I love video games. There, I said it. You probably do too, but you’re also scared to say it.
There seems to be a negative stereotype attached to “older” folks who play video games: the lazy person who plays for 12 hours a day and never leaves their couch. I rediscovered video games as an adult as a mental health hack. There are some days where playing seems to be the only thing that can pull me out of a spiral of either anxiety or depression. It gives my brain a task to work on, a puzzle to complete, a mission to accomplish, and breaks the negative feedback loop.
I’ve played a bunch of games over the last five years. The entire Borderlands series, The Last of Us I and II, the major Assassin’s Creed installments, Every Far Cry from 3-6 including Primal and New Dawn, and of course, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild.
When my Meniere’s Disease went bilateral and music became permanently destroyed, I sold some synthesizers and bought a Nintendo Switch and some games (GASP! Yes I did). I am currently obsessed with Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, like just about anyone else who owns a Switch.
My Meniere’s Disease and vertigo leveled up this past week. My ears have been the worst yet - pressure, fullness, crazy-loud multiple rings and pulsing around the clock. My vertigo attacks have been different this time around. It usually goes like this: I start to lose my balance, as if my body is being gently pushed or pulled as I try to walk. I get hit with a weird brain fog. My head feels like it’s swimming in goop as I try to turn it from side to side. I get a little nauseous. Sometimes I get slow spins at the start, but in any case, I have to sit down immediately, and I just have to stay there for around 45 minutes. I have to use a cane for a bit. This has happened every day now for 4 days. As a result, I’m housebound this week.
The best gamers don’t fight - they dance.
A boss fight is usually predictable once you study your opponent. That monster always jumps twice before they strike, or that dragon always breathes fire before they launch an attack. My friend Ian has an unbelievable amount of patience when fighting hard bosses. He can sit there and battle a boss 15 times in a row, where I would’ve quit after 3 or 4 times. After watching him, I realized that he wasn’t fighting; he was studying. He was gathering intel. Around the 15th attempt, he was gracefully flitting around in a beautifully choreographed manner, barely sustaining damage.
The more you study your opponent, the more your defense becomes a fluid dance. You aren’t rattled or tempted to rage-quit like you were the first time you got your butt kicked. You went from thinking “there’s NO WAY I can beat this,” to not even flinching. You went from being frustrated to having fun. The “Talus” monsters in Tears of the Kingdom used to frustrate me (ask my husband, he has witnessed the expletives), but now I take them out with ease.
I don’t want to fight this disease any more. I want to dance with it. After feeling the initial sting of change, I have learned to accept every new level, study its behavior and adapt. I’m not talking about the kind of studying where you Google for hours and get freaked out. I’m talking about studying your situation. I know what the sensations feel like, and I’m not quite as scared of them anymore. I know I need to keep my cane with me during these flareups now. I know my brain fog feels scary, but it is temporary. I know these “attacks” knock me out of commission for about an hour or two, but it WILL pass.
And guess what? Next week everything could change all over again.
Life throws all of us unexpected OP curveballs. As soon as you figure one out, the next one happens. The sooner you can move on from that first knockdown the better. The sooner you can move on from victim to student, the better.
This morning my balance was just terrible right out of bed, which is new. It was a weird hybrid attack - loud ringing, I could walk just well enough with my cane and holding on to nearby furniture, but really needed to sit down, so I did. I let my husband feed the cats and fix my coffee for me. At first I got really upset, and then I just decided to sit and drink my coffee and stare out the window until it passed, which it did. So if it happens again, this student is ready.
I am trapped in a game I didn’t choose. The cartridge is jammed. I can either be paralyzed, or learn to enjoy life here. Today I’ve decided to run around in this dark cave, use my little bow and arrow to light the place up with some Brightbloom seeds, and happily take on any monsters that come my way.