I had actually planned on writing a blog basically telling of a day in my life and what I normally do. It's interesting how much a gamer like myself (that is also an artist, drummer, husband and lover of animals) thinks about games and how much of his life revolves around games.
A lot of us wake up and think about the games we play, or we go to sleep thinking about them. I have had gaming dreams, and had suffered from "gaming hangovers"...you know: tired, much like a drinking hangover minus the headache. It's a wonderful hobby that really grips your imagination and won't let go, especially when you factor in building a character that you might draw or write about.
But my original idea was to show how health needs to be considered when playing these games. I will show you one of my typical days, but first let me tell you that some basic facts. I am 34 years old, 135 pounds, in good shape, strong for my size, have asthma, poor eyesight, and some really bad tennis elbow from 22 years of drums and 10 years on the internet and games.
A typical day (bearing in mind I work about 30 hours a week with a variable schedule, so I am aware that many gamers work 40-60 hours a week):
1) Wake up at 7am. Fix coffee, breakfast.
2) Walk the dogs for an hour/30 minutes.
3) Work, or clean the house depending on days off.
4) In the afternoon I walk the dogs for another hour/30 minutes.
5) Go to bed around 10:30-11:00 PM.
Within those gaps I fit my gaming, but generally do not spend more than an hour to three hours playing. I cannot post or blog as much as I would like, being that I can get pretty bad migraines due to bad eyes and the need for some new glasses.
We all need to make sure that our gaming is fitting into our schedules, without effecting our health. I know that life can be cut shorter due to simply not getting enough basic exercise. Bear in mind, though, that new research shows that even just 3 days of 30 minutes of exercise a week can make a hell of a difference.
In other words, get out of the house more often.
But let's switch the subject, sort of. I am now talking about disabled gamers that might not have any choice as to their mobility, or to their choices for leaving the house. To me, that makes it all the more important that if you are a "normal" healthy individual, you make sure to take care of yourself as well as you can. Don't take it for granted.
Massively recently linked to a great lil film that shows the camera focusing on game developers after they were asked if they thought about how disabled players play video games. Many of them said yes, and many said no. It is a little alarming that anyone would say "no" being that that would mean that they never had thought about it. At all.
I'm no developer, but a varied player-base seems to be what every developer would want. The more varied, the richer the experience for everyone, and it seems as though many developers hadn't thought about it enough. But we have to also look at the hardware manufacturers, the joystick makers or the mouse designers. I have seen some devices that allow head movement to push the cursor around, or voice command that would free up the usual means of control.
Some games like WAR have added features for color blind users, for example, but some of the simplest add ons could help a lot, as well. Here are some that I have thought about/noticed:
1) Click to move: The more I use this, the more I love it. I can basically click on a mini-map or on the ground to move to that location. Many of the F2P games use this and many are now adding in a choice for click to move or the "normal" Western WASD movement. Clicking those keys so many times can add up to a lot of pain to someone with limited ability in their hands.
2) Screen Edge Camera Movement: Basically, this allows you to move the mouse all the way to the edge of the screen to move the camera. Mabinogi has this as an option, and the more I use it the more I love it. I can click on the ground or on the mini-map ( although I don't like the use of maps, saving wrist pain is a priority) and then swerve the camera around by just pushing my cursor to the edge of the screen. When I log into other games and they don't have this option, movement feels sluggish since I have to hold down right click to move the camera. Trust me, all these little movements add up.
3) Sub-Titles during cut scenes, voice acting: While this isn't as common of an option, it doesn't really need to be as much. Most games and their quests/NPC interactions use text as way to give you information, but voice acting is becoming much more common. Again, this is about choices, and I know plenty of hard-of hearing/deaf players that love the sub-titles.
4) Instant Travel (as an option): Once again, I support something that I try not to use. I try to stay "immersed" in my games, and while instant travel might fit into the lore of the game, I find that skipping landscapes is a quicker trail to boredom. But, I completely support the option for players that either can't afford the wrist action, have time constraints, or that need help getting around the world for a myriad of reasons.
5) Built in voice chat: There are plenty of options already for this, from Ventrillo to Skype to Teamspeak. But, many MMO's are now wrapping voice chat up into their game so that you don't have to go to an outside source. WoW, There, Second Life, EQ2 and SWG are just some of the games that now have integrated voice chat (or have for years.) Why is voice chat important? Again, it's about saving the clicks. The less someone has to type/click the better, especially if someone has an issue with chronic pain. Also, the more technology advances, the more immersive features such as voice chat will be the norm.
6) Voice Commands: Something that is probably a few years off, I am sure. Can you imagine being able to say the word "BAG" to open your inventory? Or saying "Mount" to mount your rideable dragon? This wouldn't just be a benefit to those with typing issues/control issues, but would be a great feature for everyone! Imagine if you could pre-record certain "voice macros" like "I call upon my mount HorseFace!" and when you repeat it in game, up pops your mount? They already use this type of technology with our cell phones (voice dial) so why not with our MMO's?
There are many, many other options that I am sure I am missing. To me, the more varied our player-base the better, and small shortcuts/tools are a good way of encouraging more players to play that normally could not.
I remember running around in There one night (a social MMO) when I came across a woman sitting on a pretty fountain. She was just sitting there, so I introduced myself. After a while we talked (we had a wonderful conversation) and she told me she couldn't walk. She loved playing There, not only for the social aspects, but for the fact that she could do things like RUN. Running was no longer an option for her in her life, and she really enjoyed doing it even virtually.
The Main points? Take care of yourself. Don't let gaming harm you, if you have a choice. Don't take your body or your health for granted.
And try to remember that the wonderful thing about MMO's is the way it connects people of every color, sex and physical ability like nothing we have seen before. Hopefully more developers will take this into consideration. I, for one, want to meet more people like the woman I met in game that night.