I have always been clumsy. I often joke that I was born without a sense of self-preservation. My injuries are the jokes of legends and are best told at the pub over a few drinks. But over the last few years, I’ve found that my mobility had gotten worse. I chalked it up to years of netball on hard-surfaced courts (parents: don’t let your kids do it – no matter how much they beg), and years of evolution trying to remove me from the gene pool in the most amusing way possible.
And then my memory started to go and I would forget words and forget what I was saying in the middle of a sentence, and I would get pain for no reason at all, and it all seemed to start out of nowhere and go on forever.
All this fed into my depression and anxiety, which fed this random thing happening to my body, which fed the depression and anxiety – it was a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction. But, we finally got a diagnosis – old mate Fibromyalgia. I didn’t realise this meant having to reassess how I entertain myself.
Video games aren’t just an important part of my career, they’re also an important part of my self-care. When I’m trying to recuperate after a tough mental health spell or escape the responsibility of being an adult for an hour or two, video games provide a vital portal for me to piece myself back together.
It recently dawned on me that this is going to be infinitely more difficult as my body goes through the ups and downs of fibro.
The fun thing about fibro is that it’s so random from patient to patient. The week I started writing this for example – I’ve had left wrist issues for no particular reason. This has made holding anything with my left hand really painful, including game controllers. Playing the PS4 with my partner was hard because I could only do short bursts before I had to have a rest. While he understands and is sympathetic, it’s frustrating for me and probably for him. I want to spend quality downtime with my fiance without having to have a rest every 20 minutes.
Not to say there aren’t some amazing ways for people with restrictions to get more involved with video games. I got to unbox an XAC (Xbox Adaptive Controller) while working at Trade Media. The XAC is one of the coolest pieces of technology in gaming, but not really fit for my purposes. I’m also a really big PC gamer and using WASD with my left hand has been hurting my wrist.
So I went through my Steam list and looked at games I can play with just my mouse, or with my Xbox controller because happily, my Xbox controller hurts my wrists less than the PS4 controller. Probably because it’s a larger controller and feels better in my hands (that’s what she said?)
This means I’m rekindling my love with real-time and turn-based strategy games. Hello, Age of Empires. How are you, Civilisation? Welcome back, World of Goo. They’re also great if I haven’t been able to get into work, or do much work from home because of fibro fog – being able to engage my brain with games that require strategy give me a kickstart to get back into what I need to do.
Having this diagnosis means adjusting the way I approach certain tasks and taking better care of myself. I never thought it would mean that I had to adjust my approach to gaming. Something as natural as holding a controller, or using a keyboard and mouse is proving to be more difficult when I’m having a pain flare-up. I’m turning it into an opportunity to gamify my treatment – I’m levelling up my skill tree. The biggest thing I’m learning about this new diagnosis is that my body just works in different ways now. Not better, or worse – just different.
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