Train2Game News Jagex GameBlast funds raised

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Jagex Games Studio, custodians of the long-running fantasy MMORPG, RuneScape, is pleased to announce that £50,000 was raised during the recently held 24-hour GameBlast15 marathon for SpecialEffect.

The figure compares favourably against the £48,000 raised by RuneScape and Ace of Spades during last year’s inaugural GameBlast event.

On 20th February, around 90 people – both staff and players – embarked on the challenge to play RuneScape, Block N Load and many other games in Jagex’s permanent LAN arena and the attending Fragers GamersBus. The marathon, which included a series of outrageous challenges, was livestreamed on the official GameBlast15 channel on Twitch.tv and watched by tens of thousands of people online.

In addition to making direct donations, the community also utilised RuneScape’s ‘Well of Goodwill’ to bequeath in-game gold, items and Bonds to SpecialEffect. These were then converted into a real world contribution on behalf of the charity.

“We were thrilled to host SpecialEffect and kick off GameBlast15 with our telethon-style livestream. It not only showed off the dedication of our players and staff, but also highlighted the crazy antics people are prepared to do in the name of charity,” said Jane Ryan, director of community and events at Jagex. “I think that after a second successful year of fundraising to help people with physical disabilities play videogames, both Jagex and the wider community are looking forward to offering our support for GameBlast16!”

“The support and enthusiasm of Jagex and their communities in supporting GameBlast has been truly staggering. Being personally present during their livestream was an amazing and humbling experience, and on behalf of all the staff of SpecialEffect I’d like to pass on my heartfelt thanks to everyone who took part or donated,” said Dr Mick Donegan, founder and director of SpecialEffect. “Yet again they’ve raised the lion’s share of the overall GameBlast total, and it will make a huge difference in ensuring we can continue to bring the magic of video games to those who would otherwise be excluded from their many, many benefits.”

A number of companies supported the Jagex hosted marathon, including We Got Game, Multiplay, CoolerMaster, and Fragers, as well as local franchises of Domino’s Pizza and Subway.

Train2Game News Jagex to host SpecialEffect for Gameblast

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Jagex Games Studio, creators and custodians of the fantasy MMORPG, RuneScape and the upcoming online multiplayer action game, Block N Load, is to lead the way in SpecialEffect’s upcoming GameBlast15 games marathon weekend.

The event, which takes place between 20th and 22nd February, launches a 24-hour gamer challenge to raise money and help enable individuals with physical disabilities play games.

During the inaugural GameBlast in 2014, the RuneScape and Ace of Spades: Battle Builder communities raised more than £48,000 for SpecialEffect, and more than 90,000 viewers watched Jagex’s livestream of gameplay, interviews, and real-world challenges. In addition to holding another marathon livestream from Jagex’s Cambridge headquarters, RuneScape players will also benefit from a double XP weekend.

“SpecialEffect is a cause that’s very close to our hearts at Jagex. We had a lot of fun last year with our livestream for GameBlast14, so it’s fantastic to get stuck in once again and get even more involved in GameBlast15,” said Phil Mansell, vice president of RuneScape. “We’re really looking forward to welcoming Mick and the SpecialEffect team to Jagex, as well as holding our own 24-hour marathon and double XP weekend, next month.”

David Solari, vice president of Block N Load, added “The Ace of Spades: Battle Builder community were really supportive during GameBlast14, so we can’t wait to see how the burgeoning Block N Load player base performs this year. We’re currently in the beta phase of development, so the 24-hour GameBlast marathon will really put the game through its paces ahead of its launch!”

“We were simply stunned by the amazing generosity of the Jagex community during last year’s GameBlast, and honoured that they’re gearing up for another 24 hours of activity in February,” said Dr Mick Donegan, founder and director of SpecialEffect. “Having such a major force in the gaming industry backing our work helping people with disabilities is a great boost, and I’m personally really looking forward to being at Jagex HQ during the event to be part of their GameBlast heroics.”

Hosting SpecialEffect and taking part in GameBlast15 is the first of a number of fundraising drives for planned by the Jagex throughout 2015. During 2014, the studio and its passionate RuneScape community raised more than $300,000 for good causes, including Oxfam and SpecialEffect. RuneScape was also the first games partner of United for Wildlife, and helped to raise awareness of the plight facing the world’s rhinos with a series of in-game quizzes and limited edition virtual pets.

Train2Game News SpecialEffect TwinTown Challenge

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On May 23rd 2014 over 50 cars costing less than £500 will leave games charity SpecialEffect’s Oxfordshire HQ to tackle historic racing circuits including Brands Hatch and Le Mans in the SpecialEffect Twin Town challenge. 

Leamington Spa based developer Playground Games is supporting the charity by becoming track sponsor, bringing the charity closer to their target of raising £100K from the event.

In addition to the support of Playground teams from Exient, SEGA, GamaJun, Atomhawk, Four Door Lemo and Audiomotion are also joining the weekend’s motoring mayhem to support Special Effect’s innovative work for disabled gamers – check out some of the inspiring videos here.

