Exclusive Q&A with SpecialEffect

by Rebel.Red.Carnation

We’re all up for supporting good causes here at FULLSYNC, especially when they promote gaming and the positive impact it can have on improving the quality of life of people less fortunate. And we will do all we can to promote these causes too. Which is why we decided to email the people over at SpecialEffect to see if anyone was around to chat, to learn a little more about what they do and hopefully give them exposure to people who may be unaware of who they are or what they do. Fortunately, someone was home and we managed to speak with Mark Saville who is part of the Fundraising and Communications team over at SpecialEffect.

Hi there, we are super excited to get to know you guys and what you’re all about, so to start things off could you tell our readers a little about yourself?

Yeah, I’m Mark, and I’m part of the small Fundraising and Communications team at SpecialEffect based here in Oxfordshire. It’s our privilege to shout out to the world about the fun and inclusivity that our therapists and tech experts are bringing to people with physical disabilities.

Could you explain to us the impact of your help to the clients you have worked with?

For many people, gaming might sound relatively unimportant compared to other challenges that face people with disabilities, but try telling that to someone like Arlo, a bright young boy we helped. He has cerebral palsy and his limited hand movement can’t cope with a standard games controller. So when his friends would come around, he’d usually end up watching while they played with his brother. Our team modified his games controller setup to match his hand movement capabilities, and now he’s over the moon to compete with them on a level playing field. You can meet Arlo at https://www.specialeffect.org.uk/activities/arlo

Many gamers we help have muscular dystrophy, and over time the muscles in their hands and fingers get weaker and weaker to the point where they can’t play games anymore. Our job is to do our best to create custom control setups that exactly match their limited abilities to the games they want to play. One gamer we helped in this way summed up the impact by saying “Thank you for giving me my life back.”

It’s all about opening doors to inclusion, friendship, confidence and an improved quality of life. And we’re not just helping young children – our doors are open to everyone, including accident victims, service personnel with combat injuries, people with congenital and progressive conditions, stroke patients, and others.

Everyone at FULLSYNC has great admiration for the opportunities you are providing people less fortunate. We particularly admire the assistance you offer through your ‘StarGaze Project’. Could you tell our readers a little more about this?

OK, imagine you’ve had a serious accident and you wake up in the hospital unable to speak, and unable to move any part of your body except your eyes. For many people with conditions including spinal injuries and locked-in syndrome, that’s a reality.

Our StarGaze service allows us to visit these people when they need help most – in intensive care immediately after their accident or illness. We provide the introduction, support and loan of eye-gaze technology, which is essentially a computer that you can control by moving your eyes. It has the potential to open the door initially for emergency communication, but can lead to independence in education, work, leisure, and of course gaming!

A great example is Rob, who had a spinal injury in 2013. We introduced him to an eye-controlled computer at a critical time after his accident, affected the lives of both Rob and his family. You can see how in the video below:

And what other aspects of gaming do you also provide support for?

We’re using our practical experience of working one-to-one with people with disabilities to advise and assist developers in making their games more accessible. That way, what we’re doing in houses and hospitals around the UK can have a global impact. We’ll also be launching a fully eye-gaze interface to Minecraft very shortly.

Why do you think the world of gaming is so important for today’s society?

The phrase “I’m a gamer” means something completely different to what it did even ten years ago. The demographics and popularity of gaming have evolved so quickly over a short time. The young teenagers that were playing Dizzy back in the day are now well into middle age, and many of them are still playing. That’s true for the succeeding generations, so to be able to help an increasing number of people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to join a global community of such a wide age range and depth is a must for us.

What would you say is the most complicated piece of kit you have built?

Wow. Loads. For example, we have a guy using four chin joysticks to play World of Warcraft, and another who uses a combination of speech control, eye control and slight body movement to play a range of games. You can browse many of their stories at http://bit.ly/2FA2RZZ

How important is it, and what does it mean personally to you, having brands such as eBuyer gaming raising money for you in events such as Battle of the Brands and developers like Jagex hosting fundraising events like Gameblast 18?

We don’t charge for any of our services and we don’t receive any statutory funding, so we’re totally reliant on the generosity and goodwill of the gaming community, the gaming industry, the local community here and the public to keep on doing what we do. Our small fundraising team are constantly and genuinely moved by the ways people are supporting us, from young children donating their pocket money to large companies taking on giant fundraising events. I have been moved to tears several times by the things people do and the passion they show. It’s inspirational!

If anyone would like to help, we’re currently welcoming runners to our British 10k team in July (http://bit.ly/2JhWpJn), and always would love gamers to join in the fun of our next GameBlast (http://bit.ly/2EhrSrF) or even do a gaming marathon at any time. We also have a special event for the gaming industry called One Special Day in September (http://www.onespecialday.org.uk). That’s huge.

Finally, just for a little fun; if you could have a gaming sleepover with any video game character who would you choose and why?

Great question! I’ve just run that past the team here and kicked off a massive animated discussion! Personally, I’ll stay safe and go for the Team Fortress Team, especially The Engineer as he’s a fellow guitar player.

We’d like to thank Mark and SpecialEffect for taking the time to chat with us, it was a real eye-opener into the differences that gaming can make to people’s lives. Hopefully, you’ve all learnt a little more about the charity and the good they do, and who knows, maybe it has inspired you to jump on the fundraising bandwagon. As usual, you can find some links below so you can learn more about the charity and where you can like/follow them on social media.


Twitter: @specialeffect
Facebook: specialeffectcharity
Instagram: specialeffectteam

To join the British 10K team click HERE
To join the next GameBlast event click HERE
To learn more about One Special Day click HERE

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