their stories, as well as giving us the chance to meet new friends with similar interests. It’s no exaggeration to say they can even change someone’s life.

This is something hundreds of gamers all over the UK taking part in GameBlast21 this weekend believe in. The goal is to raise as much funds and awareness for SpecialEffect, a wonderful charity which aims to put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games. By using technology ranging from modified joypads to eye-control software, they’re finding a way for everyone to play to the very best of their abilities.

We’ve participated in the annual GameBlast streaming marathon since it started in 2014 and there’s only a few days to go until this year’s event. Read on to find out what we’ve got lined up this time around and how you can get involved.

24-hour stream from 08:00 GMT on Saturday, 27 February 2021

Thanks to everyone who voted in our polls to create the game schedule for our marathon stream! A reminder of what’s coming up can be found below. We’re going to have some awesome people helping us out on the day: friend-of-the-blog Phil will be headlining the action section; Kevin from The Lawful Geek will be running a TTRPG to support the cause over on his own channel from 20:00 GMT on Saturday; and Ellen from Ace Asunder will be our marvellous mod for the event.

Date Time Genre Game Channel
Saturday,
27 February 2021
08:00 GMT Platformer DuckTales Remastered Later Levels
11:00 GMT Adventure Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars Later Levels
14:00 GMT Other Escape-room-in-a-box Later Levels
17:00 GMT Retro The X-Files: Resist or Serve Later Levels
20:00 GMT Action Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Later Levels
20:00 GMT TTRPG The Last Expedition of Professor Winglow The Lawful Geek
23:00 GMT Horror The 7th Guest: 25th Anniversary Edition Later Levels
Sunday,
28 February 2021
02:00 GMT FMV General Horse and the Package of Doom Later Levels
05:00 GMT MMO The Elder Scrolls Online Later Levels
08:00 GMT Stream end Sleep


#DaysForDonations fundraising targets and awards

Over £3,500 has been donated by you generous lot through our JustGiving page at the time of writing this post. This means we’ve now hit six of our fundraising targets and will be organising some special events as rewards, as well as streaming for at least an hour a day for a 70-day period after the marathon stream. The more we manage to raise for SpecialEffect, the longer our streams will go on for – and more we’ll embarrass ourselves on camera for a worthy cause.

Target #DaysForDonations Achievement unlocked
Any amount raised No additional days 24-hour GameBlast21 stream on 27-28 February 2021
£500 raised 10 days (up to 10 March) Signed Zelda postcards are sent to all donators
£1,000 raised 20 days (up to 20 March) Pete wears a Pikachu costume for the 24-hour stream
£1,500 raised 30 days (up to 30 March) A signed copy of Project Zero is given away
£2,000 raised 40 days (up to 09 April) The team streams wearing Pokémon costumes
£2,500 raised 50 days (up to 19 April) The official #KaraokePete album is emailed to all donators
£3,000 raised 60 days (up to 29 April) The Lawful Geek hosts an extended TTRPG stream
£3,500 raised 70 days (up to 09 May) The team completes a cocktails-and-karaoke stream
£4,000 raised 80 days (up to 19 May) Ellen from Ace Asunder gets a Zelda and GameBlast tattoo
£4,500 raised 90 days (up to 29 May) Kim completes a treadmill marathon on stream
£5,000 raised 100 days (up to 08 June) #DaysForDonations finishes with another 24-hour stream


How you can get involved

We can’t deny that donations are greatly appreciated and will be put to good use. They enable SpecialEffect to continue their work assisting hundreds of physically-disabled people across the UK to experience the joy of video games. The charity does this free of charge, and shares the knowledge gained from their lifelong assessment and support services with hardware and software developers – so a feature that’s worked successfully for one individual can then go on to benefit thousands of others.

Check out our JustGiving page for details if you’d like to donate. It’s not just about money though: anything you can do to raise awareness and let others know about SpecialEffect is hugely beneficial too, as it increases the potential for them to reach more people they can help. Tweet about the charity’s work, share our GameBlast21 press release, come along to our streams join us in chat; these are all valuable actions and we’re incredibly grateful for your support.

