Posted February 24, 2013 by Peter in Events

The Multiplay Effect: SpecialEffect named as Multiplay’s charity to support in 2013

The Multiplay Effect: Special Effect named as Multiplay's charity to support in 2013
The Multiplay Effect: Special Effect named as Multiplay's charity to support in 2013

Multiplay are “probably one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of”, according to one attendee at Friday’s Multiplay Effect event. And it’s true that for millions of gamers, they are likely unaware that when they play some big titles online – including Battlefield 3, Counter Strike and Minecraft – they may be playing on some of Multiplay’s servers; although the thousands of attendees at Multiplay’s Insomnia gaming events held throughout the year may be slightly more ‘in the know’.

Attended by gamers and members of the industry as well as the press, Friday’s event was for the official announcement that during 2013 Multiplay will be supporting SpecialEffect, a UK charity that provides support, advice and customised hardware to help gamers with disabilities play games for relaxation, rehabilitation, and inclusion into the wider gaming community.

There were three elements to the evening; firstly, naming SpecialEffect and the events during the year to support them. These are both gaming related – for example, fundraising at the Insomnia events (Insomnia 48 is being held 22nd to 25th of March in Telford), and a sponsored 48 hour World of Tanks marathon by Multiplay’s Mike Lambert – and non-gaming, with a swearbox in Multiplay’s office apparently making good progress in donating.

Secondly, it was a chance to try some of the adapted technology offered. On display was Gran Turismo with two modified controllers for ease of use if holding or controlling a joypad would be problematic; and DiRT 3, demonstrating gaze tracking – a sensor attached to the computer following where the players was looking. With the car accelerating automatically, attendees were able to steer their way along the track – or in my case, throw the car into Finland’s fields, trees and rivers (not a fault of the controller, entirely the fault of a terrible driver).

DiRT3 being demonstrated on the PC, controlled with gaze-tracking

DiRT3 on the PC, with control of the car being managed using gaze tracking (the sensor visible at the bottom of the laptop’s screen).

Finally, it was to raise some initial donations from the attendees. There was a raffle for gaming hardware, and a “fastest lap time” event, paying per run with software donated by 2K Games for the winner. And given the number of people there – there should have been more! – it was quite a success.

Multiplay’s managing director Craig Fletcher told me “My personal goal is to raise £20,000 for them [SpecialEffect] this year – we may have gotten close to £1,000 of that tonight.”

I asked him about choosing a charity to support – this being the first time Multiplay has had a charity to support during the whole year. “I saw Special Effect for the first time at Game Horizon last year.

“It’s something we’ve been thinking about – we’ve done charity work ad hoc before [for example, working with the Anthony Nolan Trust at Insomnia 43], and wanted something for the community to get behind.

We’re a community of millions, and can raise awareness.”

Mark Saville of Special Effect and Craig Fletcher of Multiplay

Mark Saville of SpecialEffect (left) and Craig Fletcher of Multiplay, pictured at “The Multiplay Effect”, announcing SpecialEffect as Multiplay’s charity to support in 2013.

Mark Saville of SpecialEffect was also looking forward to the partnership. “Games are at the heart of what we do, which is why the link up with Multiplay is so good – they’re at the heart of the community.

“Gamers get what we’re about. They understand technology, and appreciate what it would be like to not be able to game. ‘If I couldn’t do my gaming tomorrow, I don’t know what I’d do’ – so they then think of people who never had that chance to begin with.

“We’re the only specialist charity who do what we do in the UK. We work one-to-one with people to see what they need. There is no single solution – every one is different.”

The question is, how much busier does this year look, with Multiplay’s events happening? “It’s going to be extra busy this year. It’s a never ending job when you rely on donations. All of the money we raise goes into buying and adapting the technology we use. Our job is to gather everything up, put it in a big melting pot and end up with something.”

(I mention hardware modders like Ben Heckendorn, who has adapted hardware for people with disabilities in the past. “Ben Heck has supplied us with a lot of controllers,” Mark tells me)

The year looks busy for both Multiplay and SpecialEffect, but hopefully will provide a lot of support for a very worthy cause.

As Craig tells me, “I can see the community at Insomnia events really going for it – games are an escape for players.

Games cross social boundaries – differences don’t matter, it only matters that you’re a gamer.”

Addendum: I wrote at the end of 2012 about an auction of game-related artworks, raising money for SpecialEffect; I asked Mark how that had gone. It raised an unexpected £30,000.

“That was a bolt out of the blue, to be honest. That’s helped us to help so many people. We had people contacting us saying ‘can you help us?’, and we’d have to say ‘we’ve not got the kit.’ Well, now we can help.”


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.