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SpecialEffect News

25 Apr 2017

“Without the viewers we'd just be a bunch of idiots"

Mark Saville talks to Darren Keig of Gaming For Others about gaming marathons, dancing and an engaging livestream.

Somewhere in a cupboard in Warwickshire there’s a Princess Peach costume that’s been worn, sweated in and avoided being washed so many times it’s close to becoming a sentient being.

It’s one of several that makes an annual appearance in the (nearly) four-day Gaming For Others Easter marathon, one of the most engaging, entertaining and well-organised gaming marathons we’ve encountered.

And that’s no disrespect to the many amazing people who take on gaming marathons for our benefit. Every February, for example, we have the honour - and I really do mean honour - of watching a riotous celebration of gaming unfold, hundreds of gamers doing what they love to help people who’d dearly love to do the same. It’s our GameBlast weekend, and everyone who takes part are genuine heroes to us.

But the inspiration behind the first GameBlast many years ago was the Gaming For Others team. We were marathon noobs at that point, and watching Darren, Kate, Ant, Johnny and Pete waltz through nearly four days of Mario while keeping the laughter, organisation and entertainment levels up was a revelation.

And they’re still waltzing. The team, a group of six close friends, have just completed their sixth Easter marathon and raised over £2700 for SpecialEffect in the process. They careered through en eclectic mix of games including Snake Pass, Machinarium, Duck Tales, Overcooked and Thomas was Alone on a range of consoles and kept themselves active through regular bouts of Just Dance 3.

Below: The GFO team at the end of their 2017 Easter Marathon

The GFO team at the end of their 2017 Easter Marathon

“Just Dance was the easiest game we played this year,” said Darren. “Viewers would flood in to see us dance in our costumes and were super supportive and amused. This fuelled us to dance better and be funnier which, in turn, meant donations would flow in at a steady pace. Just Dance was always a daily highlight for us.”

From a charity point of view, gaming marathons are a safety worry and a four-day gaming challenge rings all the alarm bells. But the impressive organisation of the GFO marathons shows that although you can never keep the health and safety wolves completely away from the door, it’s possible at least to keep them sniffing around the dustbins at the end of the garden.

“While our marathon is a form of endurance, we’re very responsible with making sure that everyone involved is well rested and looked after,” Darren explained. “We have a sleep rota that we’ve tweaked over the years. It's impractical for everyone to get a full eight hours but with six of us, we can schedule seven hours each a night.”

As experienced marathoners, the team have a wealth of tips to share. “The more people in the room, the less likely that energy will totally bottom out,” advises Darren. “Also, if someone falls asleep, the conversation doesn't immediately stop. It also allows us to keep someone chatting with the viewers if a co-op game is being played.”

"We’ve found that six people is the magic number. And with careful scheduling, we can make sure the right people are playing the right games.”

Below: Time to move any breakables. The dancers can't see the screen, so Kate and Darren at the back relay the dance moves.

Time to move any breakables. The dancers can't see the screen, so Kate and Darren at the back relay the dance moves. 

What the viewers really appreciate is the positive dynamic within the group, and Darren agrees. “I consider myself incredibly lucky to be associated with a group of such creative and hilarious individuals and, thank goodness, the viewers seem to find enough about us to enjoy.”

“Without the viewers we'd just be a bunch of idiots shouting at each other in a room, that's just a fact. The marathon wouldn't exist at all without them. They are also what makes it brilliant, their generosity and creativity and boundless support drives us to be better every year. In response, we always ask them for more and they consistently over deliver!

"It's still crazy and humbling to think that some people will watch us for every waking hour. We were only able to smash our fundraising record this year because the viewers care about us as a team and believe in the work of SpecialEffect. Also, never forget that this year we played Lost Levels. I can't be any clearer on that.”

We hope we’ll see their Princess Peach and Mario costumes dancing for years to come, although I suspect having someone wear them could soon be optional.

Darren, Kate, Ant, Johnny, Pete and Ant - we can’t thank you enough for all your support, advice and inspiration over the years!


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