24 Hours In Reach

Following on from my article about the work of gaming charity SpecialEffect, I wanted to do something more proactive to help. Even on the train home from the Eurogamer event my mind was churning over ideas to raise funds for them somehow and so I decided on gaming for twenty-four hours, roping in a few friends and family to help me out, with the aim of donating a final total to the charity of around £150.  I picked Halo Reach as my game of choice because it would seem like a challenge. I’m not the most highly skilled Spartan and I tire of the game itself after only a couple of hours so it would be a real slog.

Many people questioned me starting at 4am but this was the only way I could fit in a few hours of sleep afterwards before the kids were dropped back home. The donations to my Just Giving page started coming in thick and fast and fellow Gaming Lives writer Lee suggested raising the target amount from £150 to a seemingly impossible £500. Over the next week I got to work on getting the page link out there using Facebook and Twitter. Both friends and strangers continued to donate and help spread the word; retweets from Eurogamer, NowGamer, Gail Porter, Lionhead Studios and Official Xbox staff, amongst others, meant that not only did I have more sponsorship but potentially tens of thousands more gamers are now aware of the charity. After only a week and a half of fundraising, thanks to the huge generosity of people out there, I went to bed on the night before the event having broken the target £500 amount!

When my alarm went off at 3:57am I trudged straight into the lounge, switched on the Xbox and sat huddled under a blanket. I had banned myself from playing Halo in the run up to the 24 hour attempt so I was actually looking forward to playing. Expecting to be gaming alone for the first few hours I was taken by surprise when Lee and Mark S turned up to start me off on the first couple of games. As they left to sanely go and get some sleep, our American writer Adam R took over duties and, for a few hours, I gamed with him and his friends. The company was great and I’ve never loved Americans more than at that moment! As the time difference meant that they started to go to bed, it was daylight in the UK and my British friends were slowly coming online.

Some friends came and went throughout the day, others stuck around for numerous hours; I believe Pete put in the most hours which is extra impressive as before that day he’d hardly touched a Halo game and had never experienced the multiplayer. Bill from the SpecialEffect charity also braved joining us for a couple of hours, including the games where I started messing with the settings.  It turns out he’s quite skilled with a golf club for a weapon and so the ‘golf club-and-jet-packs-only’ game was a great laugh.  The variety of in game-modes helped hugely – we could play as individuals, slaying each other, or as teams and, since just shooting each other would get boring, the different rules in ‘Capture The Flag’, ‘Headhunter’, ‘Rocket Race’, ‘Invasion’ etc let us mix things up. ‘Firefight’ mode in particular is always good fun and was ideal for when there were only four of us about.

I would grab the occasional break for a bite to eat and to rest my eyes which, at one point, started to get very sore. I can’t drink caffeine as it affects my heart-rate so I had to do without and instead relied on more natural ways to stay awake, such as wholegrains to power me through, and I saved most of my sugary treats for the final few hours. I had been trying a course of ginkgo biloba extract in the hope it would help with alertness and focus but I’m not sure I noticed any difference (aside from the aftertaste as it’s akin to drinking diluted TCP!). What I’m convinced did help though was rosemary oil extract which I added to hot water; I definitely felt more “with it” once the aroma saturated the room.

Aside from some physical discomfort, it wasn’t until 7pm that I had my first wave of getting fed up. I was feeling tired and getting sick of the game.  Even when I closed my eyes I’d see grenades being thrown and the sound effects were still ringing in my ears. I got a second wind and it was midnight that it became a real chore again; I was yawning constantly and nothing would perk me up, though I wasn’t alone as my compadres who were still sticking it out with me were also going quiet. We decided to play around in Forge World (an area that lets you create your own maps or, alternatively, lets you drop tanks on your friend’s head) but that mainly consisted of Iain building rather phallic looking structures so we went back into multiplayer.

The final three hours were the hardest with tiredness and boredom having set in. People meant well by reminding me there was “only” three hours to go but never has that seemed like such a long stretch of time! With only four of us left we did some of the campaign which I’m still yet to finish and, eventually, 4am crawled back around again and with a half-hearted cheer, we could finally go to bed. 24 hours in Halo Reach had been completed. The mad thing is? The very next day I had to stop myself from finally completing the campaign and by Monday night I was happily joining friends in multiplayer again. I think this is testament to Bungie having created a fantastic game and hopefully not a sign that 24 hours in Halo Reach has made me lose my marbles.

A massive thank you goes out to everyone who joined me on the day, I could not have done it without you. There wasn’t even one spare minute when I had to game by myself – you’re the ones that made it possible for me to do it and spurred me on. Also, thanks to everyone who sponsored me, who spread the word via emails and social networking or who sent well wishes. At the time of writing I’ve raised a colossal £600 for SpecialEffect! This money will be going directly towards kicking off a brand new project called the SpecialEffect Loan Library and will help to purchase a number of one-handed controllers. These will be loaned out for people to try before committing to buying one themselves and includes service men and women who have lost limbs in recent conflicts. One such controller has already been sent out to someone who lost an arm in Afghanistan and wants to be able to play their PS3 again. If you haven’t donated and wish to then it’s not too late, please visit www.justgiving.com/katrice and for more information on the charity go to www.specialeffect.org.uk/

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