I’ll Lend You a Hand

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Gaming isn’t just a hobby for many people. Community and personal interaction that come from gaming can mean much more than gaming itself. For some, it’s so woven into the fabric of our lives that it’s just assumed that we’ll have that communal experience. What happens when you can’t game anymore?  What if, through no choice of your own, the ability to game was stripped away? That’s what is happening to a loved one right now and our journey has just started.

My family is populated by gamers. Our 3 man team consisting of my daughter, wife and myself have many decades of gaming experience. Nintendo, PC, Playstation, Gameboys; we’re well versed in many games across many generations. Mashing buttons and discussing gaming strategies is not uncommon at the dinner table for us. We’ve always been this way. Playing games is a family past time, present event and will surely be a part of our futures. The way we game and spend time together has been changing as of late though. There’s been no official diagnosis yet but my wife began having problem with grip strength and pain in her hands and arms months ago. We’ve been to a number of doctors visits and the term “carpal tunnel” has been tossed around but the exact diagnosis isn’t key to how it affects our lives. She’s losing fine motor skills in her hands and it’s painful for her to play a game for more than just a few minutes. Surely some people would consider not being able to game fairly trivial in the grand scheme of things and I suppose it is but it’s been such a fun and encompassing part of our lives that rather than just give that up, we’re finding a way.

There’s a growing number of communities, groups and charities out there that support and push for development that aims to help disabled gamers. Progress is being made and tons of people benefit from these efforts. But for now it doesn’t really feel like an option for us. So we evolve, we move on. If I miss a bonus level on Sonic I’m not going to break down in tears, I’m going to move my little red shoes as fast as possible and win, despite the bumps in the road. To do this we’ve employed the master blaster technique.

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For those of you not familiar with the master blaster technique it’s fairly simple. I’m the muscle and she’s the brains. It doesn’t require her to sit on my shoulders while I play Shenmue, but it doesn’t mean she can’t. We’ll boot up a game and rather than relying on previous knowledge of a game or taking it on head to head, myself versus the game, it’s something we work on together. Despite having been an avid gamer for over 25 years I still make some pretty dumb decisions when it comes to games. That’s where my wife comes in. Rather than hitting a hard spot in a game and just trying to brute force grind through it, she’ll come with fresh eyes on the situation and an alternative to my sometimes thoughtless approach. Although it’s not the same experience as her sitting there with controller in hand, we’ve gotten pretty good at it. She’s honing her skills to break down a game strategically and it has bettered my playthrough of games as a result.

This approach might be temporary. She could get a proper diagnosis and treatment that could result in her feeling 100% in a matter of weeks or months. Or it could be permanent and though it would be sad that she wouldn’t be able to button mash on some TMNT the arcade game with me we’ve figured out a solution that keeps Supreme Gaming Team Murphy moving forward. We still game together. We still laugh, rage and strategize together. It’s just a bit different now and that’s not always a bad thing.

 

Top image credited to http://blog.leapmotion.com/

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