Why I'm Thankful to the Video Game 'Robin' for Depicting the Reality of ME/CFS
Computer games are typically only meant for entertainment rather than exploring complex issues. “Robin,” however, explores what it’s like to have myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome.
ME/CFS is a condition in which someone may struggle to do simple tasks because of debilitating fatigue. Many times ME/CFS accompanies other chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Simply showering, washing dishes or making breakfast can wear someone with ME/CFS out for the rest of the day.
The game begins at a doctor appointment. At the appointment the patient is worried about her fatigue, but the doctor cannot find anything wrong. Instead of comforting the patient, he tells her she should be happy the tests have eliminated options of what it could be. This is a typical reaction many people with illnesses such as ME/CFS receive from their doctors. This game validates this experience for those who struggle because of the lack of understanding of such illnesses.
The game then transitions to the setting of an apartment during the weekend. The player has a three-day weekend to relax and recuperate. They have the option of doing daily tasks such as feeding the bird, watering the plants, taking a shower, doing the dishes or surfing the internet. However, all of this takes up energy, which is in short supply. As tasks are completed, energy quickly runs out and nothing more can be accomplished. The day always ends with only a few tasks being completed before resting in bed.
The game draws attention to an unknown issue in the world. It demonstrates how a simple video game can have a massive impact. The issue isn’t conveyed obviously; instead, through ambience and subtlety, the plight of those who have ME/CFS becomes known.
The player gradually gets frustrated as the weekend progresses because there is never enough energy to get everything completed. The dishes will not be washed, work will not be completed, there was not enough energy to shower, etc. You often have to let something slide when you have ME/CFS.
This game reflects the reality of living with this condition. At the end of the game a message reads, “It was a tiring day still” which conveys the entirety of chronic fatigue syndrome. There is no happy ending in this game. The player always ends exhausted instead of relaxed. The creators of “Robin” used this powerful medium to get across the importance of understanding mysterious illnesses such as ME/CFS. “Robin” may be incredibly simple and not have a happy resolution, but it conveys a crucial point and raises awareness for those who are often forgotten.
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Screenshot via ‘Robin Trailer‘ on Vimeo