Chilli eating contests and 24 hour streams: What you need to know about GameBlast18

Gameblast18 is coming up this weekend, with GAME running Twitch streams to raise money for charity SpecialEffect. To give you a bit of insight about the yearly event, we spoke to SpecialEffect’s events coordinator Tom Donegan.

Tom told us about how the idea for Gameblast came about, the projects that money raised from the weekend goes to, and how you can get involved with Gameblast 2018!

How did the idea for GameBlast come about?

The idea first came about when we started attending events like Insomnia back in the early days of the charity and were working hard to raise awareness of our work within the community. We had lots of people approach us and offer to help, but they wouldn’t necessarily want to do a Tough Mudder or climb Mount Kilimanjaro. However, gaming for charity had definite appeal! So we put two and two together and in 2014 GameBlast was born – as the best excuse to game ever!

What projects has GameBlast enabled SpecialEffect to work on?

Since Day One GameBlast has been about funding the core work of the charity – namely the provision of personalised control set-ups that allow physically disabled people to game. Although the end result is all about having fun, the process itself is actually very skilled and labour intensive. Our approach is pretty unique – we have teams of Occupational Therapists and technology experts who travel out across the UK every day, visiting people in their homes or in hospital, as a lot of the time they’re unable to come to us. These teams will perform an initial assessment of the individual’s movement and then devise a set-up that allows them to do whatever it is they want to do. This might be playing Fifa or Forza using a customised XBox controller, or playing Minecraft using just their eye-movement alone!

The point is everyone we work with is totally unique in terms of their abilities and interests, therefore they each require a unique solution to get them gaming. We offer this assessment and modification service free of charge and will return as many times as required throughout their life, to tweak and update their tech. None of this comes cheap, which is why we rely on the generosity and dedication of the GameBlast community in helping us to help more people, year-on-year.

What do people do to raise money for GameBlast?

By far the most popular activity is still the charity livestream gaming marathon. Whilst we’re keen that people don’t go longer than 12-24 hours if they’re streaming individually, we get relay teams who will broadcast for 48-72 hours non-stop! Within this, people might set themselves a challenge to speedrun a particular game or series (like all the Sonic titles), organise LAN parties and tournaments with friends or colleagues PUBG and Fortnite are obviously super popular this year), or set themselves stretch goal forfeits, run competitions, and do giveaways to encourage donations. Outside of streaming, we know of several offices who are hosting ‘bring your console to work’ days, quizzes, and cake sales too. As long as it has some connection to gaming, we’re happy!

What memorable challenges have people set themselves over the years?

One that springs to mind immediately, because I was there to witness it, was the guys from Multiplay who set the Guinness World Record for continuous gameplay in Overwatch for GameBlast17. At over 24 hours it was a pretty hardcore experience for those involved, but at least with the official adjudicator and witnesses in place, we could make sure they were looked after!

The guys at Jagex usually go large when it comes to GameBlast and the smoothie forfeits they do – where loads of gross ingredients get blended and drunk by the JMods – are usually pretty funny, though they make my stomach turn! On a similar note, the GAME chilli eating contest last year was hilarious!

How have people you support benefitted from previous GameBlast events?

This is the fifth year we’ve run GameBlast and over that time the event has raised over £500,000! This money has played a massive part in enabling us to increase the number of people we’ve been able to help over this time. The other really significant impact has been in raising awareness of the charity both here in the UK and abroad. Several people have found out about us through watching live streams, who have then gone on to contact us and benefit from our services. This year will also see four individuals who we’ve worked with doing their own GameBlast livestreams – so I guess taking part is another big win for them!

Why is GameBlast important for SpecialEffect?

Over and above all the reasons I’ve already discussed, I think the most important thing for us is the role GameBlast has played in establishing us within the gaming community. We’re now known as the “gamers’ charity” because our work strikes such a chord with people who are passionate about games themselves and want others to be able to enjoy the thing they love. To share in the hype and positivity that surrounds this event is just a wonderful thing and long may it continue!

How has GAME taken part with GameBlast in the past?

Without a doubt, the support from GAME has been central to the success of GameBlast. The way the team at GAME’s head office get behind the event is really humbling, with staff giving up their weekends to help make the 24 hour livestream the best it can be. In recent years this enthusiasm has also spread around the country, as the 300+ GAME stores and BELONG arenas have thrown their weight behind the campaign to give us a national presence on the high street. Whether it’s hosting events in store, promoting the trade-in offer or pushing the event out on social media, the level of activity in the run up to GameBlast18 has been unsurpassed. It gives us such a boost here in the office, that we really can’t thank everyone enough!

How can people get involved with this year’s Gameblast?

If you fancy hosting a gaming marathon or staging an event, then please visit the GameBlast18 website to sign-up and create your JustGiving fundraising page. Alternatively, if you prefer to watch others defying sleep and taking on ridiculous forfeits, go to Twitch and search ‘GameBlast18’ to drop in on livestreams across the weekend. Definitely the place to be between 12pm Saturday 24th and 12pm Sunday 25th of February is GAME’s Twitch channel! With GAME currently running a charity trade-in offer over the weekend, there’s also the opportunity to put your old games and consoles to good use as well!

What piece of advice would you give to people looking to take part?

I guess our primary concern for people undertaking marathon streams is that they stay safe and don’t do anything that’s going make themselves or others unwell. A common mistake people make is to think that longer is always better, but some of the best charity streams I’ve seen have been pretty short and punchy, with fantastic, well-planned, and varied content, which brings in the viewers. At the end of the day we want people to enjoy taking part and making a positive difference to people’s lives, so the main thing is to not put yourself under too much pressure to hit your fundraising target or stay-up too long. As my colleague Baz would say, “Stay safe, stay well, and have fun!”