Not long after I started this website I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. It is nothing life threatening, but it’s something that would go on to irrevocably change me. My energy levels sank, and I continue to struggle with daily pain.
The consequences of my illness are now always with me, and the one aspect that’s taken me the longest to notice is its effect on my relationship with video games.
Playing through illness
Despite a very trying couple of years my enthusiasm for life hasn’t changed, but I find that video games are one of the few things I can actively partake in without too much difficulty. I am still very much a happy person, but continuing to play games has definitely helped console me when it became clear I could no longer be physically active. That’s a difficult prospect to cope with at 25 – the fact that you are ill and you always will be.
Weirdly it’s actually the small little details in life that I miss. Such as being able to run unabated, to be able to be spontaneous and energetic. The fact that I can still experience this in some small part in a game helps to take some of that fatigue and sorrow away. I think that’s why I now prefer walking the vast horizons of Minecraft rather than building anything, exploring each new world I create is a greater reward for me at the moment than making my mark with stone or brick.
The way I play Minecraft has changed and this is a pretty good metaphor for my illness. My time spent in video games has become less goal driven and far more about passive relief.
I’ve never really understood the concept of video game escapism. Video games have rarely about escapism for me in the past. They’ve always been a passion, something I’ve always enjoyed doing for as far back as I can remember. What they offer me now is a little bit extra, unbridled moments of peace; free from fatigue. A world full of excitement and risk, but with careful rules intact. You often have a set amount of health in a game, or an agreed amount of gravity or determined physics to name but two examples.
Illness has taken away the security out of life, my pain follows no pattern, there is no set time it will leave me. Oddly it is the boundaries and rules of a video game that I appreciate now as much as its freedoms.
Minecraft and recovery
Playing games is thankfully the one area of life that I don’t have to scale back. I make no compromises in what is now my very important recuperation time. My emotional well-being is becoming as important my physical care and medical routine. As a result although my quality of life has suffered dearly in the time since starting this website, but the quality of my gaming experiences hasn’t. I find myself returning to Minecraft when I am tired, when I want to walk and climb. I roll into my virtual bed and awake for each new day completely refreshed. Sometimes I make the most beautiful world I can and just walk for hours.
It can sound trite, but playing games returns a small amount of freedom to my day. It is one one the few times where my mind can takes precedent over my rapidly tiring body, the tension and pain I experience daily is largely washed away in the moment of play. These moments of relaxation bring a slight feeling of shame and regret, as I never needed video games in such a way before.
Games have had to be purely restorative in recent weeks during a genuinely difficult time. My options for a cure have all but dried up now. As a result it is harder to analyse video games of late when my mind is mostly preoccupied with pain and fatigue.
I am not stopping my updates, but I felt the time had come to explain that I simply cannot carry on at the pace of other websites. It simply easier to explore and play during my bad weeks rather than to write, when I am at my worst even the most amazing new title cannot stir my creative mind, it is simply easier to embrace the experience.
But fear not, in the same way I will never tire of video games, the desire to build (or write) always comes around again.