Gaming with Multiple Sclerosis
I’ve been a gamer one way or another since I was a teenager. Now I’m still at it as a grandmother and disabled with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I have a lot of the issues that Gma writes about in her Grammy Gamer article this issue, but compounded by MS.
As far as life goes, MS has stopped me from working, but most of the things I love to do I still can. I just have to do them in shorter stints and break up where and how I sit on the bad days. One of the things that can happen with MS is spasticity, where the muscles cramp or feel cramped for no reason at all. I can hold a piece of paper in my left hand and some days have my entire arm flare up. The other thing it causes is numbness and tingling. I can have a wide variety of muscle cramping, numbness and tingling from day to day. Thankfully most of my issues are in my arms, so I can definitely go for walks and I try to do so as much as possible, even if it takes me a lot longer to get there and back.
Of course, the not so fun part is when things flare up. Much like the points in Grammy Gamer, I have to be even more aware of stress, fatigue, pain, and vision issues. Everything tires out faster and is downright unpredictable. I definitely need to stretch often when at the computer. I have a cheap chair, but it fits me quite well with the support where I need it most. It’s actually more comfortable than my couch on some days.
The great thing is that I enjoy a lot of different games. Sometimes I have to give up on playing a lot of the MMOs because my hands don’t want to work with any of my setups. I actually have three ways to deal with game play. One is the standard keyboard and mouse. I’m a trained touch typist so muscle memory helps a lot with this – well, when the fingers aren’t too numb to find home row. I go with this more often than not. When the left arm is bothering me a lot more in the shoulder, I have a left-handed game pad I will sit in my lap. The last option that doesn’t last long, however, is a right handed gaming mouse with twelve buttons. Usually my right thumb gets annoyed after thirty minutes.
The other option is to not play fast paced games or ones that have a lot of movement with fighting going on. If I’m free at the time, I like opting for GMa’s fun map clear events as the pace is easy, we have lots of fun, and I don’t feel like I’ll be lost or splatted by some mob if I need extra breaks during the event. WvW in Guild Wars 2 is right out, unless my hands are willing to work well enough.
But there are even slower options of fun gaming. Winning Putt is a golf game that does not stress out the hands at all. It can become stressful if your reaction timing is off. I’ve done plenty of hooks, slices and over swings in the game to see my ball wind up in the water, bunkers and lots of time in the rough. I can still make par sometimes winding up in the rough. I pulled this game back out recently, due to my hands having a lot of issues the past couple of months or so.
And another gaming option I have is tabletop D&D, but virtually. I play with one group of friends from Gaiscioch on Roll20. Then there is the fun of play-by-post when with a group of great storytellers and role players. I have three I currently enjoy immensely on D&D Beyond. My love of D&D and other tabletop games led me to testing D&D Beyond, which is to be a digital compendium to go with tabletop gaming. It will allow for all the information to be had in one place along with character creation options and the fun of campaign management, including homebrew options. It’s just another gaming thing I can do without the worry of my hands, as long as they let me type that is. I’ll probably write an article about D&D Beyond once the testing is done.
Working on this magazine is something else I can do as long as life and MS are not causing too much stress or fatigue. I have to admit I’ve been a bit hodgepodge on being around to edit for this issue due to things being pretty off through late winter and taking a good deal of April to get over. Funny thing is, the same time last year, more into May, was when things wigged out enough I had to take a break and I did not do a whole lot on that issue either. I had to joke about being a senior editor and I couldn’t even read someone’s name correctly while trying to see where we were in the editing process. Even with spreadsheets and various folders to put the work in for what stage it is in, we can still make mistakes and confuse ourselves. We are all human after all. Usually my MS screws me up, but it won’t stop me from trying to be a part of this magazine.
The great thing with Gaiscioch is that even with the magazine people can come and go as they want to. We are a crew that knows real life gets in the way and we love to have people that are here for the fun. Our motto is to play how you want, when you want. We have all sorts of fun ways to gain rank in the family, but nothing says you have to either. We even have a mentor system for those that do want to learn and do more. It’s definitely a good place to game whether you are a crazy middle aged lady like me with MS, another Grammy Gamer like GMa, or in college and everything in between. Check out our demographics to see we pretty much hit many age groups and are global. I’m glad I found this group to play with even before I had the diagnosis of MS and all the issues. We all need a community where we can feel welcome and have fun. Hopefully you all find yours, but don’t hesitate to check us out if you are looking.
No matter what your health is, it is always good practice to know when to say no to a game. If agitated, take a break. If you have sat too long, get up and move around. Eat healthy and exercise. Keep your house clean. In the end, having your priorities straight will make your gaming time more enjoyable, even if they did not turn out perfect. Gaming friends should totally understand this and not be upset by how you play.
About the Author
Althea "Briseadh" Damgaard
Althea joined Gaiscioch back in October of 2009 and has been here ever since with only a few month hiatus between Warhammer and Rift. As soon as she knew they were in Rift, she jumped ship to Faeblight and has followed them onward through every chapter since with a few side games thrown in for spice.
She has been an avid player of RPG style games since 1980 when she first played Dungeons and Dragons. Since then she has created her own tabletop gaming world used with various rule sets as D&D progressed. Once she could get online she played MUDs. Her MMO days started with Everquest and have moved through over a dozen games with some lasting only a month's time in her life and others going for years. She has tested several games from the perspective of a disabled gamer with hand issues due to her multiple sclerosis.
When not writing about or playing games, she can be found writing novels, reading and doing various art projects. She also writes items based on her faith and is working on publishing a novel. She also does editing for a gaming developer.