How Nintendo Games Helped One Player Cope With Chronic Illness

chronic_illnessflickr photo shared by Iris Slootheer under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Most of the time, games aren’t particularly effective medical treatments. There are exceptions, of course–virtual reality for PTSD, for instance–but often, when we turn to games to manage pain, we’re trying to escape our problems, not deal with them.

But as Twinfinite contributor Andres Ruiz points out in this article about the impact games had on his own life, that isn’t always because we don’t want to deal with our problems–sometimes it’s because we simply can’t. For him, games became an escape from the pain of a chronic illness.

Escapism is magical. The mere concept of video games often channels the satisfaction of vicariously carrying out an otherwise impossible adventure, whether it be traveling through a dungeon as a wizard or a fictional continent raising monsters. You don’t need a chronic condition to see the appeal of video games, so you can imagine the effect it had on a child like me that suddenly realized how many journeys I may actually be able to embark on.

Constantly feeling out of control of my life, my kid self had a lot of anxiety wrought from this Hemophilia. Video games were a haven for me, but they eventually evolved into something much more therapeutic. Nothing took my mind off the pain like training some Pokémon or duking it out in Tekken. I didn’t have that grim assortment of fears plaguing me while I was lost in Kanto or Hyrule or whatever other fictional land I happened to be inhabiting at the moment. They were muted for the time being, but sometimes the pain got a little too loud.

In Ruiz’s case, games were a refuge–happily, one he was able to give up. Not that he doesn’t play them, but they’re a beloved pastime now, not a lifeline.

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