My History of Gaming, and Gaming with Difficulties.

I don’t like talking about my own situation, this is supposed to be a rather fun blog about video games. But, there’s an elephant in the room, and I think one of the things I should do to explain the lack of articles lately is explain my situation, and how it’s changed my view on gaming.

In 2011, I started suffering from a variety of health conditions that saw me end up in the hospital multiple times. First it was an issue with my leg, which somehow got infected and swelled to about double its size. Then I ended up having a condition known as iritis, an inflammation of the iris in the eye. That was memorable because the iris actually closed, which meant they had to call in an on-call laser surgeon (yes, there was such a thing at the hospital I was at), to shoot a laser into my eye at 3 AM to open it to keep me from losing my vision. It was the most bizarre situation ever. Let me tell ya that.

Then, the hip and knee pain started. Some days I was fine, and even tried pool workouts in an attempt to lose weight and take the stress off the joints, but even months of physical therapy didn’t really help. I could no longer work, and went on Short term disability, which turned into long term disability. I won’t go into that story, it’s painful enough, but I will say that the situation with my health, my inability to get back to work bugged me so much, and I felt like I was running in circles with no way out. I thank God daily that I said to my brother “I think I need to go to the hospital, because I’m afraid of what I may do to myself otherwise.” The good news is, I got better. The bad news is, the physical side continued to weigh me down.

But, I tried to go back to work, unfortunately, my work couldn’t keep my position open for over a year, so when I reported I was ok to work, I was dropped from the company (I had been an inactive employee while I was disabled). So, I tried to do the job market, but even then, my health was limiting me. I tried a job interview an hour away, and the pain was so severe I spent ninety percent of the next two days in bed. As it stands now, I have a pretty solid diagnosis (Crohn’s Disease, causing the iritis and arthritis), but at age 42, I am THIS close to needing a hip replacement. That’s.. disturbing.

I’m not telling you this to gather sympathy. I accept it if it’s offered, but this blog is about someone with 30+ years of gaming experience (back when PC’s ran at 8 Mhz, and if you hit the turbo button, 16 Mhz! Wow, huh?). And I’ve found that my health issues have caused not only my gaming preferences to change, but the way I PLAY video games has changed. And that sounds like a good idea for an article.

Like most teenaged gamers, I was no stranger to pulling the “all-nighter”, playing video games at all hours of the day and night, I ran hundreds of seasons in the old MicroLeague game, played XOR NFL Football, played the old Gold Box SSI games when they were new. If you remember the Blast From the Past I did on Autoduel, there is a story there. Back then, only the big name companies sold games at places like Egghead Software. Autoduel was not made a big name company at the time. But there was a hobby shop in town, that sold stuff for RC Cars and the like, that also dabbled in computer software. They said they could order it for me, and it was my birthday gift. I checked in with that store EVERY SINGLE WEEK for SIX months, waiting for it to come in. Remember, the game had already been paid for, and no one else could get it that we knew of (sending a check to a software company? What kind of crazy talk is that?). That’s six months of having your hope dashed every single time I went in. But I persevered. And I have to say it was worth it, but that was how you got games in those days.

Before GameStop, or Geek Squad, or GameFly, there was Egghead Software. Remember the good old days when a Microsoft Office upgrade cost $360? Me neither.
Before GameStop, or Geek Squad, or GameFly, there was Egghead Software. Remember the good old days when a Microsoft Office upgrade cost $370? Me neither.

CompuServe charged by the minute for access. My dad was.. less then amused when he got the monthly bill from then, especially so because I had used about 6 times the base rate, so the bill was astronomical… I spent hours running a BBS for the local college, playing games like Trade Wars, and being introduced to the different sides of the world, both good and bad.

This was my introduction to "The Information Superhighway." And before you laugh at how primitive it looks, remember this.. this screen shot was from a version of the CompuServe software that was closer to its inevitable end then it was to when *I* Started doing it.
This was my introduction to “The Information Superhighway.” And before you laugh at how primitive it looks, remember this.. this screen shot was from a version of the CompuServe software that was closer to its inevitable end then it was to when *I* Started doing it.

I played many of the games I’ve reviewed as Blasts from the Past in that time frame. There was very few bad games of the time, mostly because, well, if you didn’t like it, there wasn’t much else to play. There was so many good games though, and I feel privileged to have played them. Wing Commander, Sword Of Aragon, the Ultima series, I could go on and on for paragraphs. But I think I’ve made my point.

As I got older, and joined the workforce, gaming became my refuge from the daily drudgery. I could have had a horrible day working in a call center, or at the local department store, and come home, launch a game of Jet Grind Radio (now known as Jet Set Radio) on the Dreamcast, or the NFL 2K series. Video games were how I dealt with stress, and it worked for me. It helped that I had friends interested in the same things, first locally (one of my earliest gaming memories was the fact that my next door neighbors had an Intellivision, which was HUGE at the time), and then taking the first baby steps into an interconnected world.

Why have I spent so much time detailing my gaming history? Because the last few years, it’s started to slip away from me, slowly but surely. As my health problems grew, suddenly games I enjoyed playing were out. The Dance Dance Revolution game was a series I enjoyed when it was that strange import game in the arcades. I went through three mats going from system to system. It was the only type of workout I ENJOYED, because it was so different then what other workouts were, They were boring, “Oh great, I walked 2000 steps. Yippee”, That wasn’t DDR it was FUN moving to Smile.Dk, Bambee, and NAOKI. And then it told you how many calories you burned while you did it? AWESOME!

