Dear Earthlings who are super glad to not live on Pandora (which should be all of you),
A few months ago I created my video game themed blog about my health, and that sentence doesn’t particularly make a whole lot of sense. While the reason takes a great deal of explanation, the only explanation that is pertinent for now is my love for videos games that was established before the internet was a even a thing. Imagine a life without internet; it mostly consisted of Mech-Warrior, really glitchy Sims, giant monitors and tons of Minesweeper. As I got older I became unhealthily addicted to video games and had to cut back for the sake of my sanity though I still played frequently. Unfortunately, as I have grown I have also become significantly more ill and so I have found myself in a conundrum.
I am a chronically ill gamer whose chronic illnesses make it near impossible to play many games, as they can aggravate my sicknesses. I don’t play nearly as much as I’d like to, and it’s questionable whether I can even be called a “gamer” at all. Sometimes it’s due to my constant nausea, migraines, or nerve trouble in my dominant hand, while other times it’s my anxiety, brain fog, or depression. Almost always, it’s a mix of my entire list of diagnoses making me miserable all at once, preventing me from functioning as a healthy human should.
When I was younger my best friend, Stan, and I would spend every summer day from 11am to 6pm (or longer when we were able to get away with it) playing on either his computer or my Playstation (did you just hear PLAY-STA-TION in your head, because I certainly did). We would play everything we could find, including two of my favorites at the time, Prince of Persia and Vampire the Masquerade* (there’s a particularly silly story about this game that I will write in at the end). I could handle it all.
Four years ago, as my health was accelerating its decline, I started noticing that when I was playing a video game, specifically first person shooter games, I would start to get sick. I remember the first day I noticed it while playing Portal. I began to feel intensely dizzy and nauseated and had to trade in my controller for a bed where I promptly assumed the fetal position.
I’ve heard many people say Portal in particular makes them sick, and it’s understandable why. The whole jumping through portals thing really does a number on your eyes…and stomach. However, it soon became not just this game alone, but all others that require me to look through the lens of my character. All of them made me sick.
After a year or two I was explaining this to a friend and they found out that there’s a very good reason why I get so sick from first person view games. Plot Twist: it isn’t related solely to my chronic illnesses. It was explained to me that humans and animals have what’s call the “Field of View.” This handy dandy chart that I found on the Google can show you exactly what I mean:
As you can see, we have a horizon to our vision. Apparently, for some people such as myself, the reason FPS games make us sick is because our vision is constantly bouncing above and below the horizon line, and our brains don’t like it! This is such a problem for some gamers that people have started make mods that supposedly fix the problem and keep the view stationary to help our brains feel like exploding less.
Between this problem and all the ones listed above, gaming has become quite the challenge for me, and it’s consistently infuriating. For a while I wasn’t playing anything at all, not even an app on my phone, because I didn’t see the point in wrestling with my brain and body to make it kind of work only to play for an hour before I still end up getting sick.
BUT THEN. A THING HAPPENED.
For my birthday Stan got me three new games on Steam. Upon entering the code to retrieve one, I was disappointed to find out he had bought me Borderlands. It isn’t because I dislike Borderlands, it’s actually the opposite. I adore the Borderlands universe, but I’ve tried several times to play it and my brain does not enjoy it. I began somewhat annoyed because I had just ranted on the phone to him about this a few months earlier, telling him how much it sucked that I am unable to play so many amazing games, especially Borderlands. He didn’t listen to me at all!
My disappointment was instantly satiated (and I felt like a bit of an asshole) as I realized that he did not get me Borderlands, but instead gifted me Tales from the Borderlands, created by a company called Telltale Games. The game play works as an interactive movie. It’s a simplistic version of the Borderland games, and it’s incredible. It’s the most wonderful game for me, a sickly gamer, as it is simple to follow without being boring, still has plenty of things to do without being exhausting or anxiety provoking, and doesn’t make me sick at all. On Tuesday, for the first time in years, I was actually able to play a game for more than an hour without any physical or mental repercussions aside from wanting to stay in and play even more rather than having to go outside and adult.
I don’t think this company realizes exactly what they have done. I know for a fact I am not the only chronically ill gamer in the world who may have a hard time finding games they can actually play, especially for a long period of time. Slowly I am regaining a passion that I had stolen from me by my illnesses and I could truly not be happier about it.
As for the labels gamer or not gamer, I’ve realized they’re both irrelevant. I’m just a person that is passionate about lots of different things. I’m also a person that has to fight endlessly to keep those passions alive as I am physically and mentally ridden with obstacles. Life would be easier if Loader Bot could blast them all away, but I’d probably be blasted away with them. So, I’ll just have to make do. In the off chance of someone from Telltale Games seeing this, thank you, thank you, thank you, for making games that are less frustrating and truly fantastic for people like me to play. And if anyone has any suggestions on more games of the same style, please let me know!
Bonus Story about Vampire the Masquerade (might contain spoilers):
Vampire the Masquerade is an old PC game Stan and I were in love with as younglings. It was bloody, scary, and exhilarating. We often played in his dark blue bedroom, doors and curtains closed tight so that the sunlight could in no way enter our black hole and distract us from our missions. In one particularly frightening part of the game, we had to go through a haunted mansion and follow a ghost. She eventually leads us to a boiler room, where we meet a very angry poltergeist who starts to attack us.
As we are trying to not join the two frightening characters on the “other side,” Stan’s bedroom door suddenly opens just a crack. We look at each other for a moment, a tiny bit spooked, but quickly carry on with the game.
The battle goes on and tensions are high. Then, out of nowhere, we hear a loud crash behind us, and we both scream, convinced that somehow the ghosts in the game have come out of the screen and wanted our blood. We turn to find that his cat simply jumped on his bed, which was piled with all kinds of junk, creating the crash. She looked up at us and meowed as if to say, “really guys?”
We promptly paused the game and went outside.
So you come a long way,
But you’ll never have me.
Never have things for a normal life,
It’s time to busy earnin’
You can’t get enough.