UK gaming charity SpecialEffect in high demand

These fine people help people with disabilities enjoy what you take for granted.

I first became aware of UK charity SpecialEffect during my visit to EuroGamer 2010. I’d been drifting around the peripheries looking for something more meaty than all the triple-A candyfloss on display when I found “the indie alley,” a small nondescript section tucked away in a remote corner of the exhibition hall. SpecialEffect’s booth was tucked even further into the corner behind Swimming Under Clouds, Nidhogg and Skulls of the Shogun, yet what I saw there blew everything I’d seen of Kinect out of the water and into orbit in terms of videogame accessibility.

SpecialEffect help people with disabilities enjoy computer and videogames by modifying  existing controllers and developing all new ones. Being able to enjoy games and also compete with others on a level playing field does wonders for the self-confidence and motivation of people who would otherwise be excluded. One of SpecialEffect’s biggest projects is a unique control system called Stargaze which tracks tiny eye movements and translates them into on-screen movement, developed for people who have been paralysed. At Eurogamer I took the opportunity to try a variant of Stargaze that tracks a reflective dot on your forehead, and it was a profound experience let me tell you. Think you’re hardcore? Try driving a racing car using only the tiniest of head movements. It’s trickier than you might think and very humbling too.

So it gave me great joy to hear that SpecialEffect have seen a massive demand for their services since I first saw them two years ago. SpecialEffect director Dr Mick Donegan told the charity has seen a rapid increase in requests from war veterans, children and members of the public after recent coverage in the gaming press and a special feature on Playstation Access. To help meet this demand SpecialEffect will soon be introducing a regular giving scheme, allowing people to donate to them beyond one off events like roadshows and expos. The charity is now also closely working with developers like Splash Damage and Microsoft’s Soho Studios to make more games as accessible as possible.

All of which is absolutely fantastic news for a charity I intensely admire. You can learn more about SpecialEffect’s excellent work at and donate to them via their JustGiving page. SpecialEffect still need more occupational therapists to meet the increased demand for their services and every penny helps, so give a little if you can. The pastime you take for granted as a bit of mindless fun can profoundly enhance some people’s quality of life.



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Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.