The Bends

There's something that happens to the human body when it sinks in a liquid. When you go deep enough the pressure of the water actually dissolves the nitrogen from the air you are breathing into the water in your body. The farther down you go the greater the pressure and the more nitrogen is dissolved, and, the bigger the danger to you if you decide to rapidly ascend to the surface. You see, it's the pressure that pushes the gas into your body and it's the pressure that keeps it there. Once you are down there it's to your advantage to stay down there and enjoy yourself. If you were to suddenly be brought out of the water all that nitrogen in your blood would try to instantly escape from your body. The pain would be immense.

The same concept applies when someone comes by to rip me out of whatever I'm playing. I've immersed myself completely in a game and have spent the last hour going deeper and deeper in my environment, and when someone comes by to pluck me out of that environment the same thing happens to me as if I had just been plucked from the ocean floor: my blood boils.

It's not compressed nitrogen that is escaping from my blood stream, though. It's all the tension and the fear and the adrenaline that my deep gaming state has forced into my body. When someone breaks my attention at that depth the tense excitement is released in one big painful outburst. If my attention is broken at just the wrong time, that outburst can become mean and cruel. Something as simple as my wife wanting me to come to bed is turned into an hour long fight about common decency.

"Why can't you just find something else to do? Can't you see that I'm in the middle of something? Do you think it's funny to interrupt people when they are trying to finish something? Can I just get a few moments alone or is that only allowed for everyone else in the goddamned house but me?" One after the other the questions explode out of me. I don't even wait for responses before I start spitting the next one out. I don't want answers; I want to stop the pain. It only takes a few seconds to vent all the anger and frustration then the gaming bends are gone. I'm equalized with the world after getting all that built up tension out in one cruel, cold hearted go.

If it's not my wife that I yell at it's my dog, or the TV, or the fridge, or myself. I yell at anything that disrupts the illusion the game and I have worked to create. I covet that precious immersion like a rare gem, and as I get older it only gets worse.

When I was young immersion wasn't a problem. A 6-year-old can get immersed into Centipede if the day is rainy enough. As I get older and my time becomes more of a commodity, and immersion becomes simultaneously more important and harder to attain. When I sit down to play a game I want to believe that I'm there, but most of the time the real world just won't have it. There are too many things that require my attention and affection to guarantee a spot in every day that I can devote to gaming.

That makes the time I do get alone that much more important to me, which in turn makes getting interrupted that much worse. My gaming sessions have become more intense to compensate for the ever growing force of the outside world. I have to get deeper into the games on a shorter time table to get the same escape I have come to desire over the years from my gaming.

Any escapist activity is going to have some risk involved with it. The risk that you are going to get too wrapped up in the escape and you and your loved ones will be hurt by it. What a fine line I walk as a gamer since the point of my hobby is to get wrapped up, to lose yourself for a few hours. This means that if the people that need my love and attention need it too early then they are going to be subject to all of the fear and anger and pain that I was trying to process and overcome in the first place. It becomes harder to convince the people closest to me that my hobby is a valid form of relaxation and therapy when I fly off the handle as soon as I am disturbed simply because they came by when I was "in the middle of something." To them I'm sure it seems like I am just a tightly coiled spring cramped and grumpy in my little blue chair. For some of my gaming time this is almost literally the case.

We all play games for different reasons. I'm with the group that plays games because I'm unhappy with some facet of my life. I think games can stand up on their own as a source of entertainment, but at the end of the day I use gaming to make myself feel better.

Any of us that play games to alleviate pressure from outside influences knows that gaming isn't some instant miracle pill that will cure all of our ills and leave us feeling fresh. The pay off from gaming comes from the belief that you are somewhere else doing something amazing and that feeling takes time to cultivate. I take all of my stress and frustration and fears and doubts into my new world. Then I work them out in an overly simplistic fashion that allows me to overcome all these negative feelings. I vent my hatred and my self loathing and when I am ready to comeback to Earth, I do so slowly and gradually. I allow myself to leave all of the crap I collected throughout my life on the ocean floor as I gently float to the surface, decompressing naturally and safely.

Sometimes after a particularly intense session I just stare at the START screen or let the demo movie of the game loop for ten minutes just to let my mind drift back to my living room. Afterwards I feel like things are better. I've outrun my demons for another day.

"I love you baby. What do you say we cuddle up and watch a movie?" I boom as I walk into our bedroom already holding a coke and a DVD.

"Not now Hon," she waves her hand at me as I stand confused in the doorway, "I'm reading." I start to protest then decide not to push it.

