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My Fears About Playing Video Games With Fibromyalgia

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I have been playing video games since I was 6 years old, when I first received a Super Nintendo Entertainment System from my then mother’s partner. I played with this system more than I did with other children, as many other people with Asperger’s syndrome can probably relate to (although I wasn’t diagnosed until university!).

As I grew up I went through a number of different gaming consoles and my social life, despite some fluctuations, largely stayed the same. Any friends I did manage to gather were isolated to a few individuals at most who shared my interest of video games and our relationships didn’t tend to last very long. I got into various wonderful worlds full of strange creatures and colorful characters that took me out of myself and out of real life. Not until the last couple of years, since my diagnosis for fibromyalgia, have I begun to really struggle to take part in my favorite hobby.

Over the years, I moved on from consoles to PC games due to being unable to afford very much and had my laptop available, left over from university. One of my favorite games was a massive multiplayer online (MMO) game which I played sometimes with friends, but mostly on my own, and a lot of the content involved big groups called “raids.” Players largely expected you to have a mic and at least listen in to join in for these raids but I was often too socially anxious to take part and so I have only done one raid in my entire six years of playing the game. Many say you don’t have to talk, just listen in, but I’m too afraid of that even, as I am scared I will make a mistake and be called out for it. Moreover, since it makes me nervous to even be in a call listening to strangers, I play worse, making a mishap more likely to happen.

There are smaller scenarios in this game of five people that don’t tend to ask for you to be on mic and I am usually able to handle these as I am a competent enough player, but I still tend to avoid them, only entering them if I feel like I need to, as the social anxiety makes them not much fun for me. Another game that has teams of up to five is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) that again I can do alright at, but when I do not, and the random people I am playing with start calling me out in the chat, I again become nervous and this makes me play even worse, or reduces my morale so much I just want the game to be over. I try to have a thick skin – they are just random strangers on the internet after all, and sometimes I just laugh them off, but other times I have been trying as hard as I feel I can but do not see the result I or they would like to.

This is all without mentioning the impact of my fibromyalgia on my ability to play. My fingers, hands and wrists are often sore and stiff, making my reactions slower and painful, so when someone does comment on how well I am playing it can hurt, especially when I am aware it is my fibromyalgia that is limiting me. My partner tells me I play just as well as anyone else, but I know when it is affecting me and it becomes really frustrating. I try not to let the fear of negative comments get to me, but it does play on my mind nonetheless, and can make me play worse whether or not others have said anything to me, because I am already acutely aware of how I am playing.

Of course, strangers playing with me aren’t to know of my condition but, depending on the game, I do not think they would react well if I did explain it to them. They might say I shouldn’t be playing video games if I cannot perform well, but I feel like my fibromyalgia has already stopped me doing so much in my life already. I have stopped horse riding, going on so many walks, drawing as much, writing as much and more since my diagnosis and I am aware that maybe one day I will have to give up video games as well and this frightens me. I have shed tears over this, which may seem trivial, but I’d really like to keep going as long as I can, as it means so much to me.

Playing video games with my partner and friends allows me to feel like I can keep on going as long as I have them. They stick by me and help me out when I need it. Sometimes, strangers too can be kind. I did once explain my fibromyalgia to a stranger who helped me out on an MMO and he looked into it after hearing about it and sent me some kind words some moments after, which was uplifting. But one game’s community is often not like another’s, and when things get competitive in any way, the toxicity comes out. I love video games and they genuinely help me get through the day. I hope this is a hobby that doesn’t ever have to end.

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Thinkstock photo via Micko1986.

Originally published: October 6, 2017
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