Monday, March 26, 2012

Gaming Through Illness

When you become sick or chronically ill, it can affect your gaming routine. In previous posts I have talked briefly about my own health (which hasn't been good since January of 2011. It has made it harder to run games and forced me to cancel sessions from time to time. Since it started, I have met (mainly online) other gamers who find their health interferes with their hobby. This entry is just a laundry list of advice I came up with based on my own experience, intended to help out my fellow gamers.

1) Don't be embarrassed: If you are sick, there is no reason to add self consciousness and shame to your troubles. It is natural to feel embarrassed by illness. But just realize you aren't sick by choice and that people are generally a lot more understanding than we often think. In my own case I have to excuse myself from the table frequently. At first I felt awkward about it (especially since I am the GM) so I just explained to my players that it was important for me to stay on top of things, even during a session. Everyone understood. If anyone didn't I was happy to talk with them after the game.

2) Let your group know your limitations: I can only game at my house and have to play laying on the couch. Because of this I told my players about these restrictions. It certainly makes scheduling games a bit tougher, and I would much rather play at the dining room table than in my living room. On the other hand, it really hasn't had much of an impact on the game itself. If people know what you can and can't handle before hand it is less likely to become an issue during play and you can go into the campaign with less anxiety.

3) Health before gaming: It is fine to challenge yourself and try to game through discomfort, but don't risk your health for the game. If you need to stop a session or cancel, do so. Sometimes symptoms creep up unexpectedly and there isn't much you can do about it. I once made the mistake of gaming despite needing to get myself to the doctor. I turned out fine, but got a lot sicker than I needed to be.

4) Share what you are comfortable sharing: Only share what you are comfortable sharing about your health with your players. Generally the more you can share, the better their understanding of your situation. Still, it is up to you.

5) You are not superman: I have a habit of taking on more than I should. When I was healthy this was fine. But if I try to tackle too many projects and play too many games I get run down.

6) You have every right to game and have fun: Just because you are sick, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself. Illness can be very sobering and make pastimes seem frivolous. I would argue it is essential when you are sick to find ways to relax and unwind. If you are a gamer, then game.

7) Schedule games around treatments and medications: Treatments for illness can sometimes be worse than the disease itself. It may take some trial and error, but learn how they impact your ability to play RPGs. I find some medications for example make me forgetful, so I try not run a game if I know I will be on them. Other treatments can weaken your immune system or make you feel more sick, so tell people if you can't handle company.

8) Find comfort in gaming alternatives: There may be times when you simply can't hold a session due to health. If you still really want to game look into online alternatives (skype, iTabletop, play by post, etc). While nothing beats a live campaign with your friends, these alternatives are a great way to stay connected to the hobby. Staying active in gaming forums is another way to remain connected (though there is a difference between talking about games and playing them).

9) You aren't alone: People get sick. Few of us go our entire life without running into health issues. You may feel like the only person sidelined by illness but you aren't. There are others going through just what you are going through (many of them gamers).

10) Let your group assist you if you do have an emergency during a game. This won't apply to everyone, but if you have a health emergency during play, tell people and allow them to help you by calling 911 or driving you to the hospital. This happened to me once, and I was too proud to explain what was going on or ask for help. Instead I simply drove myself to the hospital with a vague explanation about being unwell. In hindsight this was both foolish and impolite (though I think understandably so, as I was frightened). One of my players later asked that I keep them in the loop as they were more than happy to drive me to the ER.

So there is my laundry list of advice for sick gamers. If you have anything to ad, or just want to share, feel free to comment.


1 comment:

  1. One of my players asked me if I can round up our game sessions by midnight because it's important that he get enough sleep due to some health issues. I just made sure to start the game a bit earlier and that we get to playing as soon as everyone is present. Works fine for all of us.