Over the last year, things have been changing here at Rare HQ. Many areas of the studio have been given a nip, tuck and facelift. Those areas in need of a little TLC have been rejuvenated. But our lovely new spaces meant that we were left with a lot of homeless furniture. Rather than stockpiling it for Bonfire Night, the furniture was sold off – raising nearly £800 which will now be donated to charity.
The decision of which charity to help with the money raised was left to the Rare Events Team, and they decided that SpecialEffect was the perfect choice. The ladies and gents of SpecialEffect dedicate themselves to using technology to enhance the quality of life of those living with disabilities, and much of this work revolves around giving them access to games!
With some very clever and impressive controller modifications, the organisation can give children with a wide range of disabilities the chance to play games and share the fun with friends and family. Whilst they’ve made excellent use of Kinect they also incorporate things like eye movement input, a variety of custom speech setups and heavily modified joysticks for children with specific needs such as playing using only their feet.
Mark from Special Effect had this to say:
“From the feedback we’ve been getting from the amazing people we support, it’s clear that we’re not just helping people to play games so they can pass some time. Helping people with disabilities play helps them to maintain and create social relationships, it helps keep their mental faculties active and satisfied, it builds confidence, and it assists with development and learning in younger people. This isn’t just about giving people a blast on Call of Duty or DiRT, it’s about giving them a whole new part of their life.”
So hopefully this donation will have a great effect on many people’s lives!
In further support of SpecialEffect, a five-a-side football team from Rare will be heading to Wembley Stadium’s Powerleague venue next month as one of 16 teams vying for the SpecialEffect Trophy…
Dean from the Rare Events Team writes…
An event like Comic Relief never goes unnoticed at a place like Rare. With it being that time of year again, it seemed appropriate to give everyone a few minutes away from developing awesome games by doing something special. Oh, and to raise some money for a good cause in the process.
After much deliberation by Rare’s own Events Team, it was decided that putting a smile on everyone’s faces required something that crossed all beliefs, social boundaries, races and ages. There was only one thing that fit the bill… appealing to employees’ stomachs in the form of sugary, E-numbery, cakey goodness.
Of course, the Events Team weren’t about to go all Nigella on their own, so the challenge was set for the entire studio to put on aprons, raid the baking aisles at the supermarket and create their own treats to share with cake-hungry colleagues. A small prize and bragging rights would go to the eventual creator of the tastiest effort, judged by in-house chef extraordinaire David.
So at 10:30am on Red Nose Day, Rare’s central hub was a sight for sweet eyes as cakes in abundance filled the room. Cardamom cupcakes, scones (or scones) with jam and cream, chocolate, red velvet, lemon drizzle, cakes shaped like our own Banjo (fittingly, made by Banjo’s creator) and even unicorn ‘leavings’ were there to entice our talented team. Within minutes the entire studio was bouncing off the walls on a sugar high with little but crumbs and an almighty heap of washing-up remaining.
Rare’s 90-acre HQ in the rural English Midlands, custom-built in the late 1990s, is a major asset in terms of recruitment and general working environment. And it always looks especially idyllic with a blanketing of snow, which January has gone out of its way to provide for us this year.
So we rounded up Dale and Bjorn, a couple of dedicated Rare staffers with expensive cameras, shoved wellies on them and pushed them out into the snow with instructions not to come back until they’d taken some nice studio pictures. You can see some of the impressive results above and below, with a couple of less accomplished efforts thrown in from me and, as a bonus, insider peeks at our newly refurbished restaurant and reception area.
Feast your senses! You can almost taste the snow in the air…
We’ve had the official News story on this month’s Kinect Sports: Season Two BAFTA win, but we thought it was worth complementing with a report direct from the scene. So we pinned down Simon, one of Rare’s delegates for the evening, and persuaded him to hand over a folder full of pictures and a rundown of the event from the rough vicinity of the red carpet and champagne seats….