Across the Twin Town Challenge weekend teams will take part in fun challenges including car boxing; laps of Brands Hatch and Le Mans; a James Bond themed evening and an auction for incredible, once-in-a-lifetime prizes covering golf, motorsport, music, beer and cricket as well as unique celebrity-signed signed bottles of Hobgoblin ale brewed exclusively for the event.

Trevor Williams,  COO for Playground Games said, “Associating Playground Games and Forza Horizon with this challenge was a no brainer – although I suspect the cars in Forza are somewhat more presitigious than half the bangers being driven between the Twin Towns! Special Effect is a fantastic charity run by fantastic people that changes people’s lives for the better. Playground is honoured to support such a great organisation.”

Dr Mick Donegan, Founder and CEO added, “The sponsorship and support from Playground Games is a huge boost to the event as we edge ever closer to setting off for the these historic tracks. I would like to thank Trevor and the team for their amazing support”

To bid on some ‘Once in a Lifetime’ experiences including British Grand Prix VIP with Eddie Jordan, Paul McGinley Algarve Golf & Luxury Villa, Oxford United FC Chairman for the Day and much more,  in the Twin Town Auction contact Nick@specialeffect.org.uk  by May 22nd

Train2Game News: Affordable eye tracking technology

MyGazeA new affordable myGaze eye tracking technology offers developers a robust platform to make video games more accessible and exciting for disabled and non-disabled gamers.

The new myGaze eye tracker is a mainstream product that offers high performance at a low cost. It was used at EuroGamer Expo 2013 and illustrated the potential of the new myGaze eye tracking technology to enhance the enjoyment of many disabled as well as non-disabled gamers.

Many people with a range of disabilities find themselves unable to use their hands to control technology as well as they would like to, due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis, spinal injury and muscular dystrophy and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), with 30,000 people estimated as having the latter condition in America alone. According to professionals in the assistive field, a long-time challenge for using gaze interaction for many potential beneficiaries has been its cost.

The German company Visual Interaction has now offered a solution to this problem: It makes its myGaze eye tracker, which can be used with various 3rd party applications, including video games, available in its online store for as low as €499.

Recently, SpecialEffect, acquired the myGaze Developer Edition in order to consider the feasibility of using this gaze interaction system with videogames such as DiRT3, Peggle and Fruit Ninja for people with disabilities. The myGaze system was one of the gaze interaction systems available for the public to try for themselves on the SpecialEffect stand at the EuroGamer Expo 2013 in London.

Dr Mick Donegan, Founder and CEO of SpecialEffect, an independent charity, talks about his experience:

“…While the myGaze isn’t designed to offer the range of features available on systems specially designed for the assistive market, it can nonetheless offer a level of performance that can enhance the enjoyment of people with a wide range of abilities, if it is used with carefully selected and modified games.”

The big question however remains – will eye tracking become a mass-market product with wide variety of applications available?

“Game changers like Google or Amazon have now accelerated the patenting and integration of eye trackers into their upcoming products,” says Daniel Trifonov, Head of Business Development & Partnerships at Visual Interaction, “With our state of the art technology made affordable and the growing popularity of our online application store, 3rd party developers have in myGaze a robust platform to build a variety of applications for the future of gaze interaction in gaming, the assistive market and other application fields.”

Visual Interaction (VI) has taken on the mission to provide easy to use and affordable gaze tracking and gaze based interaction solutions for broad professional, educational and consumer audiences and developers. VI collaborates with leaders around the world to create best in class solutions. For its superior performance VI myGaze trackers rely on eye tracking technology by SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) from Germany, for more than 20 years a leader in eye tracking solutions.

Train2Game News: SpecialEffect raising money for futuristic eye control technology

SpecialEffect Gaming charity, SpecialEffect, need your help in raising money to afford some futuristic equipment to help change deserving gamers lives.

The charity has setup a Gambitious page to help receive funding to purchase a very special eye control gaming system. There are a range of different eye-control devices available, but your donations would help purchase a product designed specifically to suit a range of needs for disabled people, such as those with locked-in syndrome, motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy.

Everyone’s needs are different, and making eye-control work successfully, especially in the cases of complex disability, is rarely a simple task. SpecialEffect has been working with eye-control technology and complex disability since the charity was founded in 2007. Founder, Dr Mick Donegan, is an acknowledged world leader in the development and application of eye-controlled technology. Thanks to the charity’s expertise and experience, it’s in a strong position to be able to use this technology successfully with a range of different people.

SpecialEffect has already had great success in using the eye-control technology like with young Henry. His parents contacted the charity after hearing about eye-controlled computers and wondered if the technology could benefit their son. Henry and his family were invited to the SpecialEffect GamesRoom in Oxford and they had a wonderful afternoon being introduced to simple eye-controlled activities.

“The look on Henry’s face when he first used the eye-gaze to control something on a screen was indescribable,” said Henry’s father Rob. “For the first time he could play with something completely ‘on his own’. It was a landmark moment for us as a family.”

Soon afterwards, SpecialEffect visited Henry at home and set up an eye-controlled computer for him to borrow, and before long he was enjoying a range of eye-control games as well as playing with a toy train set, just by moving his eyes.

