Take Your Health Seriously, or Risk The Video Games You Love

You may have noticed we’ve had another one of our little breaks here at nowisgames.com, not for quite as long as in the past, but a sizeable gap to be sure. A summer holiday of sorts, even though it poured with rain here in England for most of August.

I’ve been aiming for two posts a month since my last return, which I was hitting reasonably well, until recently. This wasn’t a break I intended to take, I really didn’t have much of a choice this time.

I stopped streaming a little while ago too, because I was tired of sitting at my desk all day for work, then all evening to stream. I took refuge in The Last of Us Part II and Spider-Man trophy hunting/second playthroughs. All of this to escape the apocalypse that is 2020.

It was all going so well, my platinum trophy was awarded for TLOU2 after another 25 hours, 5 consecutive hours a day for 5 days. I went to bed that night feeling like I’d done something. Felt something.

When I woke up, I was in agony, both arms were tingling from the shoulder to the tips of my fingers. Shooting pain right to the fingertips.

As the day went on, my arms didn’t spring back to life, they just got worse. My wrists were feeling sore, numb, sharp pains, then numb again. My left arm and shoulder felt cold on one of the hottest July days.

I knew at this point I’d overdone the video games, the controller based play in particular. Both Spider-Man and TLOU2 require some serious button mashing at times and I was chasing trophies and 100%. I’m a grown man, I knew what I’d done, I knew why I’d done it, I am starting to become aware of the long term consequences some five weeks later.

Repetitive Strain Injury

I’ve been aware of RSI for a long time, which has other names too, but it was a big deal back when computers were starting to appear in homes all over the world, just as Bill Gates had predicted.

I’ve always, always taken RSI seriously; I’ve used ergonomic keyboards, mice, always sure to take those silly workstation assessment things, tried to sit up straight and so on.

Here’s where taking it seriously stopped, sloping around on my sofa pretending to be the webhead swinging through New York? Seeking revenge against Abby in Seattle?

Clawing my controller with hook hands and staring at the TV for 4 hours at a time is comfortable right? Sure, unless you take it too far like I did. 🤦‍♂️

I’m too young for this!

This isn’t the only catalyst responsible for this turn of events, I recently moved into a new house of my own, so I’ve been doing DIY, gardening and more activities involving my upper body and so on. This lockdown encouraged gaming stint was definitely the tipping point.

I couldn’t lift or carry my own son, open jars, use a keyboard for long, the controller was out of the question. Any day to day task you can imagine became either impossible or very bloody painful.

“I’m 38 years old, I’m too YOUNG for this.” I thought, so I turned to the ibuprofen to make it go away. This helped, but I swore myself off the video games, which is how I knew this was serious. Little did I know, five weeks would pass before I started to feel like things were improving.

While I was no longer playing video games, I continued to watch Twitch streams, binged Community, Fringe, dozens of films, copies of EDGE magazine. I avoided typing at much as I could for work too.

It’s fair to say I sank further into an existing depressive state, giving up all exercise or even just movement beyond sitting at my desk and walking up and down my stairs.

Painkillers have their own dangers

I gained weight (obviously) and comfort ate to keep up with the influx of ibuprofen, which destroys your insides if you’re not careful.

This isn’t a long term solution. After two weeks, you’re not really supposed to take things like ibuprofen tablets apparently, so my doctor told me to use ibuprofen gel and treat the pain directly, which was way more effective. Thank !@#.

Unfortunately, within a few days of finishing the gel treatment and starting to feel like things were on the mend, back pain kicked in out of nowhere and I began feeling “ill” shall we say.

That is an unwelcome side effect of:

  • taking so much ibuprofen
  • not staying even remotely active
  • eating way too much junk
  • not drinking enough water

My digestive system had enough and my body was generally turning against me at this point. I had to snap out of it, so I went for a walk and sorted myself out. I’m feeling much better 6 days later as I write this.

Crucially, I’ve booked an appointment with my doctor to talk about the depression and anxiety I was already feeling before this stupid !@#ing virus changed the entire world and made everyone unhappy, instead of it feeling like just me. What do you do when the whole world is pissed off?

In the middle of all this going on, I read an incredible blog post from Athena over on Ambi Gaming. Sanity meter in 2020 you say? Yeah, mine was definitely depleted. It made me realise how I was feeling and helped put a few things in perspective. I started to take real action at that point, thank you, Athena. ♥

Take those breaks

I still love video games, I still have a ridiculous backlog to get through, so how can I take this hobby forward more sensibly? I’ve been preparing to introduce my son to technology, including the restrictions he will have in place, why on Earth am I not thinking about the restrictions I should be imposing on myself too? I should be setting an example!

How many of us regularly play video games for several hours at a time? Can you sit through a 3-hour movie without taking some kind of break? How about a 3-hour session of your favourite video game, completely different right? No problem to just keep going, at all.

Xbox has a feature to remind you at chosen intervals how long you’ve been signed in/playing, to take a break. You can get software on the PC to do the same thing, you’ve got timers on your phone, smart speakers, who knows what.

Make use of the technology available to take a break from that technology, it does break the immersion, but your health in real life is more important than the health bar on the screen.

Five Most Impactful Games In My Life

While completing my answer sheet for the Great Blog Crawl 2020, one of the questions was on a post published a few months ago, on a great blog I only recently started following, McKenna Talks About Games.

The post in question was the 5 Most Impactful Games In My Life and McKenna credits Meghan Plays Games as her inspiration. Honestly, I’m not sure where the true origin lies, but it may be a Twitter hashtag.

