No Game Save For My Backup

Three days home, sick, with the complete understanding and sympathy of my employer. Fully conscious and ambulatory, with some grade-A camaro-drivin', country-music-songwritin', shirtless-guy-on-COPS prescription narcotics on the bathroom sink. Can't go outside and enjoy this nice day, cause I'm sick. Can't work, I'm sick. Can't brush my teeth, put on deodorant or underpants or mow the lawn or call my mum, sick.

So why the hell am I not playing video games? I thought.

Cause I'm sick?

Given a 72-hour hall pass, that's what a regular reader of this site would do with his or her sick time: Play video games. Right? That's what a regular writer of this site should do, too. Regular, however, did not define me last week.

I'm not sure I've ever felt as ridiculous as I did in emailing Totilo, for the third straight day, to tell him I couldn't do my job — a job substantially based on playing video games — because I couldn't crap.


Kidney stones were the cause of all this, to be clear. To manage the pain I was given Percocet, a drug I'd had no experience with before Wednesday. (My last overnight hospital stay was 31 years ago). So the constipating effects of a bigtime narcotic were a complete blindside, sending me into an agonizing spiral where I felt I was managing pain by taking something that prolonged the condition. I just gave up and laid on the couch or the bed.

Eventually my subconscious became so depleted of things to dream about that anything entering it immediately went on air, like Walter Cronkite reading a phone book on the nightly news. A one-line email from a guy at 2K Sports inspired a 30-minute dream about NBA 2K12. I woke up thinking, why the hell don't I just get up and play the damn game, before rolling back over and going to sleep.

The answer, I think, reveals something about video gaming versus other forms of multimedia entertainment, which the general public sort of mishmashes into a single lifestyle based on passive consumption, simply because they all involve screens and speakers.

No one would suggest a guy with kidney stones go play basketball, right? Why would a video game be any more reasonable?

No one would suggest a guy with kidney stones should go down to the gym and run a few games of basketball, right? Well, would they suggest that he play some chess instead? So why should a video game — serious ones, the ones we play — be any more of a reasonable sick-day diversion?

There's a considerable investment of decision-making in most games — in role-playing games, by definition, one has to be a willing participant in advancing the story and developing what is ostensibly its principal character. I have a shelf full of sports video games, with rich career modes that present just as much role-playing depth. Even great, linear single-player experiences present issues of momentum, the kind understood by anyone with a bookshelf full of unread classics (with intimidating page counts, too).

As an entertainment pursuit, the motivation to complete a long novel or watch a thought-provoking film comes primarily from within. Ditto a video game. Then it's a question of consuming the story. Because of its interactive requirements, a video game requires more concentration and will. Those are often sapped by pain and anxiety.

Pain and anxiety are your constant companions during a prolonged illness.

Perhaps I hadn't realised just how serious my condition was. It didn't seem that bad to me when I got home. They let me out of the hospital, after all. But I came to accept that as I had no appetite for food, I had no appetite for games, either. Not when I was laying in a hospital bed with Angry Birds Space and four dozen other iPhone apps on the table beside the nurse's-call button; not sitting at my computer, refreshing the news, when I could have been clicking a mouse in Diablo III.

In their more primitive, less complicated days, maybe video games were more legitimately a guilty pleasure of home-sick days, even bad ones. Today, I don't think so. I'm investing time in these things. Otherwise, I'm not gonna get much out of them. Playing a video game isn't just something to do when you're sitting on your arse.

And trust me, last week, just that was difficult enough.


    The mindless and silly games are usually a good choice for me when I'm sick (depending on the illness). Switching your brain off and running around, for example, Saints Row 3, can help take my mind off it. It's also a lot easier when playing my Xbox over my computer, mostly for the choice in chair.

    Yeah, I feel the same. It really shows that you are sick when you don't feel like playing games. I find that the sicker I get, the lower the level of interactivity I can handle. Sometimes it is all I can do to have the TV mindlessly droning at me, as I can't bring myself to have to think to input data - even mashing buttons requires thought!

    Iv always argued playing a game takes loads more concentration then watching a film or TV show, yet some friends and family still frown upon me playing 4hrs of DayZ, then go on to talk about the walking dead marathon they had... :S (dont get me wrong i would happily participate in a walking dead marathon)
    my point is you watch something, thats all you do is watch,
    you play something you participate in it, you think about risk and rewards

      I hate that. How is reading a book all arvo, or watching LOTR back to back to back any better than gaming for the same amount of time? Stupid families, just jealous that we're having more fun, hey!

    Kidney stones, that really sucks man. I got them within about of week of moving to Canada while we were staying with my wifes parents. I was a mess on percoset, waking people up singing Christmas carols in the middle of the night. I feel for you big time dude!




    Okay, we now have all that out of our systems, you may now continue posting actual, meaningful comments.

    (PS, HI RIZE)

      God you are the 75636th worst person on this site, Bish.

      (Beat ya Rize!)

        You're both terrible people.

        Except Bish.

        Is he even people?

    I've found the worst thing to do is pick up a video game when I'm sick. I love them, but twhen I'm actually sick the last thing I want to do is even look at any kind of display. For this reason, I've got hours and hours of podcats just waiting to be listened to, specifially Thursday Nights DnD. It's great, can hear a story without needing to be involved, just listen and fall asleep. I've found this allows me to actually enjoy my time much more than if I had simply played a video game.

    i don't play games when I'm sick. Maybe if I have a slight cold I'll play games, but never when I'm actually sick for real. Despite what non-gamers may think, quite a lot of games require a decent amount of clear thinking and good reflexes. Things that you lack while you're sick

    I feel for you, I spend Friday in hospital because of a freaking kidney stone. Not too big, only 3.5mm x 4mm, but gosh does that hurt. Even the crazy strong painkillers in IV didn't help that much. You keep referring to "stones" in your article. Does it mean you have several?

    In regards to games, I can completely understand that you would be unable to play games. When I wasn't in pain, I could barely stay conscious. Forgot my phone when I rushed to ER and didn't miss one second which is quite unusual for me.

    Btw, I still haven't passed that stone...

    Playing competitive games online is a big no no when your mind is not feeling up to the task. I forced myself to a few games of Fifa on Saturday when I wasn't feeling flash and it was a terrible experience. Gaming definitely takes more out of you mentally than watching movies or series.

    I doubt a sick kotaku journalist can possibly be any worse at video games than a regular kotaku journalist

    It's not something I'd thought about, but yeah, a couple of weeks ago I was quite sick for a day and I spent that time not playing games but lying in bed watching movies I'd seen before.

    I tried to play Borderlands last year when I had Bronchitis.

    Yeah, not fun.

    Was hopped up on endone for a week after getting wisdom teeth pulled. I didn't do anything but play games. not that I was capable of much else.

    I had a rather nasty chest infection over the last few weeks, and I often just didn't feel like gaming. Once I got better I was straight back into it, but when getting up to change the DVD is a struggle, I just can't be arsed concentrating on games for any extended period of time.

    Sometimes you just don't feel up to playing videogames, and that is okay.

    I had to take all of last week off with a nasty cold and chest infection, but it didn't stop me from gaming! Got in a solid 5 days straight of World Of Tanks :P

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