It is a very worth while charity to help out and if you want to donate you can do so at https://gambitious.com/projects/3576-playing-with-your-eyes

Train2Game News: SpecialEffect goes International and also changes the life of a gamer closer to home

Dr Mick in VeniceDr Mick Donegon, CEO of games charity SpecialEffect, has taken the charity global and started helping people on an international scale.

The video game charities founder has been visiting San Camillo Hospital, Venice, to train staff and collaborate on assessments with their patients who have a range of complex neurological conditions. He got the pleasure of working with Albert Einstein World Award of Science Winner Niels Bierbaumer who is a Professor of Medical Psychology and Behavioural Neurobiology.

This was a great chance for Dr Mick and Professor Bierbaummer to learn from each other and in addition Dr Mick got to spread the word of SpecialEffect to Italy.

SpecialEffect at home

Thanks to all the work that Dr Mick and his team do they are able to help people like Ray who has spinal muscular atrophy which makes it very difficult for him to move.

Ray was introduced to the SpecialEffect team when they were visiting a young man named Jacob who they helped to play FIFA again.

When the team returned to help Ray his face lit up and he said: “All my Christmases have come at once!”

Call of Duty and FIFA 13 are top of the playing wish list for many people at the moment, and Ray was desperate to play them as well. So after an intense session working with his abilities and trying a handful of different access strategies, the SpecialEffect team settled on a set-up that included two switches on his PlayStation joypad, two in his palms and two head-switches on his wheelchair headrest.

It was a hit. Ray’s occupational therapist asked: “On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you?” Ray replied with a hugely ecstatic “Eleven!!”

For Ray this means much more than simply having fun. His disability means that he’s incredibly limited in doing any sort of activity, let alone one that gives such a sense of achievement. The benefits aren’t just personal – while he was playing, an off-duty member of staff jumped at the opportunity to pit his gaming skills against Ray. I’m sure he’s just the first of many new friends, offline and online, that the gift of gaming will give to Ray.

Train2Game News: Opportunity to work with SpecialEffect on once in a lifetime project

Special Effect logoSpecialEffect have an exciting opportunity for a talented programmer from the Train2Game student pool.

SpecialEffect are working on a very exciting, helpful new project. The games charity is creating a fully accessible chess game for absolutely anyone to play, no matter what disability they may have.

The plan for the game is to be able to use any body part to play the game or even using the power of the mind thanks to technology such as the EPOC system. SpecialEffect specialise in creating hardware and software that is simple to use for people with all abilities.

The charity require a programmer to help finish off the work they have been doing on the project. This could be a once in a life time opportunity to work on an amazing project and really make a difference in the lives of so many people who may have trouble playing games in the fashion we are all so used to.

The charity are looking for a C++ programmer and the programmer who has developed the software so far will be available to give support.

This is an unpaid position but working on this project would be a brilliant addition to your CV as it will get some a lot of attention from the games industry media and possibly national media.

Dr Mick Donegan, Founder and CEO of SpecialEffect, said “Anyone who is potentially interested is welcome to get in touch and we’ll happily send the existing code for them to look at. We’ll also demo what we’ve got and talk them through what’s required to finish off the game.”

If you are interested in the job get in contact with at mick@specialeffect.org.uk

Train2Game News: SpecialEffect needs the help of Train2Game students with Steam initiative

Team Fortress 2 SpecialEffectSpecialEffect is asking for the help of Train2Game students who use Valve’s Steam system! The charity who provide video gaming equipment to people with disabilities need your votes.

A few select artists from the Steam community have created SpecialEffect themed items for the game Team Fortress 2 and with your votes they can be in game this summer! The items that have been designer are: a viewfinder, cabinet and belt pack. 99% of the profits from these items will go to help disabled players enjoy games to the best of their abilities thanks to the work done by SpecialEffect.

This idea is the brainchild of James Schall, SEGA’s Director of Digital Distribution.

“Demand for SpecialEffect‘s help is rocketing,” said James. “And I’m excited about the potential of these generous artwork donations to kickstart a big-hearted response from the TF2 community to help meet that demand.”

“It’s a fantastic gesture,” said charity CEO Mick Donegan. “Gamers get what we’re trying to do, and to get that support from artists within the community is a real endorsement of our work.”

“We need £750k this year to give people a fighting chance through specialised games control equipment. We’re bringing this technology directly into the homes and hospitals of the people who need it most, and transforming the lives of people with the most severe disabilities through cutting-edge equipment like eye control and brain control.”

You can vote for the items to be in Team Fortress 2 by going to the link below:

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=156361911

You can also find the items from within Steam itself by selecting Workshops from the Community menu. Hit the link in the grey text below the main ‘Create, Discover…’ heading, and on the next page type ‘special effect’ in the search box (note the space between the two words!). Then hit the Rate button.

If you would like to check out the pages of the artists who created the items for SpecialEffect you can view them in the links below:

Psyke

Svdl

*゚✲*。✧*☆Twilight Sparkle☆*✧*✲*

void~

Train2Game News: A visit to Special Effect

Kirsty Payne from SpecialEffectI 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!

Enjoy!