Without further ado then, in reverse order!

5. Alex the Kidd In Miracle World

The Master System II wasn’t the first console we had during our childhood, it wasn’t the last either. We’d seen the Atari 2600 at some point, with the usual games, but it was the Master System II and the built in game, Alex the Kidd In Miracle World, which stands out to me.

As I write this, the Rock Paper Scissors battles just sprang back into my mind. Damn, that was some nostalgia!

Oh wow this takes me back

I watched my Uncle play this game, I played it myself, my younger siblings also dabbled in it too. I don’t think I ever saw the end of the game, but we definitely played this quite a bit. We didn’t own too many games on the system, the only other game I remember now is Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but I was never a huge fan.

This was when I started to really take notice of video games.

4. Worms

Consoles fell out of favour for me, PC was where it was at by the mid-nineties. Other games at the time were obviously a big hit, stuff like Quake, Doom and the usual. For me, a huge portion of my time was invested in Team 17’s Worms series. Worms United, Worms 2, Worms: Armageddon and Worms World Party specifically.

Worms 2 and Worms: Armageddon, originally an expansion for Worms 2, were the pinnacle of the 2D series

My passion for the Worms series was strong enough during that 2D golden era, I ran a blog for a time, called the Worms Think Tank. When I search for that now, I can’t even find it on the Way Back Machine, but it does turn up here, against community member worMatty.

I don’t even feature myself on that site, but I went by the name Concrete Cowboy, something I stole from an episode of the Rugrats once haha. If you look closely during my streams today, you might notice some of my current profile names contain Ccowboy or something like that. Now you know why 🤣

Matt looked after the site for me towards the end of its existence, as I was going through a rough time with mental health. Eventually, I left the community and the site behind, I did improve my mental health situation though, not because of the games I must add.

Worms was ultimately responsible for me even knowing about HTML, CSS and blogging.

3. Grand Theft Auto

My mother and I argued a little about this game, as I was 15 at the time this released. Although my parents had recently separated at the time, my mother tells me she instructed my father not to allow me to play the game. It was an 18 rated game.

That obviously didn’t work, because I acquired it somehow, my father probably even purchased it for me! 😆

What a time to be alive. I still remember setting fire to anything that moved, running over pedestrians, jumping bridges, blowing up remote control cars. I remember acquiring a 4MB Voodoo 3DFX card and enabling the option in GTA for the first time. Absolutely incredible! My poor, tiny, fragile little mind.

How tame does this look now, compared to modern standards?

It makes this list mostly for the series as a whole though, rather than the first game alone. I’ve played many of them, but there’s a lot of gaps in my experience too. GTA V and GTA Online, however, well they’re thoroughly covered.

Around the time of my wedding, I was heavily involved in GTA Online, it was definitely a crutch I was leaning on, but it did the trick. Sleepless nights were filled with deliveries of substances, riding bikes up the side of mountains, stealing jets from the army base, cruising around the highways on motorbikes. Mostly with total strangers in a group I found myself in.

There’s nothing quite like it. For a long time, it will probably remain the game I’ve sunk the most time into, around 1800 hours at the time of writing.

2. Left 4 Dead

Here is a game which I’d been keeping tabs on for a short while before it released, hyping up my friends. The demo Valve made available was approximately 2 of the 5 levels which made up the full No Mercy campaign.

This didn’t stop my little group from playing the demo for several hours, we couldn’t get enough. When the full game launched, we devoured it, nothing else mattered.

Around this time, I went through a pretty heavy break up after 5.5 years with someone. We were living in the same house, which we’d mortgaged together. Honestly, it was like hell. In the several months I stayed in the house, in the tiny bedroom I once used as a teenager, I had no idea what to do with my life.

While I figured that out, I would play Left 4 Dead as much as possible. This routinely meant starting around midnight, after finishing a shift at 11.30pm, or starting much earlier in the evening when not working, but always going to 4am or longer.

Staying up late and chatting with strangers on the internet, smoking way too many cigarettes, perched on the edge of a double bed my sister had donated to me, ready for my impending move. It was a simple time, a few hundred hours of Left 4 Dead under my belt, I cut my losses and moved out with my name still on the mortgage, I couldn’t handle the situation any more.

A series of events began after this which led me to meet my wife for the first time.

That zombie game, the definitive zombie game in my eyes, saved me in the real world.

1. Half-Life

This was the point in my illustrious gaming career when I realised the story was more important to me than anything else. My love for FPS games was suddenly presenting me with this vehicle for telling an amazing story.

I lapped it up, the set pieces, the dialogue… Opposing Force and Blue Shift expansions too, over and over again. Using the command console to play short segments of the game I enjoyed, again and again. Using mods. Drinking it all in, so amazing.

I still remember seeing a sales chart countdown on TV, which showed Half-Life “still at number 1” with a quick video of the section shown above, with a solider running across the damn

Half-Life 2 came along and further transformed storytelling and even physics in an FPS, then episodes 1 & 2, it was all thoroughly brilliant. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to become a serious story nerd.

This would eventually lead me on to entirely different experiences, away from my comfort zone on the PC, back to consoles and on to third-person action games such as The Last of Us, RPGs, walking simulators and so much more, all in pursuit of an interesting story.

Today, I value the narrative, characters, lore, worldbuilding and storytelling above all else. The shiniest graphics can’t save you from a bad story.

So there you have it, the five most impactful video games in my life today. Many others would make the list if it carried on from there, but these are the most important to me!

What would your five most impactful games be? Sound off in the comments or write your own post, if you missed this the first time it did the rounds like I did 😁