Simon: The night started with the ten of us meeting outside our hotel, donning pretty much the same black tie attire, ready to set off to the Hilton on Park Lane. We were handed our golden tickets for the event before jumping into black cabs for the short ride.
Once we arrived, we made our way into the front entrance and then found out there was a red carpet around the back! As we realised this may be a once in a lifetime chance, we walked back outside, around the hotel and down the red carpet. No-one asked for our autographs for some reason, but it was worth it all the same…
We made our way upstairs for the champagne reception. The room was packed with invitees all dressed to the max, and we enjoyed catching up with some ex-Rareites whilst sipping the enormous amounts of champagne on offer. The room was quite large but you could hardly move, and after a couple of glasses of champagne it really started to heat up.
On February 22nd, Rare dispatched the athletic equivalent of a hardcore SWAT team to the Birmingham National Indoor Arena. The reason for this was the Birmingham Bolt, a charity sporting event for UK Midlands businesses to compete and raise money for charity. With us having a couple of Kinect Sports games under our belts, it seemed rude not to.
Ex-Olympic 400m and relay runner Daniel Caines was on hand to commentate: no pressure then. But one hotly contested afternoon later, as the event drew to a close and the smoke cleared in and around the charity Thunderdome, the Rare squad had left their mark by finishing third overall. Contributing to this result was the long jump gold claimed by our man Simon, along with Eoin’s second place in the 400 metres. Not half bad!
Congratulations and thanks to all who took part, both for the result and the money raised. The full entry fee went to The Birmingham Civic Society’s Next Generation Awards, which works with over 13,000 young people in Birmingham to help them make a positive contribution to the city. Meanwhile all sponsorship money raised by Rare (and boosted by Microsoft) goes to our nominated charity for this event, Cancer Research UK.
Enjoy the pics of our dashing team in action. Or loitering around, or posing… but mainly in action.
It’s no longer Kinect Sports: Season Two launch week, so here’s a round-up of some of the best review comments so far. And to spice it up, we’ve thrown in a few photos from the Rare on-site launch party/comedy awards ceremony last Friday, with Voice of The X Factor/Kinect Sports and all-round top bloke Peter Dickson hosting. There he is, look! Second picture! We’re not lying! He came to our late-night bash in Birmingham too, but you’re not seeing any pictures from that.
“As much as we loved the original, there was a feeling that it would take another year before we really got the Kinect Sports game we all hoped for. Thankfully, that gut instinct has proven to be entirely correct; Kinect Sports: Season Two is bigger, bolder and even more enjoyable than its illustrious forerunner, making it arguably the title of choice for Kinect players this holiday season.” – Kinectaku
“We’d go as far to say Kinect Sports: Season Two is the defining party sports game for the Xbox 360. Said it. It’s out there. Can’t take it back.” – DIY
“Let your guard down long enough and you’ll soon find you’ve lost hours flailing away to the game’s genuine charms.” – Tech Digest
Last week, Kinect Sports: Season Two made an appearance at GAMES11, a three-day consumer event which is fast becoming a major fixture in the Middle East’s gaming calendar.
Much like the recent GAMEfest shenanigans, there were no official Rare bodies on site, but thanks to a fortuitous alignment of the planets I happened to be on holiday in Dubai at the time. And so, in a shameless attempt to earn myself employee of the month (unlikely), I dragged myself away from my poolside sun lounger to seek out some blogworthy snaps.
The event took place at The Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping, leisure and entertainment ‘destination’ which contains over a thousand wallet-busting stores, and is (according to Wikipedia) the same size as more than 50 football pitches. Undeterred, I set off with my trusty map in hand, determined to track down the ice rink, which I’d been reliably informed was close to the event.
After a few wrong turns, a brief stop in Starbucks and a financially crippling thirty minutes in Bloomingdales, I finally arrived to discover that the event wasn’t near the ice rink… it was on the ice rink. Presumably the event organisers had set about the ice with hairdryers the night before or (more likely) had applied some terribly clever ice carpet that prevented everyone from sliding about.