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Conquering the Game that Conquered Me

Saturday, November 12th, 2011 by

Back in the late summer of 2007, I was diagnosed with a tension-based disorder that can cause great abdominal discomfort. In the weeks leading up to the two months of work that I missed (insert Office Space joke) and ten-day stint in the hospital, I was playing BioShock quite a bit. I enjoyed it a lot, but lacked the skills to process its intensity and the resulting stress. BioShock was simply too much for me.

In the years since, I’ve grown adept at handling this disorder. Pills and dietary restrictions help, but consciously working on improving my view of life and the way in which I react to tense situations is what’s really made the difference. Looking back to four years ago and realizing how much I’d grown, I decided it was time to get back on the horse. I had been BioShock’s bitch for too long; it was time to reclaim myself, even if merely in my own eyes.

I repurchased it for the 360 at the great price of $10, then went to work. I had played it on normal difficulty before, so I chose the same route this time.

Within the first hour of gameplay I was able to tell what a different experience I was having. Whether facing the small stress of a close call in the hacking mini-game or the large stress of taking on a big daddy, everything seemed generally more manageable. Plus, I could tell when I was tensing physically and then correct the behavior. Still, long sessions of BioShock could get taxing, since I had to deal with everything in the game as well as the meta-game of managing my own levels of stress and physical reactions.

I had to remain vigilant. Just because I had the skills to relax in the face of stress didn’t mean it was automatic. Sometimes I would realize that I was tensing and had been doing so for several minutes. A few times I had to take a break because it was just too much. But I always went back.

A few weeks ago, I finally did it: I completed BioShock, and without harvesting any Little Sisters. The game that beat me down, the game that has been a nagging whisper in the back of my mind for four years… now it’s my bitch. Rarely has beating a game been so rewarding. “Rapture,” indeed.

Will I play BioShock 2 and BioShock Infinite? Perhaps. If I do, maybe I’ll appreciate their merits more than I did those of the first entry in the series. I was so focused on redeeming myself that I wasn’t as blown away by BioShock as were other people I know. Yet, it holds a unique place in my personal video game history, and likely always will.

How Hearthstone Helped Me Embrace the Randomness of Life

Two and half years after writing this piece, video games helped improve my life once more:

hearthstone random

About the Author

Markham Asylum is a founding member of Delta Attack. His tier-1 favorite genres are role-playing, puzzle, and strategy. His tier-2 are adventure, shooter, and platformer. He strives to provide spoiler-free postings whenever possible.

Markham Asylum has written 422 posts on Delta Attack

6 Responses to “Conquering the Game that Conquered Me”

  1. Mark A. Brooks says:

    Right on, brotherman. I’ve yet to conquer BioShock myself; it waits patiently. My father wants to talk about it SO BADLY. Maybe I should tackle it next for his sake.

    Anyway, glad to hear about your improvement all around. Be careful if you ever get around to Dead Space 2… the only game in a long while that I actually had to put down and take ten minute breathers for.

    • Markham Asylum says:

      If/when you do play it, be sure to let me know what you think.

      Dead Space 2… yeah. The prequel, which I played ~1 year ago, was my first indication that I had started getting a lot better with handling stress. Reading your review of the second one made me realize that it will probably be an even bigger challenge for me than BioShock was, and I do plan on playing it eventually. Maybe before Halloween next year. Yes, I will certainly exercise caution with that one.

  2. Isaac says:

    Wow. Great story. It really sucks to have something like a game affect you physically, but I’m glad that you overcame it. It is almost like a meta-game.

    • Markham Asylum says:

      I agree, it sucks that something I love as much as video games can affect me this way. Despite what the poisonous fairy tales from my childhood made me believe for many years, life is often just plain shitty. But I’m not giving in to apathy or cynicism; as Andy Dufresne said in Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” And living with overtones of negativity is no way to live.

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