Comments

Chiggie Von Richthofen wrote:

As I get older and my time becomes more of a commodity, and immersion becomes simultaneously more important and harder to attain. When I sit down to play a game I want to believe that I'm there, but most of the time the real world just won't have it. There are too many things that require my attention and affection to guarantee a spot in every day that I can devote to gaming.

That makes the time I do get alone that much more important to me, which in turn makes getting interrupted that much worse.

This rang true. Yes, it had a 'ring' of truth to it.

Seriously. Another good piece, Chiggs. Not as class as some of your other works, but still, solid writing.

I've done the same thing to my fiancee. I hear you about your time being valuable. I can't say that I use games as escape from disappointments in everyday life, but maybe I'm not introspecting deep enough.

Great article, Chiggie, and boy, does it resonate with me.

"Why can't you just find something else to do? Can't you see that I'm in the middle of something? Do you think it's funny to interrupt people when they are trying to finish something? Can I just get a few moments alone or is that only allowed for everyone else in the goddamned house but me?" One after the other the questions explode out of me. I don't even wait for responses before I start spitting the next one out. I don't want answers; I want to stop the pain. It only takes a few seconds to vent all the anger and frustration then the gaming bends are gone. I'm equalized with the world after getting all that built up tension out in one cruel, cold hearted go.

I've done the same thing to folks (my parents, my roommates, people I've been dating, friends, etc.), but I'd always equated it to popping a balloon: all the pressure has been built up, and rather than being let out slowly and appropriately, it comes rushing out in a loud, fast splatter of air and sound.

Good job, m'man. Good job.

Can I just get a few moments alone or is that only allowed for everyone else in the goddamned house but me?

What, were you at my house this weekend?

Damn good article. 99% spot on to how I feel and why I play. Ok maybe 98% but you're there.

Nice job, Chiggie. I know I've been there, and I'm sure the rest of us have too.

I love scuba diving therefore I love analogies about scuba diving.

Hurray for Zero Tolerance

Can I just get a few moments alone or is that only allowed for everyone else in the goddamned house but me?"

I always felt I lack about six hours in a day, sometime between 6pm and 12pm would be nice, and if I could only book these six hours a day just for me, for the immersion...

If only a day was 30 hours long....

Wow. I mean, just wow. Ever had that complete dumbstruck feeling when something is revealed to you, that should have been obvious from the start, but now that it is revealed explains so much?

Talk about some serious introspection. The 'bends' analogy hit the mark completely, and I didn't even realize I was exhibiting it. I beat myself up for hours after I snap at my kids or my spouse for pulling me out of the 'zone'. Which totally defeats the purpose of using gaming as an escape and relaxation, just as you describe.

Wow. Suddenly I don't feel so odd anymore. Excellent, excellent article, thanks Chiggie. I have some conversations that need held at home now...

I have that same problem. It's not just games - I'll do the same thing if I'm working on something engrossing and then someone pokes me. You're totally focused in on this thing and then someone brings the whole world in at you when you've got yourself tuned down to this one thing. It's like looking through a microscope at something and then someone makes you turn real fast and you end up looking at a microscopic view of the pores on the end of their nose while the sounds you couldn't hear before are screaming in your ear.

I've learned not to bite right to the bone when it happens most of the time, but it's a conscious thing. I wish there was some way to avoid it.

dongyrn wrote:

Wow. I mean, just wow. Ever had that complete dumbstruck feeling when something is revealed to you, that should have been obvious from the start, but now that it is revealed explains so much?

Talk about some serious introspection. The 'bends' analogy hit the mark completely, and I didn't even realize I was exhibiting it. I beat myself up for hours after I snap at my kids or my spouse for pulling me out of the 'zone'. Which totally defeats the purpose of using gaming as an escape and relaxation, just as you describe.

Wow. Suddenly I don't feel so odd anymore. Excellent, excellent article, thanks Chiggie. I have some conversations that need held at home now...

This was really the original intention of the article, to give someone an idea of why they get so mad. I'm very happy that it hit the mark for you and hope it works out for you.

Good work, Chiggie. I've been known to snap a little at family members when "my time" is interrupted. I always knew the reason why, but would never have thought to put it like you have.

As I get older and my time becomes more of a commodity, and immersion becomes simultaneously more important and harder to attain.

True words, my friend. True words.

Oh man, that was so spot on. Why didnt i read it yesterday ? I have blown my top at my significant other for distracting me from "Resident Evil 4". Now i get silent treatment, as expected

Have to get her to read this, because i myself am at a loss of words to explain all of this the way Chiggie did.

Well, i guess playing games for 20 odd years make you into an addict afterall