Dance Dance Revolution 3rd Mix. I actually attended an Anime convention in Boston specifically to pick up the Original Sound Track for this game. And this is where my hip started plotting against me.
Dance Dance Revolution 3rd Mix. I actually attended an Anime convention in Boston specifically to pick up the Original Sound Track for this game, imported from Japan. And this is where my hip started plotting against me.

Well, as my joint problems started, guess what became the first thing I COULDN’T DO? Yup, you guessed it, repeated stepping games were like someone shooting a bullet into my hips and knees. As my health problems worsened, and the fact I was working some WEIRD shifts at the time (2-10 AM, 6 PM-2AM, etcetera.. I covered for all our timezones), I got into MMO’s. Mostly World of Warcraft, but I’ve played many others (City of Heroes, AutoAssault, Champions Online, etcetera). The nice thing was that EVEN if people all around you were asleep or busy, there was usually a crew that you could get together to play with across the nation. That’s not always healthy, but it worked to feed that gaming need and that interaction need. Six, seven, eight hours at a time (with bathroom and food breaks). It was how I interacted with a world that I didn’t really feel part of anymore, due to my isolation in my schedule.

So, the last five years have seen changes. First it was an escape from a world where I was increasingly becoming powerless (because of my down time growing), just to pass the time, I would spend marathon sessions playing games, in an attempt to fill time. But that is unhealthy after a while. It can be a distraction, but it’s not your reason to get up in the morning. And when you can’t even get out of the house if you WANTED to, but you didn’t want to anyway, because you could just take two steps from your bed and sit in the computer chair and waste your day…well, yeah, it became REAL unhealthy real quick

That was the problem I faced when I hit rock bottom, mentally. Because my physical health was so shot, it was a major undertaking to go out and do something small, like shopping for groceries. Soon, you look for reasons to avoid going out. “Hey! I could load a game of Out of the Park and sim 65 years into the future, just to see what happens!”. That’s not a good reason to get out of bed in the morning, especially when it will take you several minutes to actually LEVER yourself out of bed due to aches and pains.  I love Out of the Park, don’t get me wrong, but there needs to be a balance. And I was way, way out of balance. I was like that spinning top, that seemed to spin forever, but if you nudge it off balance, it’s orbit rapidly decays before it finally crashes into something and halts. Last year was that crash, and it was bad. It could have been so much worse, but it seemed bad enough at the time.

So, that brings me to writing this blog. This was suggested to me by my father, who is a saint for having put up with me all these years, came to me and said that I needed a hobby. Something that engaged the creative juices, something that was a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Something to look forward to, other then “Hey, I just got a character to max level in World of Warcraft”.  He understood that I was a gamer, that I loved to talk about video games with my friends whenever they showed up.

He knew that left to my own devices, I would be stewing, especially when bad things were happening to me and my family. My mother’s illness and death in December of 2015 would have been a real reason to just tuck my head in, and tune out the world. You know that line from Frozen… “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” Well, for the longest time I was concealing, not feeling, and not letting my friends know how horrible I felt, physically and mentally. That crash was me letting everyone know how I felt.

But writing, both this blog, and outside work (the PDF for Fight! I authored is in the Editing process now, and I keep threatening to write that book I’ve always wanted to do, and keep running through scenarios in my head)  has been really great. It has turned something that was completely non-interactive (or interactive only with people at a distance), into something I had to actively interact with. Not just writing articles for An8BitMind, but things like trying to set up advertising, or the Patreon, or get on companies review list. Then there’s coming to grips with what Gaming is for me. Can it be something I do every day? Sure. Can it be the reason I get out of bed? No. It shouldn’t be, It CAN’T be. Remember when I talked about doing that marathon overnight livestream when XCom 2 came out? I managed 5-6 hours, and I was shocked how empty I felt afterwards. Not because of the game (which was, and is excellent). It’s because that quite frankly, I’m at an age and status where I can’t pull that kind of stunt and NOT pay for it. A younger streaming friend of mine, Poetic, (who’s a good egg, you should follow her and watch her Twitch streams) .. recently did a 12 hour stream, and then an 18 hour stream for charity. Before, that would sound like the greatest thing ever. Now I’m like “Wow, I’d try to do that, but yeah, I’d fall apart, and besides, it doesn’t sound like fun to me anymore”.

It’s helped me be healthier in finding ways to interact with the world. I may be on the tipping point of being declared formally physically disabled, health wise but before, I would have just shrugged my shoulders, tried to lose myself inside the latest video game system wars. I would feel empty knowing that the latest gaming systems are things other people have, but I do not. Well, guess what? I do not own a Xbox One, nor a PS4, and even if I had the means to own one, I’m not sure I would. I’ve found enjoyment in games that are ongoing (I still play World of Warcraft, but I’ve stepped mostly off the treadmill. I’ll play for fun, but you won’t find me playing all day or all night), and I find enjoyment in bite sized gaming bits (I managed to pick up a couple cheap racing game sims for my new android phone, and I can play 30-45 minutes, then shut the phone off, and let the dogs outside and watch them play). I love writing, telling folks what I think, and interacting with them. But everything in moderation.

I think that may not make me a necessarily better GAMER, as in joystick skills, I think that went away a while back, and isn’t coming back…. but I think that it’s made me a more rounded gamer, and a better person to boost.

I’d love to hear your comments on how your gaming preferences have changed or modified in the years you’ve played. How have they changed? Why have they changed?