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“Andy Discovered What Overloads His Brain”

I've always been drawn to video games and have played from a young age. However, it's been a love-hate relationship where I found many games frustrating and confusing to play. It wasn't until returning to video games as an adult that I started to see how they could overload my brain in a way that made me feel left out and inadequate. It's a realisation that has helped me find games I love, as well as shed light on other areas of my life.

I played video games from a young age. From Bubble Bobble and Gauntlet in the arcades to Kick Off on the Amiga. But as family and work commitments ramped up leisure time was in short supply. When I did find time to play, my head was so full of other things I struggled to enjoy the games other people were raving about.

I almost decided that big complex video games weren't for me. But thankfully, through a series of more linear adventure games and by making time to play more regularly I started to find a way back into this hobby. I was away, and was even able to play these games with my now-teenage children who would helpfully remind me who the characters were, what we had to do next and yell if I inadvertently started going back the way I came.

The result isn't only shared experiences, but has also helped me understand how my brain works. Too many missions, characters or locations to keep track of and I can feel the gears start to grind in my head. It's an effort to process this which is exacerbated by having to navigate through open spaces without guidance or deal with fiddly aiming controls.
 

Outcome
A better understanding of how he processes information and the features and support he needs to enjoy video games.


This outcome arises from the following 6 milestones over the span of 36 years, from 12 - 48 years-old:

DetailsPathway Details

Name: Andy Robertson
Stage of Life: 12 - 48 years-old
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Platform, Puzzle, Role-Play, Shooting, Simulation, Stealth and Strategy
Platforms: GameCube, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 5
 

 

Structured Play

Age: 12-years-old / 01/01/1986 / 36 years ago

I enjoyed playing Bubble Bobble in the arcades and then later on a home system. The repetition of each level offered a simple structure to learn the patterns and power-ups available at each stage.

Although it seemed random to the untrained eye, I learned the system of "tubes" that determined which power-up would be provided next and what each of them did. It was like playing inside of an intricate machine that I could understand and control.

Andy learned how retro games build up layers of challenges that can be tackled in different ways. Repeated attempts at the simple levels enables players to process a bit more of what is happening in each attempt.

Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Bubble Bobble:

Although they are out of fashion it can be a great day out to visit a pier or local arcade with a pocket full of change.
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Can't Get You Into My Head

Age: 29-years-old / 11/02/2003 / 19 years ago

Platform: GameCube

Playing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on the Gamecube should have been the ideal escape when I had a spare evening. It had reviewed well and I knew other people who were playing through it and loving it.

However, I really struggled. The battles were simple enough. But tracking the dialogue-heavy story and remembering what to fetch and carry from where and to whom overloaded my brain. I persevered hoping it would click, but had to admit that I simply couldn't enjoy it.

I felt like a bit of a failure as I knew this was a good game; and just the sort of game I would enjoy. But there was something about it that was a block in my brain. Like trying to read a Russian novel where the characters seem to endlessly have new names.

As you can read below, I later realised that the issue here was processing information, navigating a world and remembering details about battling. For my busy overloaded dad-brain there was too much to process. It was possible, but the effort involved was tiring and made it not enjoyable.

Andy found himself questioning whether modern video games were something he could enjoy, or were they just too confusing and hard work?

A Way Into Big Budget Gaming

Age: 33-years-old / 19/11/2007 / 14 years ago

Platform: PlayStation 3

Coming back to gaming for myself, Uncharted was exciting. It was the sort of experience I knew my peers were enjoying and raving about but that seemed beyond me.

Over the course of a few weeks I chipped away at the game on the easiest mode. This let me recreate that some repetition that I had enjoyed with the simpler arcade games. Over repeated sessions I got to grips not only with the shooting, but the story, characters and general geography of each location.

After about a month I managed to finish the game. It felt really good. Not only seeing the story through to the end, but being properly part of this rising generation of people who loved playing these kinds of video games.

Andy reconnected with his childhood enjoyment of playing games, by finding a game that wasn't too complicated to navigate. He reclaimed the sense of being someone who understood and enjoyed video games.

Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Uncharted: Drake's Fortune:

Watching through this timeline of the Uncharted games can either help tie things together when you have finished, or get you enthused about an epic story before you start.
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Scaffolded Processing For Easier Play

Age: 46-years-old / 11/12/2020 / 22 months ago

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Playing Alba on the Switch was a bit like going back to make peace with adventure games like Wind Waker. Here was a game with a (reasonably) open world, a long list of things to do and people to meet.

Knowing how my head worked better, I could check a few things before playing. Firstly, there was a map from the start. Secondly, there was a list of people you had met. Finally, you could use the gyro on the controls to fine tune your aim.

This meant that playing Alba was a dream. I could process information as and when I wanted. If I forgot who someone was or what I needed to do next I could look it up. This created an experience that I continue to go back to. I think it's the only game I've played that I wish was longer.

Andy's continued return to video games in older years was helped by playing Alba, which reiterated that even complex challenges and open spaces could be inviting and processable by a wide audience.

Creating A Calming Play Context

Age: 47-years-old / 21/08/2021 / 13 months ago

Platform: PlayStation 5

Playing Kena: Bridge of Spirits was something I approached with caution. It was a big open world game with really hard battles. Having enjoyed Knack and other story driven action games I was hopeful there would be enough to pull be along here.

At first I struggled to find a rhythm. There was a map and pretty good guidance of where to go next for your missions. But there was also quite a lot of running back and forth between locations to check you hadn't missed anything.

I got to the point where it was too much at about the same time my daughter joined me to play. She was able to give me some guidance on where to go and had a fresh set of eyes on the interesting story. This changed my perspective on the game enough to find the energy to continue.

I made sure I set aside a good chunk of time to play regularly each evening. This, along with my daughter's help, was enough to let me start to progress. A few days of doing this and I was away. The systems clicked and the load on my brain reduced. I did hit a difficulty spike a few days later, but switching to an easier setting was a good way for me to resolve this.

Although he initially found them difficult to process, Andy found a series of video games he could enjoy and finish. This contributed to his sense of identity as someone who understands the potential of this new media.

The Relief Of Character Lookups

Age: 48-years-old / 01/04/2022 / 6 months ago

Platform: Nintendo Switch

I've known that video games take an effort for me to process for some time. Increasingly, I've understood how it's the combination of information, requirement for quick decisions and fine control and navigation that compete for brain power.

Playing Triangle Strategy was a breath of fresh air for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there's the detailed democratic process where you gather information and then work to convince your party of a particular decision. This structure let me not only take the dialogue at my own pace, but understand which aspects were most important.

Secondly, I could press a button whenever someone was talking to get a picture of them, their allegiances and short account of who they were. This made a huge difference when I inevitably forgot who was who, or what was important to them.

Andy felt understood by the game designers who offers the exact information in a form he could process, when he needed it.

Pathway Outcome

The culmination of the milestones in the pathway lead to Andy a better understanding of how he processes information and the features and support he needs to enjoy video games. We have described it as a linear journey, but of course, there is always a fair amount of back and forth between the games they played.

Along with the main outcome Andy also changed in the following ways:

  • Disposition: Andy felt understood by the game designers who offers the exact information in a form he could process, when he needed it.
  • Disposition: Andy's continued return to video games in older years was helped by playing Alba, which reiterated that even complex challenges and open spaces could be inviting and processable by a wide audience.
  • Disposition: Andy found himself questioning whether modern video games were something he could enjoy, or were they just too confusing and hard work?
  • Disposition: Andy reconnected with his childhood enjoyment of playing games, by finding a game that wasn't too complicated to navigate. He reclaimed the sense of being someone who understood and enjoyed video games.
  • Identity: Although he initially found them difficult to process, Andy found a series of video games he could enjoy and finish. This contributed to his sense of identity as someone who understands the potential of this new media.
  • Knowledge: Andy learned how retro games build up layers of challenges that can be tackled in different ways. Repeated attempts at the simple levels enables players to process a bit more of what is happening in each attempt.

We focus on how games contribute to this outcome, but also include related activities that play a part of this journey:

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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