Saturday, January 3, 2015


A while back I talked about Gaming Through Illness (HERE). The kind of illness I had in mind was physically debilitating chronic disease. I think I laid out some good points on how to get the most out of gaming while your body is restricted in this way. Since then, I've encountered a lot of other gamers online going through their own health related disability issues. One thing I've learned is everyone experiences different challenges due to the specific nature of our conditions. Personally I am not that fond of talking about my condition, and even bristle a bit at sympathy from folks when I do talk about it (this isn't their fault of course, they are just trying to be nice, but for some reason I just don't like receiving gestures of sympathy or praise for being 'brave'). This is another reason I generally avoid discussing it, because I don't really like the kind of attention it brings. But I am beginning to realize it is helpful for others in similar situation to speak about this and hear about it. And it is also helpful for me as well. 

The condition I have is called Crohn's Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes your immune system to attack its own gastrointestinal tract. The inflammation this causes can be uncomfortable and embarrassing but the real harm from Crohn's disease is the complications patients tend to experience in the form of infections, abscesses, fistulas, blockages, etc. These can result in seriously disabling states, requiring bowel resectioning, ostomies, etc. Crohn's patients often need a number of surgeries to deal with such complications and the aftermath can leave you homebound or worse. In my case, after my first three surgeries I was fine, but a series of three surgeries after that led to some debilitating fistula tracts that require daily antibiotics and keep me at the house. I won't go into detail beyond that, but it is sufficient to say that I went from being a very athletic and active person to being barely capable of taking a brief walk outside. This contrast for me, because I was so involved in weight training and martial arts, was quite disheartening. I've always been a gamer, but I have never appreciated the utility of the escapism it affords until now. 

Escapism sometimes gets a bad name. It can distract you to the point that you become uninvolved or detached from others. That is a danger with any number activities though that demand our time. I could make an argument that my old exercise routine was a bit excessive and distracted me from other things for example. By the same token, I have known people who have taken gaming to an extreme and missed other important parts of their lives. However I think when one is homebound by a disease, and when one's body doesn't work the way it used to, escapism can be enormously therapeutic. I can't spar anymore. Nor can I go on my regular morning jog. These were things that not only made me physically healthy, they improved my mental state. Now that I can't do neither of them, there is great appeal for me in being a wizard or barbarian warrior for a few hours each week. This is why wuxia settings have had particular attraction to me lately, because they let me transcend the limitations imposed on my body by illness, even if just for a brief period. There is something really satisfying about exceeding the mundane limits of the martial arts I used to practice in real life, by playing a martial hero who can glide across a lake and summon powerful blasts of internal energy. 

Here I can't speak for other people suffering from debilitating illness. Like I said everyone has a different experience and some may see no draw to the escapism aspect of RPGs. I am curious though, for those affected in this way, how it has impacted their gaming and their tastes in games. I invite anyone to comment with their own personal stories. 


  1. It would also be interesting to get a look at this from the perspective of those suffering from (chronic) mental illness.

  2. Speaking from that particular corner, yes, it helps a lot; even in-game descriptions of mental conditions helped me get a handle on my condition from an early age.

  3. Both my wife and my oft-times writing partner have had Crohn's for a long time. Both love gaming, and both are limited physically by their diseases. Thanks for mentioning this, Brendan!