I had the great pleasure of going to visit SpecialEffect at its headquarters in Oxford on Wednesday. The charity held a get together to thank supporters for their work during the Art Charity Auction back in December.
As I arrived at the building I was struck by how incredible it looked. I drove up a long road, flanked by trees all the way up to a Manor building where SpecialEffect is housed. I parked around the back and entered the easily accessible building where I was met by Hannah Whittaker, who works at SpeciaEffect.
As I entered the office I was greeted by Gavin Tan, who is a developer for the charity. I chatted with Gavin for a bit about games, that is the reason we are in this industry, and he then showed me some of the controllers they use to help disabled people to be able to play games.
The first controller I tried was the “EyeGaze”. This is a device which tracks your eye movements and lets you do all the things you want on a computer using nothing but your eye movement. Following a quick calibration I got to play racing game, Dirt. To control the vehicle you moved your eyes to the top of the screen to go faster, to the bottom of the screen to brake and reverse and direct your eyes left or right to turn. I am normally terrible at racing games but using the EyeGaze I managed an average time which pleased me!
Following on from the EyeGaze I got to experience voice activated controls in Street Fighter. A control was set up which is used for movement and can be controlled by your chin with a sensitive microphone for the voice commands. The commands were simple like “Punch” for an uppercut, “Kick” for a spinning kick and “Move” to do a Hadouken.
Seeing and experiencing these controllers for myself really showed me how helpful these can be for people trying to get back in to gaming and back playing games on a level playing field. It truly is an amazing thing that the people at SpecialEffect do.
Over the next half an hour several games industry people turned up to the office for the event. There were people there from Sega, Warner Bros, and Take-two. Once everyone had arrived it was time for the main event.
Everyone was welcomed to the event by Kirsty Payne, a Vice President of SpecialEffect, who can be seen in the picture above. She gave a quick run down of the event in December. The art auction featured games art from across the industry and was held at the London City Hall and was visited by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. The auction managed to raise over £30,000!
The floor was then given over to Dr Mick Donegan, founder of SpecialEffect, who showed where the money will be going and who is being helped.
After the presentation SpecialEffect offered us drink and food. It was lovely just being able to talk with some of the games industry people who do so much for our industry and hearing their opinions on the games industry at the moment.
It was an incredible day and I will continue to do what I can for this amazing Charity! I will leave you with this amazing video of a young man called Alex who has been able to play games again and has used Special Effects help to be able to become a Train2Game student!