Good luck to everyone taking part in GameBlast21 this weekend! Together, we can help SpecialEffect level the playing-field for people with physical disabilities and share the joy of gaming.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


GameBlast21: Later Levels’ press release

 
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Kim at Later Levels
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Later Levels to battle sleep in 24-hour charity challenge

Committed gamers Later Levels are gearing up to burn the midnight gaming oil from Saturday, 27 to Sunday, 28 February 2021 to raise money for people with disabilities.

They’ll be playing video games continuously for 24-hours as part of GameBlast21, the UK’s largest gaming marathon weekend, and are aiming to raise over £3,500 for SpecialEffect. This amazing charity uses technology to help people with disabilities benefit from the fun and inclusion of gaming.

The Later Levels team is asking everyone to help them raise awareness for the organisation and reach their donation target by sponsoring them via their online fundraising page.

SpecialEffect makes it possible for everyone to play the video games we enjoy and take for granted, through assessment and equipment modification,” said Pete, a Later Levels’ streamer. “We believe in the positive power of gaming, and GameBlast gives us a chance to put this belief into action by showing our support for the charity.”

“Many people across the UK will be playing video games for up to 24 hours. It’s a big challenge, but they’re attempting it to help the thousands of people who, because of a disability, can only sit and watch other people have all the fun,” said Tom Donegan, the head of the charity’s fundraising and communications team. “GameBlast is an opportunity for everybody to do what they love best and level the playing field for individuals with disabilities at the same time.”

The charity is inviting teams of friends, family members and work colleagues to join the event, which has been likened to a ‘Children in Need for gamers’. There’s no strict requirement for people to take on gaming marathons, and many teams and individuals will be playing board games or holding gaming-related events. The aim is to raise a total of £100,000.

Later Levels’ efforts will help people like Aaron who never thought he’d be able to play video games again because his muscular dystrophy stopped him using a controller, ” said Tom. “The sponsorship raised through the GameBlast weekend will change the lives of many more people like him through the gift of gaming fun and inclusivity.”

Anyone can sponsor the team online via their JustGiving page and watch them live from 08:00 GMT on Saturday, 27 February 2021 on their Twitch channel. More details about the GameBlast event can be found on the official website.

SpecialEffect is an award-winning charity that helps people with disabilities to benefit from the fun, rehabilitation and therapy of video games. They support people of all ages through assessments, equipment loans and equipment modifications.

SpecialEffect
The Stable Block, Cornbury Park, Charlbury, Oxfordshire OX7 3EH
Office: 01608 810055
Email: info@specialeffect.org.uk
Twitter: @SpecialEffect
Facebook: SpecialEffectCharity

Charity no 1121004


Time to Talk Day 2021: opening up

Although 2020 was a very strange year, it offered some silver-linings. One of these was an increase in the understanding of just how important our mental health is and the willingness to have more open conversations about the subject.

This is positive progress but there’s still a lot of work to be done. One in four individuals will be affected by an issue this year alone and it’s incredibly sad to hear that over a half of them will say the associated isolation and shame is worth than the condition itself. The social stigma attached to mental health and the discrimination experienced because of it can make the problem worse and recovery that much harder – but there are things we can all do to change this.

Time to Talk Day, an annual event hosted by growing social movement called Time to Change, gives everyone a chance to tackle this silence and shame. Having open conversations about how we’re feeling can help break down stereotypes, improve relationships, aid recovery, and take the stigma out of something which will affect each of us at some point during our lives. Nobody should have to fear being treated differently because of a mental health problem.

You can get involved by joining the virtual festival being held on YouTube, starting at 19:00 GMT this evening with a discussion about the power of talking and continuing tomorrow with a short series of webinars (see the schedule here). You can also check the Time to Change website for details on events taking place both online and around the UK, along with resources if you’re interested in planning your own activity.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do though is let people know you’re there to listen if they need someone to support them. There’s no right way to talk about mental health but these tips will guide you in approaching it in a helpful way. My channels are open to anyone who’d like to chat – whether you want to talk amore about this post or would just like to speak to somebody who isn’t going to judge. I can’t say I’ll know how to fix what you’re going through but I can certainly be there for you.

If you’re worried about someone in your life and haven’t heard from them in a while: please don’t hesitate in reaching to them. Send them a private message and ask how they’re doing so they know you’re thinking of them and have your support. We all need somebody to look out for us every once in a while and if your friend is going through a tough time, stepping in and showing them you care could mean more to them than you realise.

Together we’re stronger and can end mental health discrimination.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)