In the few weeks since the release of Dragon Age 2 and Pokemon Black and White I’ve found myself faced with incredibly tough decisions every day. The most pressing is of course, “Do I play Pokemon or Dragon Age?” but then there are the lesser questions like “Should I put down my DS so I can eat?” and “Should I attempt to sleep because it’s 6am, or just keep playing through the night?”
Most of the time video games will win over everything else (except for the few hours of sleep and food I need to remain alive) and though that means I spend most of my hours having the greatest time ever, it also means that when I eventually get up the next morning, I feel bloody awful. This state of being is something I have named the “gaming hangover”, and now that I’ve looked into it, I’ve found it much more threatening than any normal hangover could possibly be.
Everybody over the age of 18 (or 21 if you’re living in America) knows what it’s like to be hung-over (well, almost everyone. I can think of a few people that don’t, but naming them really wrecks my analogy). We’re well aware of how happy we are while we’re drinking, and how much fun losing our inhibitions can be. We’ve all felt the cold hard concrete against our cheek when we fall over and decide being on the ground is more fun than standing up. We’ve all become familiar with the rolling waves of nausea that tell us we drank far too much and we’ve all suffered through the pounding headache and voluntary vampirism the next morning.
Once the hangover passes we don’t tend to get on the drink again until at least the next weekend, as the very mention of alcohol can cause you to gag, but with video games it’s different. We want to see games the next day. We want to see them every day for as long as we live because they’re so damn entertaining. And that’s what makes the gaming hangover so much more deadly than anything alcohol related; we’ll keep going back every single day. Though our heads may be pounding and our stomach's churning, we will not stop!
Almost every morning since the release of DA2 and Pokémon I have woken up feeling like someone has put me through the wringer. I crawl out of bed with stiff limbs while I nurse a pounding headache and stare absently through blurry, bloodshot eyes. Often I’ll find myself sitting on the couch with my playstation controller in my lap, but be too sick and sore to even press the button to turn it on. I’d have thought that after keeping this routine up for a few weeks I’d be over it, but it seems that my body simply isn’t built for so many gaming hours a day.
The scary part of gaming hangovers is that falling asleep grants no release from the symptoms. Not only does it take hours before you’re tired enough to sleep anyway, but once you do your mind is so alive with images it just doesn’t rest. I have spent more nights than I can count watching flashes of colour sweep past my eyelids while squiggles of light dart around like fireflies. And that’s before the dreams start. Ever seen Pikachu rip off Morrigan’s face and eat it? Or seen a sim spin-jump and turn into a dragon? Because you don’t bloody want to.
Luckily for me not every game I play has the ability to do this to me. Just the ones I really enjoy (ain’t that a bitch). Main contenders in the “Lets give Jenn a gaming hangover” competition are the Dragon Age games, the Pokémon series, The Sims 2 (and to a lesser extent for the first month it came out, 3) and of course, the Final Fantasy series.
As of yet I haven’t been able to find a cure for gaming hangovers, except to pump myself full of Panadol and then do it all over again. But I figure if drinking through a hangover can stop alcoholics from getting them, then certainly the same thing has to apply to gamers.
Surely if we invest enough of our time, energy, body and soul into a game, we’ll be much too distracted to lament over the symptoms that are steadily taking over. Either that or we could just take a break...but who the hell wants to do that?