Thursday, 10 November 2011

Video Games Don't Kill People...They Just Hurt A Bit

Stop! Put down that controller! Step away from your PC! Video games can hurt you! (Rabble, rabble, rabble...right?)

Actually, those of you familiar with older generation consoles will remember the immense pain that some controllers used to cause. Fighting games like Street Fighter had me bashing buttons, ignoring the pain for two solid hours because I needed to beat my friend and prove my gaming prowess. An hour later, once he'd gone home for tea, I was sobbing quietly in my room because my hand is locked into a claw like position and causing an extreme amount of pain. Aaah...memories.

This is such a common ailment for gamers that there's even an official medical term for it and just so you know I'm not making this up, if you click the link it goes to the US National Library of Medecine. It's called Nintendonitis or Nintendo Elbow - I call it The Claw and it hurts like hell. There is a way around it though, it's something I do a lot these days: pause your games regularly to move your wrists in a circular motion and stretch your fingers out. Let me just make it clear that I'm no doctor so don't blame me if you still manage to injure yourself somehow.

The Claw has a less painful cousin, called Gamer's Thumb but this is less of a problem nowadays as many controllers are designed to lessen the effects of repetitive strain injury. Your hands aren't the only part of your body susceptible to video game related aches and pains. If I've been playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero, after a while all I can see are the multi-coloured bars moving up. The same used to happen to me when I had a Game Boy, I seemed to contract Tetris Eyes. Every time I closed my eyes, I could still see those blocks falling. The scary thing's possible I was damaging my retinas with screen burn as I tend not to blink as much when playing games that require fast hand eye co-ordination and immense concentration. Yikes.

Boomer Bladder is a term coined by a friend of mine (Hi, Debs!). So, you've booked a couple of days off work to dedicate to a shiny new game, as soon as you get it home from the store and tear off the shrink wrap (carefully of course), you haven't eaten yet but that's okay because you're just going to check the disc for any potential problems (you're pretty smart like that). Six hours later your stomach hurts so much that you don't know whether to run to the bathroom, quench your thrist or deal with the hunger pangs. Your stomach, having expanded, is now bloated and resembles a Boomer from Left 4 Dead. Bleurgh.

The following day the doctor tells you you've strained your bladder so much that you now have a bladder infection and will have to take a few more days off work. Still, at least you'll have plenty of time to play video games though, right?

If I have any spare time in my day, you can guarantee it'll be spent in front of my Xbox. I sometimes read a book, a comic or spend my time baking but nothing beats a few online games of Halo: Reach. Gaming is a cathartic activity for me, one that allieviates my stress levels after a long day at work. This can sometmes be counter-productive though. Game Rage can manifest for a number of reasons. Either someone isn't playing fair and teabagging my corpse or I keep falling of off platforms or whatever. The fact is, these things incite rage within me.

Despite being a way to release my pent up anger (or incite more) playing video games can be a massive distraction in my everyday life. I can recall countless times when laundry day arrives or deadlines are due and I convince myself that playing a few games can't hurt...after all, I'll only play for 30 minutes. How deluded I am! To trick myself into believing such lies! Procrastination is one thing, but lying to myself is sort of messed up - because that's something people see counsellors for.

Of course we could list a whole bunch of mental illnesses that could be worsened by games such as Social Anxiety Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder but that would be akin to blaming video games and rap music for teenagers committing murder...which we all know is dumb.

My teenage years were less violent. There were no murders to be had, no violence to incite. In fact, it would be more apt to say they were full of Sleep Deprivation. Turning up to college with puffy eyes and yawning incessantly - that was me. There's nothing quite like gaming at 4am, it's a magical time, no one's awake to distract you, outside it's quiet and you've almost ranked up your character; I take solace in the fact that world leaders have run countries with less than 4 hours sleep a night. Somehow the same can't be said of no sleep. Ask any WoW player how much sleep they've had and there's a good chance they'll say "I didn't sleep last night, I was raiding". I've many friends who have lost multiple nights of sleep to World of Warcraft. Not on purpose but because they've been so immersed in their game that they've 'accidentally' forgot to sleep! South Park nailed it perfectly with their WoW inspired season 10 episode; Make Love, Not Warcraft.

Midnight launches don't help either, not only do you queue for about an hour outside in the cold until 12am but then you have to resist the urge to open up the game and start playing when you get home an hour later!

Many of the ailments I've mentioned are linked directly to the addictive nature of gaming. It's a simple fact, video games are addictive and there's no denying it. In episode 6 of Unlocked (the web series I co-produce), some of the characters attend a Lone Gamers Anonymous meeting and it's a scene I feel is true of many of us. Check out the previous five episodes first for it to make sense but here's numero six:

The cure for this addiction (sadly) is not a magical potion or elixir, a small piece of heart or learning alchemy - so there's no need to visit your local mage or butcher - playing less is the key. But how can I of all people be suggesting this?!

My name is Emma-Jane Corsan and I'm an addict. There, I admit it! what? Do I stop playing games altogether?! Um...I don't think so. Perhaps I could play a little less? But I'd rather not. Maybe I need an intervention? Someone to un-claw my fingers from the controller? Yeah. I dare you to try and snatch the controller from my shaking hands. If Kinect marketing is to be believed, I am the controller and maybe all the hours spent on UFC Trainer will pay off in case anyone tries to intervene with this addict.

Don't say I didn't warn you!

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